Thursday, April 30, 2015

Engels on Authoritarianism and Revolution

In 1872, Friedrich Engels waged a campaign against the anarchist thought and followers of Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876), and later he published an essay called “On Authority” (1874) in the Italian paper Almanacco Republicano (Hunt 2009: 259). The essay has a remarkable admission at the end, as follows:
“A number of Socialists have latterly launched a regular crusade against what they call the principle of authority. It suffices to tell them that this or that act is authoritarian for it to be condemned. This summary mode of procedure is being abused to such an extent that it has become necessary to look into the matter somewhat more closely.

Authority, in the sense in which the word is used here, means: the imposition of the will of another upon ours; on the other hand, authority presupposes subordination. Now, since these two words sound bad, and the relationship which they represent is disagreeable to the subordinated party, the question is to ascertain whether there is any way of dispensing with it, whether — given the conditions of present-day society — we could not create another social system, in which this authority would be given no scope any longer, and would consequently have to disappear.

On examining the economic, industrial and agricultural conditions which form the basis of present-day bourgeois society, we find that they tend more and more to replace isolated action by combined action of individuals. ….

Everywhere combined action, the complication of processes dependent upon each other, displaces independent action by individuals. But whoever mentions combined action speaks of organisation; now, is it possible to have organisation without authority?

Supposing a social revolution dethroned the capitalists, who now exercise their authority over the production and circulation of wealth. Supposing, to adopt entirely the point of view of the anti-authoritarians, that the land and the instruments of labour had become the collective property of the workers who use them. Will authority have disappeared, or will it only have changed its form? Let us see.

Let us take by way if example a cotton spinning mill. The cotton must pass through at least six successive operations before it is reduced to the state of thread, and these operations take place for the most part in different rooms. Furthermore, keeping the machines going requires an engineer to look after the steam engine, mechanics to make the current repairs, and many other labourers whose business it is to transfer the products from one room to another, and so forth. All these workers, men, women and children, are obliged to begin and finish their work at the hours fixed by the authority of the steam, which cares nothing for individual autonomy. The workers must, therefore, first come to an understanding on the hours of work; and these hours, once they are fixed, must be observed by all, without any exception. Thereafter particular questions arise in each room and at every moment concerning the mode of production, distribution of material, etc., which must be settled by decision of a delegate placed at the head of each branch of labour or, if possible, by a majority vote, the will of the single individual will always have to subordinate itself, which means that questions are settled in an authoritarian way. The automatic machinery of the big factory is much more despotic than the small capitalists who employ workers ever have been. At least with regard to the hours of work one may write upon the portals of these factories: Lasciate ogni autonomia, voi che entrate! [Leave, ye that enter in, all autonomy behind!]

If man, by dint of his knowledge and inventive genius, has subdued the forces of nature, the latter avenge themselves upon him by subjecting him, in so far as he employs them, to a veritable despotism independent of all social organisation. Wanting to abolish authority in large-scale industry is tantamount to wanting to abolish industry itself, to destroy the power loom in order to return to the spinning wheel.

Let us take another example — the railway. Here too the co-operation of an infinite number of individuals is absolutely necessary, and this co-operation must be practised during precisely fixed hours so that no accidents may happen. Here, too, the first condition of the job is a dominant will that settles all subordinate questions, whether this will is represented by a single delegate or a committee charged with the execution of the resolutions of the majority of persona interested. In either case there is a very pronounced authority. Moreover, what would happen to the first train dispatched if the authority of the railway employees over the Hon. passengers were abolished?

But the necessity of authority, and of imperious authority at that, will nowhere be found more evident than on board a ship on the high seas. There, in time of danger, the lives of all depend on the instantaneous and absolute obedience of all to the will of one.

When I submitted arguments like these to the most rabid anti-authoritarians, the only answer they were able to give me was the following: Yes, that's true, but there it is not the case of authority which we confer on our delegates, but of a commission entrusted! These gentlemen think that when they have changed the names of things they have changed the things themselves. This is how these profound thinkers mock at the whole world.
We have thus seen that, on the one hand, a certain authority, no matter how delegated, and, on the other hand, a certain subordination, are things which, independently of all social organisation, are imposed upon us together with the material conditions under which we produce and make products circulate.

We have seen, besides, that the material conditions of production and circulation inevitably develop with large-scale industry and large-scale agriculture, and increasingly tend to enlarge the scope of this authority. Hence it is absurd to speak of the principle of authority as being absolutely evil, and of the principle of autonomy as being absolutely good. Authority and autonomy are relative things whose spheres vary with the various phases of the development of society. If the autonomists confined themselves to saying that the social organisation of the future would restrict authority solely to the limits within which the conditions of production render it inevitable, we could understand each other; but they are blind to all facts that make the thing necessary and they passionately fight the world.

Why do the anti-authoritarians not confine themselves to crying out against political authority, the state? All Socialists are agreed that the political state, and with it political authority, will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions will lose their political character and will be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society. But the anti-authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?

Therefore, either one of two things: either the anti-authoritarians don’t know what they’re talking about, in which case they are creating nothing but confusion; or they do know, and in that case they are betraying the movement of the proletariat. In either case they serve the reaction.”
Friedrich Engels, “On Authority,” 1874
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1872/10/authority.htm
If nothing else, Engels was brutally frank in the words highlighted in yellow. You couldn’t have a clearer statement of how Engels envisaged the Communist revolution: authoritarianism, violence, and terror. This is like a playbook for 20th century communist regimes, and – is it really any surprise? – Lenin was a great admirer of his essay of Engels (Hunt 2009: 259).

It is quite outrageous to hear modern apologists for Marx and Engels trying to desperately explain away the phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat” as not signifying an authoritarian regime. Also disgusting is the way that apologists say that Marx and Engels would never have approved of the violence and crimes of, say, the Soviet Union. How the hell would they know? Did they ever read this passage by Engels? And it is amply clear from reading any go0d biography of Marx’s life that he – until the end of his life – was an advocate of violent revolution, and even endorsed the violence of the Russian socialist revolutionaries in his last years, even when they assassinated the Tsar (Sperber 2014: 537).

In short, Marxism was an authoritarian ideology and attempts to deny this are absurd and shameful.

In my view, the alternative progressive liberal political tradition of the late 19th century, which maintained a support for all the best aspects of classical liberalism while discarding its commitment to economic laissez faire, is the true ideological ancestor of modern social democracy. Of course, one could add to this non-Marxist trade union movements, the British Fabian Society (which rejected revolutionary socialism), and, finally, in economic thought the ideas of John Maynard Keynes as developed in the modern school of Post Keynesian economics.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Engels, Friedrich. “On Authority,” 1874
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1872/10/authority.htm

Hunt, Tristram. 2009.The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels. Allen Lane, London.

Sperber, Jonathan. 2014. Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha Program”: Four Points

Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program was based on a letter he wrote in 1875 and was published in 1891.

By the mid-1870s reformist or moderate Continental socialist parties and leaders had risen to challenge the views of Marx in significant ways. In Germany, in 1875 there was founded the Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany, which became the modern Social Democratic Party of Germany, and it adopted a moderate program that Marx opposed.

I want to focus on four points that interest me: (1) Marx’s attitude to the transitional communist state, (2) the labour of children, (3) universal education, and (4) religion.

Towards the end of the Critique of the Gotha Program Marx states frankly his opposition to democracy and his vision of the state in the transitional communist society:
“What, then, is the change which the institution of the State will undergo in a communistic society? In other words, what social functions, analogous ‘to the present functions of the State, will remain there? This question can be answered only by proceeding scientifically; the problem is not brought one flea’s leap nearer its solution by a thousand combinations of the word ‘people’ with the word ‘State.’

Between the capitalist and the communist systems of society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. This corresponds to a political transition period, whose State can be nothing else but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. But the platform [sc. of the German Social Democrats] applies neither to the latter, nor to the future State organization of communist society. Its political demands contain nothing but the old democratic litany that the whole world knows: ‘universal suffrage,’ ‘direct legislation,’ ‘administration of justice by the people,’ ‘arming of the nation,’ etc. They are a mere echo of the middle-class People’s Party, of the League for Freedom and Peace; they are all demands that, so far as they are not of an exaggerated phantastic conception, are realized now. Only the State, in which they are found, is not situated within the boundary lines of the German Empire, but in Switzerland, the United States, etc. This sort of ‘Future State’ is present State, though existing outside the limits of the German Empire.” (Marx 1922 [1891]: 47–48).
It should be quite clear that Marx envisages an authoritarian system here, and that he was an enemy of peaceful democratic reform through elections and political movements. Until the end of his life he was an advocate of violent revolution, and even endorsed the violence of the Russian revolutionary movement in his last years (Sperber 2014: 537). These are all clear reasons why Marx was, quite simply, an extremist and an enemy of democratic, constitutional government, and why it is absurd to deny that his ideology bears a real responsibility for the horrors of 20th-century authoritarian communist governments where his ideas on the “dictatorship of the proletariat” were put into effect.

Also, in the passage above, Marx makes the bizarre attempt to argue that universal suffrage had been implemented in the capitalist world, merely because some few nations had it.

Then there is Marx’s attitude to child labour:
‘Prohibition of child labor’! Here it was absolutely necessary to state the age limit.

General prohibition of the labor of children is irreconcilable with the existence of large industry, and is therefore an empty, pious wish. The introduction of the same—if possible—would be reactionary
, since, with a rigid regulation of the working time according to the different age periods and the other precautionary measures for the protection of children, an early combining of productive labor with instruction is one of the mightiest means of the transformation of present-day society.” (Marx 1922 [1891]: 47–48).
So the general prohibition of child labour was for Marx an “empty, pious wish” and “reactionary” – a truly astonishing datum and piece of hypocrisy given that in The Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels demanded an end to “the exploitation of children by their parents” (Marx and Engels 1985 [1888]: 100). Also astonishing is Marx’s statement that the “general prohibition of the labor of children is irreconcilable with the existence of large industry” – a manifestly untrue proposition. It is not as though Marx was making the usual exceptions that one finds even today: that children may work occasionally in some reasonably light way in a family business, as long as it does not interfere with their education or is deemed exploitative. No, for Marx, it is apparently acceptable in large industry.

Finally, Marx even opposed free and universal education supervised by the state in his Critique of the Gotha Program (Sperber 2014: 527):
“‘Public education by the State’ is entirely to be rejected. To determine by a general law the means for maintaining public schools, qualifications of the teaching staff, branches of instruction, etc., and, as happens in the instance of the United States, supervision of these legal requirements by government inspectors to see that they are fulfilled, is an altogether different thing from appointing the State as educator of the people. Moreover, the government and the church must equally be excluded from any influence upon the school. But in the Prussian-German Empire the case is just the other way about; there is just the State which needs a very severe education by the people. One does not help his case any with the lame excuse that he has in mind a ‘future State’; we have seen what the outcome of that has been.” (Marx 1922 [1891]: 52).
On the one hand, Marx seems to endorse state-supported education as in the United States, but then opposes state “influence” on the school, even though it is obvious that one is committed to the latter if one supports the former. What Marx presumably objected to is crude government propaganda or indoctrination in schools, which is highly paradoxical because that is precisely what happened in modern communist states.

One also gets the sense that there would be no freedom of religion in Marx’s communist paradise:
“‘Freedom of conscience’! If one at this juncture of the ‘Kultur kampf’ (the struggle of the liberal bourgeoisie against clerical political influence in the State) desired to bring home to liberalism its old slogans, that could really only be done in this form: ‘Everyone must be permitted to satisfy his religious. . . . . needs. . . . . . without the Prussian police poking its nose into them.’ But in that case the Labor Party would have to declare its consciousness that ‘bourgeois freedom of conscience’ is nothing else than toleration of all possible kinds of religious freedom of conscience, and that it, moreover, was striving to free the conscience from the religious superstition. But one does not like to rise above the bourgeois level.” (Marx 1922 [1891]: 53).
All in all, Marx’s communist state sounds very much like a blueprint for tyranny and oppression, and the blood-soaked history of modern communism that tried to put it into effect is hardly surprising.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Marx, Karl. 1922. “Critique of the Gotha Programme,” in Marx and Daniel de Leon, Critique of the Gotha Programme and Did Marx Err?. National Executive Committee, Socialist Labor Party, New York.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. 1985 [1888]. The Communist Manifesto (trans. S. Moore). Penguin Books, London.

Sperber, Jonathan. 2014. Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Karl Marx’s Life 1861–1870

In 1861, Marx formed ties with the German radical Ferdinand Lassalle (1825–1864) (Sperber 2014: 338–339), who was an independent thinker and would have a troubled relationship with Marx.

In 1861, Marx was dismissed as a correspondent for the New York Tribune, but also undertook a journey to Germany in February 1861 and arrived in Berlin on 18 March, in order to attempt to organise with Lassalle a new radical newspaper in Germany that he could edit (Sperber 2014: 343–344). He visited Trier at this time and saw his mother, but the visit did not go well and she broke off contact (Sperber 2014: 343). Marx arrived back in England in May 1861, but decided not to move back to Germany (Sperber 2014: 346).

Between 1862 and 1864 Marx was once again hit by severe financial problems (Sperber 2014: 347). By 1862 this was so bad that Marx sought a job in a railway company but was turned down for bad handwriting (Sperber 2014: 348).

On 7 January 1863, Engels’ mistress Mary Burns died and Engels was grief-stricken since he was greatly attached to her. Marx, who cared more for his money problems, wrote a money-grubbing letter to Engels as follows:
Dear Engels,
The news of Mary’s death surprised no less than it dismayed me. She was so good-natured, witty and closely attached to you.

The devil alone knows why nothing but ill-luck should dog everyone in our circle just now. I no longer know which way to turn either. My attempts to raise money in France and Germany have come to nought, and it might, of course, have been foreseen that £15 couldn’t help me to stem the avalanche for more than a couple of weeks. Aside from the fact that no one will let us have anything on credit — save for the butcher and baker — which will also cease at the end of this week — I am being dunned for the school fees, the rent, and by the whole gang of them. Those who got a few pounds on account cunningly pocketed them, only to fall upon me with redoubled vigour. On top of that, the children have no clothes or shoes in which to go out. In short, all hell is let loose, as I clearly foresaw when I came up to Manchester and despatched my wife to Paris as a last coup de désespoir. If I don’t succeed in raising a largish sum through a loan society or life assurance (and of that I can see no prospect; in the case of the former society I tried everything I could think of, but in vain. They demand guarantors, and want me to produce receipts for rent and rates, which I can’t do), then the household here has barely another two weeks to go.

It is dreadfully selfish of me to tell you about these horreurs at this time. But it’s a homeopathic remedy. One calamity is a distraction from the other. And, au bout du compte, what else can I do? In the whole of London there’s not a single person to whom I can so much as speak my mind, and in my own home I play the silent stoic to counterbalance the outbursts from the other side. It’s becoming virtually impossible to work under such circumstances. Instead of Mary, ought it not to have been my mother, who is in any case a prey to physical ailments and has had her fair share of life ... ? You can see what strange notions come into the heads of ‘civilised men’ under the pressure of certain circumstances.

Salut
Your
K. M.

https://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/marx/works/1863/letters/63_01_08.htm
Engels was infuriated, and one can see why. It was the worst crisis of Marx and Engels’ friendship (Wheen 2001: 262–263).

Marx was only saved by (1) an inheritance of £580 from his mother (who died on 30 November, 1863) and he journeyed to Trier to claim it, and (2) after 9 May, 1864 one from his friend Wilhelm Wolff of £700 (Sperber 2014: 349–350). Marx paid all his debts and in March 1864 moved to 1 Modena Villas in North London (Sperber 2014: 350; Wheen 2001: 266).

From 1863 Marx had severe health problems involving carbuncles, which may have been caused by an autoimmune disease (Sperber 2014: 350–351). He took the Victorian remedy of arsenic but it just poisoned him.

In 1863, Ferdinand Lassalle (1825–1864) created the General German Workers’ Association, but in private Marx was critical of Lassalle mostly because of personal differences (Sperber 2014: 354). After Lassalle was killed in 1864 Marx declined to take over leadership of the party.

From 28 September 1864, Marx was involved with the International Workingmen’s Association or the First International (1864–1876), which was founded in a workmen’s meeting held in Saint Martin’s Hall, London (Sperber 2014: 355). The First International was not a purely Marxist organisation by any means, but a loose association of different socialist, communist and working class movements. The core of the First International was a group of 23 English trade unions (Sperber 2014: 355).

Marx was only one of the 20–25 members of the General Council of the First International but exerted a considerable influence behind the scenes (Sperber 2014: 360). The Council met most Tuesdays on Greek Street, Soho (Wheen 2001: 280).

In Germany, however, the General German Workers’ Association refused to join the First International and Marx lost influence in Germany (Sperber 2014: 364). It was only in 1869 that the newly-formed Social Democratic Labour Party led by Wilhelm Liebknecht and August Bebel affiliated itself with the First International (Sperber 2014: 369).

In 1865, Marx’s work on the first volume of Capital was interrupted by one of his many episodes of bad health (Wheen 2001: 290), and he was able to finally publish it in 1867.

After Engels’ father died in March 1860 Engels became a partner in Ermen & Engels and sold his interest in the business in 1868 with enough money to retire on, and Marx received £350 a year from this point, which gave him a reasonable financial security (Sperber 2014: 370, 484). Engels also moved to London in 1870 (Wheen 2001: 280), and lived with Lydia “Lizzie” Burns, Mary Burns’s sister.

Marx published volume 1 of Capital in German in 1867, but there were a number of drafts of Capital and other manuscripts in these years as follows:
(1) Marx, Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie (Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy), manuscript, 1857–1858.
About 800 manuscript pages by Marx on political economy which were not even published until 1939 (Wheen 2001: 227). This formed the basis of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) (Sperber 2014: 421).

(2) Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859).
This was Marx’s initial, long-awaited work on political economy, but was a great disappointment to most of his followers (Wheen 2001: 237–238). Much of it was incorporated into the first volume of Capital.

(3) Manuscript of 1861–1863
A large manuscript of 1,500 pages (Wheen 2001: 258) which included Marx’s analysis of the history of economy thought which later appeared as Theories of Surplus Value.

(4) First Draft of Capital:
Manuscript of 1863–1865
A first draft of Capital. Marx took the first 40% and revised it and published the first German edition of Capital from it in 1867 (Sperber 2014: 421).

(5) volume 1 of Capital in German published in a first edition of 1867.

(6) Second Draft of Capital:
Manuscript II for Book II (1868–1870)
Manuscripts for Books II and III (1867–1871)

(7) volume 1 of Capital in German published in a second edition of 1872–1873 and volume 1 of Capital in a French translation (1872–1875)
There were a number of changes to and corrections of the first German edition in these editions.

(8) third Draft of Capital:
Manuscripts for Book III (1874–1878)
Manuscripts for Book II (1877–1881)

(9) Theories of Surplus Value, part of the Manuscript of 1861–1863 but which was first published in 1905–1910 and which is considered Volume 4 of Capital.
Michael Heinrich, 2013. “Crisis Theory, the Law of the Tendency of the Profit Rate to Fall, and Marx’s Studies in the 1870s,” Monthly Review 64.11 (April).
There was no real response to the first edition of Capital in 1867 in England, though in Germany it did have some limited interest. Werner Sombart, a younger German Historical School economist, briefly had admiration for Marx, but other Historical School economists like Hermann Roesler had serious criticisms (Sperber 2014: 457, 458; Wheen 2001: 312). Marx and Engels had to arrange for anonymous reviews in Germany in their desperation to attract attention to Capital (Sperber 2014: 458).

Importantly, the first English translation of volume 1 of Capital only appeared in 1887 after Marx’s death in this edition:
Marx, Karl. 1887. Capital. A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production. Volume I (trans. from 3rd German edn. by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling). Swan Sonnenschein, Lowrey & Co., London.
When Marx died in 1883 the vast majority of his proposed work in political economy was unpublished (Sperber 2014: 421).

As Sperber (2014: 388–389) points out, Marx’s Capital was very much a development of pessimistic Ricardian economics, and adopted the labour theory of value from Classical economics (Sperber 2014: 419). Marx thought that Capital was the best and highest form of Classical economics (Sperber 2014: 462). In that respect, Marx was not such a radical in economics while Classical Political Economy was the dominant school of thought in the mid-19th century. With the marginal revolution of the 1870s, however, Marx’s ideas already seemed obsolete to neoclassical economists of the 1890s (Sperber 2014: 461–462).

While Engels by his last years was clearly a positivist (Sperber 2014: 415), Marx’s attitude to empiricism/positivism in Capital and in his general thinking was contradictory: on the one hand he was willing to accept the empirical discoveries of late 19th century science where these seemed to support his worldview (such as Darwinism), but persisted in a Hegelian habit of dismissing empirical realities in economic life as mere “surface” phenomena to be understood by a mysterious hidden inner logic, inner connections, or secret form (Sperber 2014: 391–409, 414, 425). This Hegelian method is evident in Capital and is plainly anti-scientific and a serious methodological flaw in the work. Marx, then, remained halfway along a line from Hegelian philosophy to modern positivism (Sperber 2014: 417–418).

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Sperber, Jonathan. 2014. Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York.

Wheen, Francis. 2001. Karl Marx: A Life. W. W. Norton & Company, New York and London.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Marx on Slavery in his 1846 Letter to Annenkov

Marx had a curious analysis of slavery in a letter of December 28, 1846 to the Russian scholar P. V. Annenkov:
Freedom and slavery constitute an antagonism. There is no need for me to speak either of the good or of the bad aspects of freedom. As for slavery, there is no need for me to speak of its bad aspects. The only thing requiring explanation is the good side of slavery. I do not mean indirect slavery, the slavery of proletariat; I mean direct slavery, the slavery of the Blacks in Surinam, in Brazil, in the southern regions of North America.

Direct slavery is as much the pivot upon which our present-day industrialism turns as are machinery, credit, etc. Without slavery there would be no cotton, without cotton there would be no modern industry. It is slavery which has given value to the colonies, it is the colonies which have created world trade, and world trade is the necessary condition for large-scale machine industry. Consequently, prior to the slave trade, the colonies sent very few products to the Old World, and did not noticeably change the face of the world. Slavery is therefore an economic category of paramount importance. Without slavery, North America, the most progressive nation, would he transformed into a patriarchal country. Only wipe North America off the map and you will get anarchy, the complete decay of trade and modern civilisation. But to do away with slavery would be to wipe America off the map. Being an economic category, slavery has existed in all nations since the beginning of the world. All that modern nations have achieved is to disguise slavery at home and import it openly into the New World. After these reflections on slavery, what will the good Mr Proudhon do? He will seek the synthesis of liberty and slavery, the true golden mean, in other words the balance between slavery and liberty.”
Letter from Marx to Pavel Vasilyevich Annenkov, December 28, 1846.
https://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/marx/works/1846/letters/46_12_28.htm
It is rather odd indeed to see Marx declare slavery as “the pivot upon which our present-day industrialism turns,” and furthermore regard this as part of the “good side of slavery.” Britain, the greatest capitalist economy in the 1840s, had, as everybody knows, moved to abolish slavery in virtually all parts of its empire by the time of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, and the Slave Trade Act of 1807 had abolished the slave trade in the British Empire.

Peculiar too is the view that if slavery were abolished in America, then this would “wipe America off the map.” When the US abolished slavery in the Civil war, this did not result in the collapse of the US economy which was in fact quickly industrialising and on the path to becoming the largest economy in the world.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Marx’s Phrenology and Racial Views

Unlike a lot of the tiresome hagiographies of Marx, the biographies I am reading at the moment aren’t afraid to examine the ugly side of Marx’s personal opinions, such as his views on race (e.g., Sperber 2014: 409–414). Even though Marx treated Arthur de Gobineau’s racist ideas scornfully, and supposedly had no objection to his daughter marrying a man with some African descent (Sperber 2014: 410), there is other, less flattering evidence of Marx’s opinions.

I already noted how Marx was an advocate of the pseudo-science of phrenology as described by Wilhelm Liebknecht, who had to undergo a phrenological examination to become a member of Marx’s communist inner circle (Liebknecht 1901: 64–65).

Marx’s attachment to phrenology is confirmed in one of his letters to Engels, in which Marx complains about the German radical Ferdinand Lassalle (1825–1864) who visited Marx in London in 1862.

In a letter that can only be described as (to put it mildly!) rather harsh, Marx complained to Engels:
Dear Engels,

From the enclosed scrawls you will partly see how bothered I am. So far, the landlord has allowed himself to be placated; he has yet to receive £25. The piano chap, who is being paid in instalments for the piano, should already have had £6 at the end of June, and is a most ill-mannered brute. I have rate demands in the house amounting to £6. The wretched school fees — some £10 — I have fortunately been able to pay, for I do my utmost to spare the children direct humiliation. I have paid the butcher $6 on account (the sum total of my quarterly takings from the Presse!), but I’m again being dunned by that fellow, not to mention the baker, the teagrocer, the greengrocer, and such other sons of Belial as there may be.

The Jewish nigger Lassalle who, I’m glad to say, is leaving at the end of this week, has happily lost another 5,000 talers in an ill-judged speculation. The chap would sooner throw money down the drain than lend it to a ‘friend’, even though his interest and capital were guaranteed. In this he bases himself on the view that he ought to live the life of a Jewish baron, or Jew created a baron (no doubt by the countess). Just imagine! This fellow, knowing about the American affair, etc., and hence about the state of crisis I’m in, had the insolence to ask me whether I would be willing to hand over one of my daughters to la Hatzfeldt as a ‘companion’, and whether he himself should secure Gerstenberg’s (!) patronage for me! The fellow has wasted my time and, what is more, the dolt opined that, since I was not engaged upon any ‘business’ just now, but merely upon a ‘theoretical work’, I might just as well kill time with him! In order to keep up certain dehors vis-à-vis the fellow, my wife had to put in pawn everything that wasn’t actually nailed or bolted down! ….

It is now quite plain to me — as the shape of his head and the way his hair grows also testify — that he is descended from the negroes who accompanied Moses’ flight from Egypt (unless his mother or paternal grandmother interbred with a nigger). Now, this blend of Jewishness and Germanness, on the one hand, and basic negroid stock, on the other, must inevitably give rise to a peculiar product. The fellow’s importunity is also nigger-like.

If, by the by, Mr Rüstow was responsible for thinking up the march from Padua to Vienna, I should say that he also has a screw loose.

Salut.

Your
K. M.

Letter, Marx to Engels, London, 30 July, 1862.
https://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/marx/works/1862/letters/62_07_30a.htm
Marx was hardly enlightened in his attitudes here. His dislike of Lassalle was clearly justified through the quackery of phrenology (which was admittedly very popular in his day) and a racial bigotry.

The latter is largely confirmed in a letter to Engels of 1866, in which Marx upheld the absurd theories of Pierre Trémaux (1818–1895) on racial degeneration:
Dear Fred,

You inferred correctly from my last letter that my state of health has improved, although it fluctuates from one day to the next. Meanwhile, the feeling of being fit to work again does much for a man. Unfortunately, I am constantly interrupted by social troubles and lose a lot of time. Thus, for example, the butcher has suspended meat supplies today, and by Saturday even my stock of paper will be used up. ….

A very important work which I shall send on to you (but on condition that you send it back, as it is not my property) as soon as I have made the necessary notes, is: ‘P. Trémaux, Origine et Transformations de l’Homme et des autres Êtres, Paris 1865. In spite of all the shortcomings that I have noted, it represents a very significant advance over Darwin. The two chief theses are: croisements [crossings] do not produce, as is commonly thought, variety, but, on the contrary, a unity typical of the espèces. The physical features of the earth, on the other hand, differentiate (they are the chief, though not the only basis). Progress, which Darwin regards as purely accidental, is essential here on the basis of the stages of the earth’s development, dégénérescence, which Darwin cannot explain, is straightforward here; ditto the rapid extinction of merely transitional forms, compared with the slow development of the type of the espece, so that the gaps in palaeontology, which Darwin finds disturbing, are necessary here. Ditto the fixity of the espece, once established, which is explained as a necessary law (apart from individual, etc., variations). Here hybridisation, which raises problems for Darwin, on the contrary supports the system, as it is shown that an espece is in fact first established as soon as croisement with others ceases to produce offspring or to be possible, etc.

In its historical and political applications far more significant and pregnant than Darwin. For certain questions, such as nationality, etc., only here has a basis in nature been found. E.g., he corrects the Pole Duchinski, whose version of the geological differences between Russia and the Western Slav lands he does incidentally confirm, by saying not that the Russians are Tartars rather than Slavs, etc., as the latter believes, but that on the surface-formation predominant in Russia the Slav has been tartarised and mongolised; likewise (he spent a long time in Africa) he shows that the common negro type is only a degeneration of a far higher one. ….

Salut
Your
K. M.

Letter, Marx to Engels, London, 7 August 1866
https://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/marx/works/1866/letters/66_08_07.htm
While in his early life, Marx no doubt saw nationalities and ethnicities mainly in social or cultural terms, Marx was moving to endorse the racist theories of the late 19th century by 1866, including the notion that some “races” were inferior and that so-called racial degeneration had occurred.

Finally, lest I be accused of trying to use ad hominem argument, let me state that of course none of this disproves any of Marx’s ideas on economics at all, which stand and fall on their own merits. I am simply interested in Marx’s personal opinions and intellectual ideas.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Liebknecht, Wilhelm. 1901. Karl Marx: Biographical Memoirs. C. H. Kerr & Co., Chicago.

Sperber, Jonathan. 2014. Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York.

Karl Marx in London

Below is a type of documentary on Karl Marx’s life, involving locations in London where he lived.



For those interested, after Marx moved to London, he lived at these addresses:
(1) 64 Dean Street, Soho from 8 May–2 December, 1850;

(2) 28 Dean Street, Soho from 1850–1856;

(3) in 1856 Marx moved from Soho to 9 Grafton Terrace in Kentish town near Hampstead Heath;

(4) in 1875 Marx moved to 41 Maitland Park Road, Haverstock Hill and lived there until his death.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Karl Marx’s Life 1850–1860

Marx arrived in London in August 1849 and a new phase of his life began. If anything, Marx’s revolutionary politics became even more extreme in these years. He seems to have thought that European proletarian revolutions would happen within 15–50 years from about 1850 (Sperber 2014: 266).

Marx also joined the German Workers’ Educational Society (established in 1840), whose meetings were held in Great Windmill Street, Soho. Marx lived at 64 Dean Street, Soho (8 May–2 December, 1850) and then 28 Dean Street (1850–1856) (Wheen 2001: 166).

In 1850 Wilhelm Liebknecht (1826–1900) arrived in London, and became a member of the German Workers’ Education Society, and was vetted by Marx and Engels. In his latter memoir, Liebknecht noted how Marx was an advocate of phrenology:
“Marx endeavoured to make sure of his men and to secure them for himself. He was not such a zealous devotee of phrenology as Gustav Struve, but he believed in it to some extent, and when I first met him—I have already mentioned it—he not only examined me with questions, but also with his fingers, making them dance over my skull in a connoisseur’s style. Later on he arranged for a regular investigation by the phrenologist of the party, the good old painter, Karl Pfaender, one of the ‘oldest,’ who helped to found the Communist Alliance, and was present in that memorable council to which the Communist Manifesto was submitted, and by whom it was discussed and accepted in due form. ….

Well, my skull was officially inspected by Karl Pfaender and nothing was found that would have prevented my admission into the Holiest of Holies of the Communist Alliance.” (Liebknecht 1901: 64–65).
Around this time Marx gave lectures on political economy, as described by Liebknecht:
“During the years 1850 and 1851 Marx delivered a course of lectures on Political Economy. He made up his mind to it rather unwillingly; but once he had read a few private lectures to a small circle of friends, he yielded to us and agreed to teach before a larger audience. In this course that was a rare treat to all who had the good fortune to take part in it, Marx already developed his system in all its fundamental outlines, as presented to us in ‘Capital.’ In the crowded room of the Communist Alliance, or ‘Communist Laborers’ Educational Club,’ at that time still domiciled in Great Windmill street—in the same room where one year and a half previous the Communist Manifesto had been confirmed—Marx exhibited a remarkable talent of popularizing.” (Liebknecht 1901: 68).
It seems extremely doubtful, however, that Marx’s ideas on economics as they later appeared in Capital were worked out at this stage of his life.

From 1850 during the next 6 years Marx and his family endured extreme poverty (Sperber 2014: 253) and lived in Soho (Sperber 2014: 255). Marx also had difficulty learning English: as late as 1856 was not very good (Sperber 2014: 256). In 1850 Marx considered moving to New York but could not afford the trip (Sperber 2014: 258). Late in 1850 Engels went to work at his father’s business at Manchester, and so soon came to acquire a regular income but his assistance to Marx was not great in the early years (Sperber 2014: 259; Wheen 2001: 160).

Late in 1849 Marx resumed his involvement in the central authority of the Communist League (Sperber 2014: 247). However, there was a split in the league by late 1850. August Willich and Karl Schapper, who urged an extreme and immediate violent form of revolution, broke away in 15 September, 1850 and formed their own Communist league (Sperber 2014: 265). Willich even denounced Marx as a reactionary and challenged him to a duel (Wheen 2001: 164). In the 1850s Marx wasted a great deal of time in personal vendettas with fellow communists by attacking them with ad hominem abuse in pamphlets (Wheen 2001: 191–192).

After the break, the rump Communist League following Marx had only about a dozen members, and Marx gradually withdrew from direct political activism (Sperber 2014: 265). The bad feeling between the two communist factions actually degenerated into violence on some occasions (Sperber 2014: 269–270). Marx also fell out with the radical German democrats in London (Sperber 2014: 267). This isolation drove Marx and Engel closer together (Sperber 2014: 273).

In June 1850 Marx acquired an admission card to the library of the British Museum and began his routine of reading there from 9 am to 7 pm (Sperber 2014: 265).

It seems that Marx had an affair with Helene “Lenchen” Demuth (1820–1890), his family servant, in 1850, and an illegitimate child Henry Frederick was born on 23 June, 1851 (Sperber 2014: 262; Wheen 2001: 171–172). Marx tried to cover this up, and persuaded Engels to claim paternity, and his son was sent to foster parents. Engels confessed the truth on his death-bed (Wheen 2001: 172). Poor old Henry Frederick, however, managed to live right up until 1929.

With the failure of revolution in Europe, Marx started to rethink the nature of the proletarian revolution he thought would happen: only from 1850 did he now conceive the idea that it would happen after a cyclical crisis in capitalism (Sperber 2014: 274).

In October–November 1852 the Cologne communist trial saw a number of the members of the Communist league connected with Marx and Willich jailed as seditious revolutionaries, and Marx agreed to the dissolution of the league as it had been crippled (Sperber 2014: 282–285). Marx dissolved the league on 17 November, 1852.

In 1852, Marx published The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, an analysis of the French revolution of 1848 and the rise of the emperor Louis Napoleon III.

In these years right up until the 1860s, Marx thought that the final revolutionary outbreak that would lead to the proletarian revolution would begin in France (Sperber 2014: 289).

In the 1850s, Marx retreated into isolation and his personal and family life. His son Edgar died in April 1855. He was plagued by money problems, and at one point was arrested when trying to pawn his wife’s family silver because the police thought he had stolen it (Wheen 2001: 184). Despite all the money problems, only on one occasion did Marx ever seriously seek a job in England: in 1862 he applied for a job as a railway clerk but was rejected because his handwriting was indecipherable (Wheen 2001: 185).

From 1853 to 1862, Marx turned to journalism in papers in England, the US, Prussia, Austria and South Africa, but mostly in the New York Tribune, though apparently a significant amount of the New York Tribune articles were ghost-written by Engels (Sperber 2014: 294–295; Wheen 2001: 186). Wheen (2001: 187) suggests that about 50% of Marx’s articles were actually written by Engels! Marx (and Engels) covered the great issues of the day, including the Crimean war (1853–1856), the Indian mutiny (1857), the Second Opium War (1856–1859), the premiership of Lord Palmerston (British Prime Minister from 1855–1858 and 1859–1865), and the recession of 1857.

After his wife inherited money from her uncle in 1855 and mother in 1856 (Wheen 2001: 219), in the latter year Marx moved out of Soho to 9 Grafton Terrace in Kentish town, and into a house, but his financial troubles continued, despite a £200 a year salary as a correspond for the New York Tribune (Sperber 2014: 298).

From 1851 to 1855, it seems that Marx set aside serious work on his book on political economy (Wheen 2001: 189).

Around 1854 Marx was befriended by David Urquhart (1805–1877), a British aristocrat but anti-Russian conspiracy-theorist, who thought Lord Palmerston was a secret Russian agent (Wheen 2001: 189). Marx, who also hated Tsarist Russia, was converted to this conspiracy theory by 1853 to 1854, and, even though he met Urquhart early in 1854 and regarded him as mad, continued to uphold the view that Palmerston was in the employ of Russia (Wheen 2001: 210–211; Sperber 2014: 305–307). Marx in 1856 even took money and wrote for Urquhart’s journal the Free Press a series of sensational articles claiming to have found evidence for his anti-Russian conspiracy theories, and even arguing that the Crimean war (October 1853–February 1856) had been a secret plot to disguise the true alliance between Russia and Britain (Wheen 2001: 211; Sperber 2014: 305–306). Needless to say, these ideas were unhinged and there has never been the slightest evidence for them, and the Soviet regime of the 20th century was deeply embarrassed by Marx’s anti-Russian fantasies (Wheen 2001: 212). Marx’s association with Urquhart continued to 1859 when he participated in anti-Russian meetings in London organised by Urquhart’s movement (Sperber 2014: 329).

The recession of 1857 boosted Marx’s spirits, given that he thought it would be the prelude to the proletarian revolution he was constantly predicting (Sperber 2014: 320–323). He was disappointed, however, when the revolution failed to materialise – and would suffer disappointment time and again as other recessions did not turn into revolutions.

In 1859, Marx and Engels were involved with the German émigré paper Das Volk (The People) in London, but money problems caused it to cease publication by August 1859 (Sperber 2014: 330).

In 1860 Marx became anathema to the German émigré community in London when Karl Vogt accused Marx of being a police informer and having sold out his political allies (Sperber 2014: 331–333).

Marx’s publications and manuscripts in these years included:
(1) Marx, Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie (Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy), manuscript, 1857–1858.
About 800 manuscript pages by Marx on political economy which were not even published until 1939 (Wheen 2001: 227).

(2) Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859).
This was Marx’s initial, long-awaited work on political economy, but was a great disappointment to most of his followers (Wheen 2001: 237–238). Much of it was incorporated into the first volume of Capital.

(3) Marx, Herr Vogt (1860).
This was an attack on Marx’s political enemy Karl Vogt, where he accused Vogt of being an agent of Napoleon III (which was later vindicated when the emperor fell from power).
Marx’s books in these years attracted little attention and not much comment.

Marx’s wife Jenny fell seriously ill with smallpox in November 1860 and around the same time Marx read Darwin’s revolutionary book On the Origin of Species (Sperber 2014: 342). Much later in 1873, Marx posted Darwin a copy of the new edition of volume 1 of Capital (Browne 2002: 403). Darwin sent a polite note of thanks but never read it (Browne 2002: 403).

Appendix
Chronology of Marx’s Life
5 May 1818 – Karl Marx born to Heinrich Marx (a middle class lawyer) and Henrietta Pressburg in Trier

1830–1835 – Marx attended Trier High School

1835–1836 – Marx attended the University of Bonn to study law

1836–1840 – Marx attended the University of Berlin and joined the Young Hegelians

April 1841 – Marx was awarded his PhD from the University of Jena called The Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature

1842 – Marx moved to Cologne in 1842, and became a journalist, often writing for Rheinische Zeitung

1843 – on 19 June Marx marries Jenny von Westphalen

October 1843–1845 – Marx moves to Paris and writes for the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Annals) and then Vorwärts! (Forward!).

28 August 1844 – Marx meets Friedrich Engels in Paris

1843–1845 – Marx studies political economy, including the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, James Mill and others.

April 1845 – Marx moves from Paris to Brussels

1845–1847 – Marx lives in Brussels in Belgium

July 1845 – Marx and Engels visit Britain

1847 – Marx publishes The Poverty of Philosophy

December 1847 to January 1848 – Marx and Engels write The Communist Manifesto

1848 – Marx in France

1848 – Marx moved to Cologne

1848–1849 – Marx in Cologne

August 1849 – Marx moves to London from Paris

1849–1883 – Marx lives in London.

1859 – Marx published A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

1861 – in spring Marx visits Holland

7 January, 1863 – Mary Burns (1823–1863), partner of Friedrich Engels, dies

1864 – Marx elected to the International Workingmen's Association (First International)

March 1866 – Marx spends four weeks convalescing in Margate

1867 – the first volume of Das Kapital published

September 1872 – First International meets in the Hague; Bakunin was expelled from the International and the General Council was moved to New York, which effectively killed the International so that it dissolved in 1876

November 24, 1873 – Marx leaves London for a spa in Harrogate (North England), owing to bad heath; he is accompanied by Eleanor “Tussy” Marx; he stays until December 15

mid-April 1874 – Marx takes a three-week seaside cure alone at Ramsgate, owing to bad health

August 15, 1874 – Marx leaves London for a trip to the Karlsbad spa; he stays until September 19

September 1874 – Marx travels to Dresden, Leipzig (where he met Liebknecht), Berlin and Hamburg; he meets his publisher Meissner

1875 – Marx writes the letter that would become The Critique of the Gotha Program

August 1875 – Marx returns to the Karlsbad spa

1875 – Marx moved to 44 Maitland Street and lived here until he died

August–September 1876 – Marx returns to the Karlsbad spa

August 1877 – Marx and his wife stay for four weeks at the Rhenish spa Neuenahr

12 September, 1878 – Lydia “Lizzie” Burns, partner and wife of Friedrich Engels, dies

1878 – Anti-Socialist laws in Germany

August–September 1881 – Marx and his wife visit Argenteuil near Paris

December 1881 – Marx’s wife Jenny dies

1881–1882 – through Christmas and New Year Marx stays at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight

February 20, 1882 – Marx arrives in Algiers

early May 1882 – Marx leaves Algiers for France

October 1882 – Marx returns to London

November 1882–January 1883 – Marx goes to Ventnor on the Isle of Wight

11 January, 1883 – Marx’s daughter Jenny dies

January, 1883 – Marx returns to London

14 March, 1883 – Marx dies in London of bronchitis and pleurisy

17 March, 1883 – Marx buried at Highgate cemetery

1885 – the second volume of Das Kapital published by Engels

8 August, 1888 – Engels leaves for New York

August–September 1888 – Engels in America

1894 – the third volume of Das Kapital published by Engels

1895 – Engels dies.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Browne, Janet. 2002. Charles Darwin: The Power of Place. Volume 2. Jonathan Cape, London.

Liebknecht, Wilhelm. 1901. Karl Marx: Biographical Memoirs. C. H. Kerr & Co., Chicago.

Sperber, Jonathan. 2014. Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York.

Wheen, Francis. 2001. Karl Marx: A Life. W. W. Norton & Company, New York and London.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Karl Marx’s Life 1845–1849

In January 1845, Marx moved from France to Belgium (Sperber 2014: 146). In April 1845, Helene “Lenchen” Demuth (1820–1890), a von Westphalen family servant, joined Marx’s household as a housekeeper and maid. In 1850, Marx would have an affair with her and an illegitimate son Frederick Demuth was born in 1851.

In summer 1845, Marx and Engels travelled to Britain, and much time was spent in Manchester, though surprisingly little is known about what they did apart from readings on political economy (Sperber 2014: 155). On the way back to Belgium, they also visited London where they met German émigré radicals.

Marx had already conceived an idea for a book on political economy and his publisher Karl Leske anticipated that Marx would deliver it by summer 1845; however, Marx had already abandoned the project and had only written a table of contents (Wheen 2001: 92).

In 1846, Marx and Engels formed the Communist Correspondence Committee of Brussels, a communist organisation with the aim of formulating tactics and creating a political movement (Wheen 2001: 103).

But, in the 1846 to 1847 years, Marx had a famous falling out with numerous friends and members of the Communist Correspondence Committee, such as Moses Hess, Wilhlem Weitling and Karl Grün and at one point even with Engels (Sperber 2014: 177).

As one reads the details of these squabbles, Marx seems to emerge as a domineering control freak who couldn’t tolerate dissent, and who wished to create loyal followers and acolytes. By 1846 Marx had alienated Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Karl Grün who rapidly became hostile to Marx and his ideas (Sperber 2014: 182–183; Wheen 2001: 106–109). Often Marx’s disputes with other socialists or communists involved mainly personal differences (Sperber 2014: 185, 267, 271).

While in Brussels Marx published or wrote three publications:
(1) Marx and Engels, The Holy Family, 1845.
This was written mostly by Marx in Paris, and criticised the Young Hegelian movement as associated with Bruno Bauer. Reviewers of the book in Germany saw Marx at this time as a follower of Ludwig Feuerbach (Sperber 2014: 162).

(2) Marx and Engels, The German Ideology, written 1845 to 1847.
This was never published in Marx’s lifetime, and refers to manuscripts that were not wholly consistent started in late 1845 but abandoned in mid-1847 (Sperber 2014: 164). This continued Marx’s critique of the Young Hegelians and attacked Max Stirner (Sperber 2014: 166). Assessments of Marx’s work haven’t been kind: it has been largely dismissed as puerile polemic (Sperber 2014: 166).

(3) Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847
This was an attack on Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty. Marx also set out his materialist view of history in this work (Wheen 2001: 108), in which he had moved on from both Hegel and Ludwig von Feuerbach.
Marx’s financial difficulties in Belgium became worse and worse and he was forced in May, 1846 to pawn the family gold and silver and move into a hotel (Sperber 2014: 186–187).

Sperber (2014: 189) concludes that Marx’s revolutionary career had been marked by serious failures by 1846 but that the 1848 revolutions revitalised him.

Marx had been involved with the London-based “League of the Just” since his 1845 trip to Britain. The League had been formed in 1836 by German émigrés at Paris and was associated with the utopian socialist ideas of Gracchus Babeuf and agitated for a socialist republic in Germany.

In June 1847, the League held a meeting in London in which it decided to merge with Marx and Engels’s Communist Corresponding Committee. The new organisation was called the “Communist League” (1847–1852).

There was a second congress of the league in London from November 1847 (Sperber 2014: 198–199), and while attending Marx was given the task of writing a manifesto, which of course became The Communist Manifesto, first published on 21 February, 1848.

In Belgium, Engels and Marx also joined an international Democratic Association that organised public speeches in 1847 and 1848. In January 1848 Marx made a public speech in French in an idiosyncratic defence of – of all things – free trade (Sperber 2014: 198).

In 1848, revolutions swept across Europe, and they had been preceded by an economic crisis, which seems to have been driven fundamentally by bad harvests raising food prices in the mid-1840s; this in turn induced a contraction in demand for manufactured goods, and then the familiar pattern of an industrial recession, businesses failures and a debt, credit and banking crisis (Sperber 2013: 393). With the overthrow of the monarchy in France in February 1848, the political authorities in Belgium had had enough of Marx’s revolutionary activities: he was expelled in March 1848 after a night in jail (Sperber 2014: 215).

Marx and other communists fled to France in the aftermath of the proclamation of a Republican government (Sperber 2014: 216). By April, 1848 Marx and various communists had returned to Cologne (which was in nationalist revolutionary ferment) in Germany and had begun a campaign of radical agitation (Sperber 2014: 217).

For an account of the 1848 revolution in Germany, see here.

Unfortunately, the Communist League was hopelessly disorganised and was unable to achieve much, and in Cologne they were outflanked by the far more successful socialist Andreas Gottschalk (Sperber 2014: 219–221), and even when Gottschalk was arrested in July 1848 and Marx and other communists moved to take over Gottschalk’s Cologne Workers’ Association, they badly failed. Their style of leadership caused membership in the association to collapse by 90% (Sperber 2014: 228).

From August 1848 we have this most fascinating portrait of Marx by the revolutionary (and future German émigré American politician) Carl Schurz (1829–1906) who had closely observed Marx’s performance at a meeting of the Cologne democrats:
“In the course of the summer Kinkel and I were invited to represent the club at a congress of democratic associations in Cologne. This assembly, in which I remained a shy and silent observer, became remarkable to me in bringing me into personal contact with some of the prominent men of that period, among others, the leader of the communists, Karl Marx. He could not have been much more than thirty years old at that time, but he already was the recognized head of the advanced socialistic school. The somewhat thick-set man, with his broad forehead, his very black hair and beard and his dark sparkling eyes, at once attracted general attention. He enjoyed the reputation of having acquired great learning, and as I knew very little of his discoveries and theories, I was all the more eager to gather, words of wisdom from the lips of that famous man. This expectation was disappointed in a peculiar way. Marx’s utterances were indeed full of meaning, logical and clear, but I have never seen a man whose bearing was so provoking and intolerable. To no opinion, which differed from his, he accorded the honor of even a condescending consideration. Everyone who contradicted him he treated with abject contempt; every argument that he did not like he answered either with biting scorn at the unfathomable ignorance that had prompted it, or with opprobrious aspersions upon the motives of him who had advanced it. I remember most distinctly the cutting disdain with which he pronounced the word ‘bourgeois’; and as a ‘bourgeois,’ that is as a detestable example of the deepest mental and moral degeneracy he denounced everyone that dared to oppose his opinion. Of course the propositions advanced or advocated by Marx in that meeting were voted down, because everyone whose feelings had been hurt by his conduct was inclined to support everything that Marx did not favor. It was very evident that not only he had not won any adherents, but had repelled many who otherwise might have become his followers.” (Schurz 1907: 139–140).
This is a truly priceless portrait. In fact, Schurz seems to describe perfectly the tactics of Marxists down through the ages:
“Everyone who contradicted him he treated with abject contempt; every argument that he did not like he answered either with biting scorn at the unfathomable ignorance that had prompted it, or with opprobrious aspersions upon the motives of him who had advanced it. I remember most distinctly the cutting disdain with which he pronounced the word ‘bourgeois’; and as a ‘bourgeois,’ that is as a detestable example of the deepest mental and moral degeneracy he denounced everyone that dared to oppose his opinion.” (Schurz 1907: 139–140).
Moreover, Schurz’s assessment of Marx obviously confirms other contemporary impressions people had of the man: he was an arrogant, divisive figure, intolerant of opposition, incapable of politely disagreeing with opponents, and a control freak.

The result of Marx’s bullying intolerance was that many people opposed him simply because they couldn’t tolerate him.

In 1848, Marx was mostly occupied with editing the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (New Rhineland News), whose first issue appeared in June 1848 (Sperber 2014: 222). Marx adopted an editorial policy of radical liberalism in the paper designed to attract an educated audience – and he did not pursue openly communist themes (Sperber 2014: 226).

In September 1848 there was an insurrection in Cologne but this was supressed by the Prussians and the Neue Rheinische Zeitung was shut down until October (Sperber 2014: 230; Wheen 2001: 137). Marx was involved in organising a tax boycott against Prussia in November 1848, but this was crushed by December and Marx was indicted for incitement to rebellion, but in a trial of February 1849 was acquitted (Sperber 2014: 232).

By 1849 the Neue Rheinische Zeitung had severe financial difficulties and there was an outbreak of insurrections throughout Germany in May 1849. This signalled the end of Marx’s time in Germany. The Prussian government expelled Marx and he left Cologne on 19 May, 1849, the same day on which the last issue of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung was published (Sperber 2014: 236).

After the expulsion, Marx and Engels appear to have travelled to Frankfurt and Bingen; they were arrested in Bingen, sent to Frankfurt, but then released and returned to Bingen (Sperber 2014: 239). It appears that Marx was hoping to re-establish the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in a German city outside Prussian territory, but this failed by June 1849 (Sperber 2014: 240). Marx went to Paris, but was not welcome there under the new conservative government. Marx decided to move to England and arrived in London on 27 or 28 August, 1849. He was 32 years of age (Sperber 2014: 243).

Engels arrived in London on 12 November, 1849 (Wheen 2001: 153); soon many of Marx’s fellow communists and radical friends, fleeing from the collapse of the revolutions on the Continent, came to London too (Sperber 2014: 246).

Late in 1849 Marx resumed his involvement in the central authority of the Communist League (Sperber 2014: 247).

Appendix
Chronology of Marx’s Life
5 May 1818 – Karl Marx born to Heinrich Marx (a middle class lawyer) and Henrietta Pressburg in Trier

1830–1835 – Marx attended Trier High School

1835–1836 – Marx attended the University of Bonn to study law

1836–1840 – Marx attended the University of Berlin and joined the Young Hegelians

April 1841 – Marx was awarded his PhD from the University of Jena called The Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature

1842 – Marx moved to Cologne in 1842, and became a journalist, often writing for Rheinische Zeitung

1843 – on 19 June Marx marries Jenny von Westphalen

October 1843–1845 – Marx moves to Paris and writes for the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Annals) and then Vorwärts! (Forward!).

28 August 1844 – Marx meets Friedrich Engels in Paris

1843–1845 – Marx studies political economy, including the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, James Mill and others.

April 1845 – Marx moves from Paris to Brussels

1845–1847 – Marx lives in Brussels in Belgium

July 1845 – Marx and Engels visit Britain

1847 – Marx publishes The Poverty of Philosophy

December 1847 to January 1848 – Marx and Engels write The Communist Manifesto

1848 – Marx in France

1848 – Marx moved to Cologne

1848–1849 – Marx in Cologne

August 1849 – Marx moves to London from Paris

1849–1883 – Marx lives in London.

1859 – Marx published A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

1864 – Marx elected to the International Workingmen's Association (First International)

1867 – the first volume of Das Kapital published

1875 – Marx writes the letter that would become The Critique of the Gotha Program

December 1881 – Marx’s wife Jenny dies

14 March 1883 – Marx dies in London of bronchitis and pleurisy

1885 – the second volume of Das Kapital published by Engels

1894 – the third volume of Das Kapital published by Engels

1895 – Engels dies.
Links
Gooch, Todd. 2013. “Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ludwig-feuerbach/

Redding, Paul. 1997 (rev. 2010). “Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel/

Wolff, Jonathan. 2003 (rev. 2010). “Karl Marx,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/marx/

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Schurz, Carl. 1907. The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz. Volume One 1829–1852. The McClure Company, New York.
https://archive.org/details/abz4602.0001.001.umich.edu

Sperber, Jonathan. 2013. Revolutionary Europe 1780–1850. Routledge, Abingdon, UK, and New York.

Sperber, Jonathan. 2014. Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York.

Wheen, Francis. 2001. Karl Marx: A Life. W. W. Norton & Company, New York and London.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Jonathan Sperber on Karl Marx

This is an interesting lecture by Jonathan Sperber on Karl Marx. Sperber recently wrote this biography of Marx:
Sperber, Jonathan. 2014. Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York.
I am halfway through this biography and I highly recommend it.

The lecture begins at 9.21.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

BBC Radio 4 Discussion on the 1848 Revolutions

The following is a BBC Radio 4 discussion of the 1848 revolutions, and ties in nicely with Marx’s life, which I am discussing at the moment:
1848: Year of Revolution, 19 January 2012

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Karl Marx’s Life 1842–1844

With the dismissal of Bruno Bauer from the University of Bonn in March 1842, Marx’s career prospects were bleak, and so were his chances of marrying Jenny von Westphalen (1814–1881), to whom he had been engaged since 1836.

But Marx turned to journalism and political activism. He moved to Cologne in 1842, and became a journalist, writing for the liberal journal the Rheinische Zeitung (Rhineland News) (Wheen 2001: 35). The audience of this publication was diverse and included Young Hegelians, middle class liberals and the emerging Communist intellectuals (influenced by the ideas of Henri de Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier).

Marx’s ideas in these years seem to have been largely a form of political liberalism, and he defended the freedom of the press and criticised Prussian authoritarianism (Sperber 2014: 85–87).

Marx also downplayed Young Hegelian atheism and hostility to religion (Sperber 2014: 93). One reason for this was the highly damaging role that the Young Hegelian “Society of Free Men” movement in Berlin did to the left Hegelian cause. The “Society of Free Men” was an ultra-radical Young Hegelian group dedicated to shocking contemporaries by their atheism, hostility to organised Christian religion, and drunken antics in Berlin (Sperber 2014: 93) (the young Friedrich Engels was a member of this group). Marx disapproved and this eventually caused a breach of relations with Bruno Bauer (Sperber 2014: 93).

Marx served as informal editor of the Rheinische Zeitung between October 1842 and February 1843 (Sperber 2014: 79). Curiously, when he served as informal editor he steered the paper’s editorial policy towards less support for Young Hegelian radicalism and to strong support for free trade, and apparently maintained support for free trade throughout the rest of his life (Sperber 2014: 92).

But while Marx first studied socialist ideas while in Cologne in 1842 – probably the ideas of Victor Considérant, Pierre Leroux, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (Sperber 2014: 97) – his assessment of them in this year was quite negative, even hostile (Sperber 2014: 96, 99; Wheen 2001: 43). What is more, the Young Hegelian “Society of Free Men” was associated with radical socialism, and Marx had already taken a dislike to this group (Wheen 2001: 43).

When the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung accused the Rheinische Zeitung of advocating communism, Marx wrote a reply in the Rheinische Zeitung angrily rejecting the charge on October 16, 1842, and even stated:
“The Rheinische Zeitung, which cannot concede the theoretical reality of communist ideas even in their present form, and can even less wish or consider possible their practical realization, will submit these ideas to a thorough criticism. If the Augsburg paper demanded and wanted more than slick phrases, it would see that writings such as those of Leroux, Considerant, and above all Proudhon's penetrating work, can be criticized, not through superficial notions of the moment, but only after long and deep study. We consider such ‘theoretical’ works the more seriously as we do not agree with the Augsburg paper, which finds the ‘reality’ of communist ideas not in Plato but in some obscure acquaintance who, not without some merit in some branches of scientific research, gave up the entire fortune that was at his disposal at the time and polished his confederates’ dishes and boots, according to the will of Father Enfantin. We are firmly convinced that it is not the practical Attempt, but rather the theoretical application of communist ideas, that constitutes the real danger; for practical attempts, even those on a large scale, can be answered with cannon as soon as they become dangerous, but ideas, which conquer our intelligence, which overcome the outlook that reason has riveted to our conscience, are chains from which we cannot tear ourselves away without tearing our hearts; they are demons that man can overcome only by submitting to them.”
Marx, “Communism and the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung,” October 16, 1842, Rheinische Zeitung
https://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/marx/works/1842/10/16.htm
It is rather starting (to say the least) to see Marx – the future communist – proclaiming that the best way to deal with any communists putting their ideas into practice is by using cannons on them!

But even Marx’s bourgeois liberalism was too much for the Prussian government and the Rheinische Zeitung was banned by the government and ceased publication in April 1843 (Sperber 2014: 104). A curious historical titbit emerges: when Marx was at a stockholders’ meeting of the paper at around this time he spoke with a lisp and a thick Rhineland accent and was no great orator (Sperber 2014: 105; Wheen 2001: 39).

In 1843, Marx got a position as a writer for the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Annals) from Arnold Ruge which was to be published in Paris. The salary that Marx was offered allowed him to marry Jenny von Westphalen on 19 June, 1843 (Sperber 2014: 109–110). After a honeymoon, Marx and Jenny lived in Kreuznach before leaving for Paris in October 1843.

Around this time, Marx was influenced by Feuerbach’s materialist interpretation of Hegel, though was not immediately willing to accept it (Sperber 2014: 112).

Marx’s move to Paris brought him into contact with radical groups far more diverse than in Germany, but the German Young Hegelian liberalism that Marx and Arnold Ruge supported did not much interest the French communists or liberals (Sperber 2014: 120). Many of the early socialists and Communists in Paris saw their ideology in strongly voluntarist, Christian terms, and so disliked the Young Hegelian atheism (Sperber 2014: 120).

Only one issue of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher appeared in 1844 (Wheen 2001: 64) and in it we have two of Marx’s important early writings:
(1) “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right,” Deutsch-Französische Jahrbucher, February, 1844, and

(2) “On the Jewish Question,” Deutsch-Französische Jahrbucher, February, 1844.
These marked a shift in Marx’s thinking towards revolutionary politics and he now thought that a proletarian revolution in Germany was what was needed (Sperber 2014: 125–126).

However, Marx and Arnold Ruge soon badly fell out (Sperber 2014: 121). Marx’s financial difficulties were overcome when his middle class and liberal admirers in Cologne raised 1,000 talers for him (Sperber 2014: 122).

While Jenny returned to Trier with their new daughter, Marx stayed in Paris, and met, amongst other people, Mikhail Bakunin and Friedrich Engels (Sperber 2014: 135).

According to Sperber (2014: 137), Marx first met Friedrich Engels on August 23, 1844 in Paris, but Wheen (2001: 75) places their first meeting on 16 November, 1842 in Cologne.

Whatever the case, it was only in the 1850s that Marx and Engels cemented their friendship. Engels, who was already an atheist and communist, had published articles in both the Rheinische Zeitung and Deutsch-Französische Jahrbucher, and so was interested to meet Marx on a return trip from England in 1844.

Still in Paris, Marx now became attached to the journal Vorwärts! (Forward!) and his attachment to socialism now became evident in his journalism (Sperber 2014: 136).

In 1844, Marx wrote extended papers running to about 50,000 words called the “Paris Manuscripts” or “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844” (Wheen 2001: 68), which were only published well after his death in 1927, and which discussed a wide array of topics, from economics, Feuerbach’s materialism and critique of Hegel to money, property and the alienation of workers (Sperber 2014: 142).

From the 1844 manuscripts we learn that Marx had embarked in that year on a reading of political economy, and in particular the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and James Mill in French translation, Jean-Baptiste Say and Wilhelm Schulz (Sperber 2014: 142; Wheen 2001: 68). He drew the same pessimistic lessons on the future of a capitalist society as found in Ricardo and saw a future of stagnant subsistence wage for workers, low profits and a stationary state (Sperber 2014: 143). When these economic ideas were combined with Feuerbach’s materialist interpretation of Hegel, we can see the genesis of Marx’s economic theories, and so much so that Marx referred to Feuerbach’s work as the “philosophical basis of socialism” (Sperber 2014: 146; Wheen 2001: 55).

Marx’s Paris years were ended when the Prussian government demanded his expulsion and the French government agreed to this, and Marx left France in January 1845 (Sperber 2014: 146).

I end on another interesting titbit I missed in my last post: because of his swarthy appearance Marx acquired the nickname “the Moor” – apparently as early as his university days in Bonn in 1836 (Sperber 2014: 38; Wheen 2001: 37).

Appendix
Chronology of Marx’s Life
5 May 1818 – Karl Marx born to Heinrich Marx (a middle class lawyer) and Henrietta Pressburg in Trier

1830–1835 – Marx attended Trier High School

1835–1836 – Marx attended the University of Bonn to study law

1836–1840 – Marx attended the University of Berlin and joined the Young Hegelians

April 1841 – Marx was awarded his PhD from the University of Jena called The Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature

1842 – Marx moved to Cologne in 1842, and became a journalist, often writing for Rheinische Zeitung

1843 – on 19 June Marx marries Jenny von Westphalen

October 1843–1845 – Marx moves to Paris and writes for the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Annals) and then Vorwärts! (Forward!).

28 August 1844 – Marx meets Friedrich Engels in Paris

1843–1845 – Marx studies political economy, including the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, James Mill and others.

April 1845 – Marx moves from Paris to Brussels

1845–1847 – Marx lives in Brussels in Belgium

July 1845 – Marx and Engels visit Britain

1847 – Marx publishes The Poverty of Philosophy

December 1847 to January 1848 – Marx and Engels write The Communist Manifesto

1848 – Marx in France

1848 – Marx moved to Cologne

1848–1849 – Marx in Cologne

August 1849 – Marx moves to London from Paris

1849–1883 – Marx lives in London.

1864 – Marx elected to the International Workingmen's Association (First International)

1859 – Marx published A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

1867 – the first volume of Das Kapital published

1875 – Marx writes the letter that would become The Critique of the Gotha Program

December 1881 – Marx’s wife Jenny dies

14 March 1883 – Marx dies in London of bronchitis and pleurisy

1885 – the second volume of Das Kapital published by Engels

1894 – the third volume of Das Kapital published by Engels

1895 – Engels dies.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Sperber, Jonathan. 2014. Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York.

Wheen, Francis. 2001. Karl Marx: A Life. W. W. Norton & Company, New York and London.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Karl Marx’s Life 1818–1841

I recently picked up these two biographies of Karl Marx (1818–1883):
Sperber, Jonathan. 2014. Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York.

Wheen, Francis. 2001. Karl Marx: A Life. W. W. Norton & Company, New York and London.
I am reading them, and may post summaries of and interesting points about Marx’s life, but broken down into manageable periods.

In the post that follows I sketch Marx’s life between 1818 and 1841.

Karl Marx was born on 5 May, 1818 in Trier, which was then part of the German state of Prussia. Marx’s parents were Heinrich Marx (1777–1838) (who had been born with the name Herschel Mordechai) and Henrietta Pressburg (1788–1863) and his ancestors Jewish rabbis and merchants from Trier and Bohemia (Sperber 2014: 6–7). The social and economic life of Trier had been transformed by its formal annexation into the French revolutionary Republic, along with other German territories on the left bank of the Rhine, in 1797, when the French government had swept aside the ancien régime in their German territories (Sperber 2014: 7–9).

During the Napoleonic empire, Heinrich Marx, Marx’s father, had been an official in the Tier Jewish Consistory and had then studied law at Koblenz from 1813 (Sperber 2014: 14).

After the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Germany was politically fragmented into many different states, as you can see in the map here. Marx grew up in a conservative Europe in the age of Metternich after the new political boundaries of the European states had been settled at the Congress of Vienna, as we can see in the map below.


With Napoleon gone, Trier and most territories in the Rhineland and Westphalia became part of Prussia from 1815, and in 1814 Heinrich Marx had returned to Trier to become an attorney (Sperber 2014: 18). Around 1819 he converted to Protestant Christianity to continue working as a lawyer under Prussian rule (Sperber 2014: 17). Heinrich had also changed the family surname in around 1808 from “Levi” to “Marx,” which is apparently an abbreviated form of Mordechai.

Heinrich Marx also appeared to be a strong advocate of Enlightenment views, which he taught the young Karl Marx (Sperber 2014: 19). Heinrich Marx had married Henrietta Pressburg in 1814, who came from a Dutch Jewish family (Sperber 2014: 20), and they had 9 children from 1816 to 1826. Marx had rather bad relations with his mother later in life (Wheen 2001: 8), especially after the death of his father in 1838 and his financial difficulties.

Karl Marx was born in 1818, was baptised as a Christian in 1824, and received private education at home until 1830 (Sperber 2014: 25).

In 1830 he entered an elite Gymnasium (a secondary school) at Trier where his education was heavily focussed on the Classics (ancient Greek and Latin language and literature) and he graduated in 1835 (Sperber 2014: 25–26). Amongst his friends at school was Edgar, the son of a Prussian bureaucrat and aristocrat called Johann Ludwig von Westphalen (1770–1842), whose daughter Jenny eventually married Marx. In his final exams, Marx did well at German and Latin but poorly at mathematics (Sperber 2014: 27).

In 1835 Marx entered the University of Bonn to study law and public administration, where he became associated with the League of Poets and a group of German Rheinland students (Sperber 2014: 38). He seems to have fallen into a rather riotous life at Bonn: he neglected his studies, drank heavily, became co-president of the Trier Tavern Club (a society devoted to hard drinking), got himself arrested for 24 hours, and even fought a duel in summer 1836 with a solider in which he received a wound above the eye (Sperber 2014: 38–39; Wheen 2001: 16). His father was naturally unsatisfied with his progress and way of life at Bonn and so transferred Marx to the University of Berlin.

In 1836, before leaving for Berlin Marx became engaged to Jenny von Westphalen (1814–1881) (Sperber 2014: 41).

At the University of Berlin, Marx became interested in the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), who had died in 1831. By 1837 he was a follower of Hegel and neglecting his studies, all to his father’s intense disapproval (Sperber 2014: 53– 55).

In 1838, Marx visited his family in Trier to find his father on his death bed, and Heinrich Marx died three days after Marx left to return to Berlin (Sperber 2014: 55–56).

Even by 1837 at Berlin, Marx became strongly involved with the Young Hegelian movement, a group of young radicals who were applying Hegel’s philosophy to various branches of the sciences (Sperber 2014: 61; Wheen 2001: 27), and above all to Christian theology, as in the work of David Strauss, Bruno Bauer, and Ludwig Feuerbach. Although originally an attempt to purify Christianity of its myths and get to its essence, many of the Young Hegelian critics ended up as radical atheists by the 1840s; they also identified with liberal causes, and came to apply a Hegelian critique to politics (Sperber 2014: 63–64).

Marx was very much a younger member of Young Hegelian generation (Sperber 2014: 64), and had a personal relationship with Bruno Bauer – so much so that Marx has been seen as Bauer’s protégé (Sperber 2014: 66). Under Bauer’s influence, Marx became an anti-religious atheist.

By late 1839, Marx had embarked on his Doctoral dissertation called The Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, which was a comparative study of the ancient materialistic philosophies of Democritus and Epicurus who were both ancient advocates of an atomic physics.

However, in the course of writing his dissertation Marx ceased to be a student at the University of Berlin since he had studied for the maximum for 4 years without getting his degree and had failed to apply for an extension (Sperber 2014: 66).

Marx was, however, able to submit his dissertation to the University of Jena and it passed on April 15, 1841 (Sperber 2014: 70; Wheen 2001: 33). After this, Marx returned to Trier in June 1841, and had firm plans to be an academic (Sperber 2014: 70), but the Prussian state had entered a period of pronounced hostility to the Young Hegelians and Marx’s mentor Bruno Bauer was dismissed from the University of Bonn in March 1842 (Sperber 2014: 71, 75). At the same time, Marx, who had gone to Bonn after his return to Trier, saw his prospects for an academic career destroyed (Wheen 2001: 34).

Appendix
Chronology of Marx’s Life
5 May 1818 – Karl Marx born to Heinrich Marx (a middle class lawyer) and Henrietta Pressburg in Trier

1830–1835 – Marx attended Trier High School

1835–1836 – Marx attended the University of Bonn to study law

1836–1840 – Marx attended the University of Berlin and joined the Young Hegelians

April 1841 – Marx was awarded his PhD from the University of Jena called The Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature

1842 – Marx moved to Cologne in 1842, and became a journalist, often writing for Rheinische Zeitung

1843 – on 19 June Marx marries Jenny von Westphalen

October 1843–1845 – Marx moves to Paris and writes for the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Annals) and then Vorwärts! (Forward!).

28 August 1844 – Marx meets Friedrich Engels in Paris

1843–1845 – Marx studies political economy, including the works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, James Mill and others.

April 1845 – Marx moves from Paris to Brussels

1845–1847 – Marx lives in Brussels in Belgium

July 1845 – Marx and Engels visit Britain

1847 – Marx publishes The Poverty of Philosophy

December 1847 to January 1848 – Marx and Engels write The Communist Manifesto

1848 – Marx in France

1848 – Marx moved to Cologne

1848–1849 –Marx in Cologne

August 1849 – Marx moves to London from Paris

1849–1883 – Marx lives in London.

1864 – Marx elected to the International Workingmen's Association (First International)

1859 – Marx published A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

1867 – the first volume of Das Kapital published

1875 – Marx writes the letter that would become The Critique of the Gotha Program

December 1881 – Marx’s wife Jenny dies

14 March 1883 – Marx dies in London of bronchitis and pleurisy

1885 – the second volume of Das Kapital published by Engels

1894 – the third volume of Das Kapital published by Engels

1895 – Engels dies.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Sperber, Jonathan. 2014. Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York.

Wheen, Francis. 2001. Karl Marx: A Life. W. W. Norton & Company, New York and London.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Foucault on the History of Madness: A Critique

Foucault’s elaborate theories of madness, mental illness and the history of the asylum were expounded in the following works:
(1) Mental Illness and Psychology (1954; 2nd edn. 1962):
Foucault, Michel. 1954. Maladie mentale et personnalité (1st edn.). Presses universitaires de France, Paris.

Foucault, Michel. 1962. Maladie mentale et personnalité (2nd rev. edn.). Presses universitaires de France, Paris. Presses universitaires de France, Paris = Foucault, Michel. 1976. Mental Illness and Psychology (trans. Alan Sheridan). Harper and Row, New York.
(2) The Birth of the Clinic (1963):
Foucault, Michel. 1963. Naissance de la clinique: une archéologie du regard médical . Presses universitaires de France, Paris. 212 p. = Foucault, Michel. 1973. The Birth of the Clinic (trans. Allan M. Sheridan). Pantheon, New York; and Foucault, Michel. 2003. The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception (trans. Allan M. Sheridan). Routledge, London. 266 p.
(3) Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (1961; abridged version 1964; new full edition 1972):
Foucault, Michel. 1961. Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique [Madness and Unreason: History of Madness in the Classical Age]. Plon, Paris. 673 p. (the best translation of this appears to be Foucault, Michel. 2006. History of Madness (ed. Jean Khalfa; trans. Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa). Routledge, New York, from the 1972 Gallimard edition).

Foucault, Michel. 1964. Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique [abridged version of Folie et déraison: histoire de la folie à l’âge classique 1961]. Union générale d’éditions, Paris. 308 p. = Foucault, Michel. 1965. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason [some material from the 1961 edn. put back in by Foucault but cut from the French 1964 edn.] (trans. Richard Howard). Pantheon Books, New York. 299 p.; and Foucault, Michel. 2006. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (trans. Richard Howard). Taylor & Francis, London and New York.

Foucault, Michel. 1972. Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique [History of Madness in the Classical Age; 2nd edn.; new preface and appendices]. Gallimard, Paris. 613 p. = Foucault, Michel. 2006. History of Madness (ed. Jean Khalfa; trans. Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa). Routledge, New York. 725 p.
These books were written when Foucault was in his Marxist and structuralist phase, though it is known that Foucault dropped a lot of the Marxist theory in Maladie mentale et personnalité by the time of the second edition in 1962. It should also be pointed out that some commentators see Foucault’s work up to the 1960s as being greatly influenced by structuralism even though he was not a full-blown structuralist (Olssen 2003: 191).

His major work L’histoire de la folie à l’âge classique [Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason] (1961) was written in Foucault’s structuralist or quasi-structuralist phase and was based on his PhD thesis. The original French edition of 1961 ran to 673 pages, but an abridged version of 308 pages appeared in 1964, which was translated into English and which has been generally used by English commentators, until a complete translation of the 1961 edition appeared in 2006 as the History of Madness (Foucault 2006).

I will provide a critique of the History of Madness in what follows.

Immediately, the issue of objective truth arises. Even defenders of Foucault admit frankly that the consensus of historians is that Foucault’s work on this subject is “bad history” (Gutting 2005: 51) – that is, it contains too many errors of fact. Some apologists for Foucault even try and counter this by claiming that Foucault’s works are not even meant to be history at all! (Gutting 2005: 51; Flynn 2005: 40).

This is an appalling admission of failure: if Foucault was not writing history, then what was he writing? If apologists for Foucault wish to complain that he wasn’t really doing history and his work can’t be held to standards of objective truth, they have effectively admitted that Foucault’s “history” was an utter joke, since there would be no theories or facts in it to be judged as true or false. Foucault’s work would be in a different genre altogether: it would belong to the realm of theology, fiction, poetry or supernatural metaphysics.

Any rational criticisms of Foucault’s work must start from the premise that it is supposed to be history. If we do not admit there was an objective truth to what happened in history, any attempt by Foucault to do “history” cannot even be taken seriously.

I take it, then, that we must presuppose objective truth and facts in history, which we can discern through the surviving evidence and best historical research.

So what was Foucault’s thesis on madness?

Foucault divided the history of the West’s treatment of the insane into the following periods:
(1) the Middle Ages;

(2) the Renaissance: the discourse of ironic high reason;

(3) the Classical Age or Age of Reason: the 17th to the 18th centuries: the Great Confinement;

(4) the late 18th century and 19th century: the treatment of madness as psychiatric disorder.
We should note that the “Age of Reason” or “Classical Age” for Foucault was from about 1650 to the eighteenth century.

Foucault thought the following about madness in the West. In the Middle Ages, madness was more or less a recognised part of the truth of existence and there was a general open tolerance for the mad (Scull 1990: 62). Even when they were ejected from towns, the mad were not generally confined but could often lead an itinerant existence (Foucault 2006: 9). Even in the Renaissance there was a relative openness to the treatment of the mad who were not locked away en masse (Midelfort 1980: 250).

In the “Age of Reason” (17th to 18th centuries) there was a fundamental break in the treatment of the mad. There began a “Great Confinement” as the insane were locked away in “general hospitals,” workhouses, and later asylums, and often with the poor, aged, criminals, prostitutes and beggars (Midelfort 1980: 250). Madness became a type of immorality and the mad were regarded as those who had lost their reason and as being like animals.

From the late 18th century, there was another transition: madness was now considered a mental illness and medical problem. Modern insanity as a mental illness was “invented” by medical reformers (Midelfort 1980: 251).

Furthermore, Foucault’s interpreters argue that his fundamental thesis is that modern scientific psychiatry has not progressed towards the truth about human mental illness, but that modern psychiatric medicine is just a new form of “social control” (Khalfa 2006: xvi). In other words, Foucault is supposed to have proved that madness is just a “social construct” (Gutting 2005: 50). I strongly disagree, but I will return to this at the end of the post.

A central element of Foucault’s ideas on the treatment of madness in the Middle Ages is the idea of the “ship of fools” (Narrenschiff). These were ships in which the mad were sent on journeys or pilgrimages together away from towns so that they could “find” their reason and sanity. Foucault is quite clear that the ship of fools was a real phenomenon (Foucault 2006: 9). Unfortunately, there is not a shred of evidence that such ships – as Foucault understood them – actually existed (Midelfort 1980: 254; Scull 2007: 4; Scull 1990: 63). They were just literary or artistic themes in medieval and Renaissance art and literature, such as, for example, Hieronymus Bosch’s painting the Ship of Fools (c. 1490–1500).

Foucault’s contention that before the Age of Reason madness was considered a natural part of life and that there was even a positive attitude to it is one-sided. In fact, one prominent negative medieval and Renaissance view of madness seems to have been that madness was the consequence of sin (Midelfort 1980: 254), and this contradicts Foucault’s theory of a relative openness in ideas on madness before the Classical age. As late as the 16th century, madness was still sometimes explained by demonic possession (Midelfort 1999: 9), and treated with fear and horror.

Worse still, despite Foucault’s myth of openness in the Medieval period, historians find many instances of extreme cruelty to the mad in the Middle Ages, and dangerous madmen were generally locked up, sometimes in chains (Midelfort 1980: 253). The imprisonment of the insane (especially dangerous ones) in cells, prisons or cages was not infrequent in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance (Midelfort 1980: 253).

One of the first hospitals for the mad was established by the friar Juan Gilabert Joffre in Spain in 1409 (Pérez et al. 2012), and by the later 15th century in Spain, there was a network of charitable hospitals for the mad (Midelfort 1980: 253; Merquior 1991: 27), and elaborate theories on how madness was a human physiological disorder were well known in late medieval Europe, often from Islamic medicine (Merquior 1991: 27; Midelfort 1980: 253). Even cruel medical treatments for madness as an illness were practiced in the Middle ages and go right back to the ancient Greek and Roman world (Merquior 1991: 27).

It is clear, then, that treatment of madness as an illness existed well before the 18th century (Midelfort 1980: 253), and if Foucault meant to suggest that the Medieval age was one of relative tolerance and permissiveness towards madness, it turns out to be largely a fiction.

What of Foucault’s “Great Confinement”? Defenders of Foucault argue that his major point was the exclusion and confinement of the mad in the Age of Reason occurred in a way fundamentally distinct from earlier ages (Gutting 2005: 52). This is wrong. In England and Germany, the facts do not fit Foucault’s theory of the Great Confinement (Merquior 1991: 28; Midelfort 1980: 256–257; Midelfort 1999: 7–8; Porter 1990: 48). There was no European-wide “Great Confinement” as imagined by Foucault (Scull 2007: 4).

But there was a real phenomenon: a forced confinement in the 17th and 18th centuries in France and some other countries that was directed against poverty, poor beggars, poor deviants, poor criminals and poor madmen (Midelfort 1980: 255). But it was only a narrow class of madmen who were affected by a Great Confinement in France who were sent to general hospitals (Midelfort 1980: 255). Even in this confinement, the general hospitals largely developed out of medieval hospitals and monasteries, not largely from reopened leprosaria as in Foucault’s theory (Merquior 1991: 28; Midelfort 1980: 256).

Foucault’s “Great Confinement” – the idea that a general confinement by a rising bourgeois society of the work-shy poor, mad, deviants, beggars and criminals to general hospitals in the Age of Reason – is therefore a quasi-Marxist fantasy (Midelfort 1980: 257; Windschuttle 1994: 140).

Moreover, even in the Classical age madness was often treated as an illness and the mad were given medical cures (Midelfort 1980: 256). If anything, the increasing “medical” attitude to madness in Foucault’s Classical age was just a stronger development of trends already seen in the Middle Ages, and did not constitute a sharp break with some earlier golden age of tolerance (Merquior 1991: 27).

If there was no Great Confinement directed at all madmen (but simply at poor ones), then it follows that many of the mad continued to have a great deal of freedom right down to the 18th century. The evidence confirms this. Even by the late 18th century in France recent research shows that only about 5,000 mad or mentally-disturbed people were locked up in the hôpital general institutions – a small of minority of the total number of mentally-ill people who were mostly still at large in French society (Midelfort 1990: 43; Scull 2007: 4).

In Britain, the story is similar. Even by the late 18th century most of the mad remained at large or were looked after at home by relatives (Windschuttle 1994: 146). There were some few private asylums but the numbers of people incarcerated here were small (Windschuttle 1994: 146). Even Foucault’s claims about Britain’s infamous Bethlem Royal Hospital (or “Bedlam”) are untrue. Foucault asserted that in the early 1800s the inmates of Bedlam were put on public display on Sundays, and that this attracted some 96,000 visitors a year (Foucault 2006: 143). In reality, none of this is true (Scull 2007: 4). In England, within the small numbers of private asylums for the mad, the tendency was to separate the insane from other social outcasts like beggars, the elderly and the poor, which, once again, contradicts Foucault’s theory (Porter 1990: 49).

Even more damagingly, it was in the 19th century that the confinement of the mad really became strong and intensified and was much more prevalent than in the Classical age (Merquior 1991: 28). It was the 19th century that was the age of confinement, if we want to use that term (Midelfort 1990: 43; Midelfort 1980: 257).

Yet at this time in 19th century America there was even a well-documented turn away from psychiatric treatment towards merely custodial care of the insane (Merquior 1991: 29) – contradicting Foucault’s theory.

Finally, regarding the idea that madness has just been “invented” by modern doctors and psychiatrists, what can we say about this? There is fallacy of equivocation here, however. Are we talking about
(1) each age’s definition of madness, explanation of madness, its attempts to categorise it and attempts to cure it, or

(2) actual biological and empirical questions about whether mental illness is produced by brain dysfunction, and the evidence for and against this?
That people in the past had different views of madness and its causes (and in turn prescribed different things for its treatment) hardly proves that modern science-based, clinical psychiatric medicine has done no better in actually identifying the causes of mental illness and providing effective treatment (N.B.: I am utterly excluding Freudian psychoanalytic pseudo-science from science-based medicine here). On the contrary, the very success of modern medicine and the highly effective treatments for many mental disorders as against past “treatments” for madness are strong evidence that science has got something right which people in the past have got wrong.

People in the past were just incredibly ignorant about many things, and their science was weak. They made bad mistakes. We can easily apply this to the history of infectious disease, cancer and all other maladies from which human beings suffer. The fact that different ages classified diseases in different ways from us and had different explanations and cures for them hardly proves that modern scientific medicine is just a “narrative” or “social construct,” or that it has no strong claim to coming closer and closer to objective truth about disease.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Foucault, Michel. 2006. History of Madness (ed. Jean Khalfa; trans. Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa). Routledge, New York.

Flynn, Thomas. 2005. “Foucault’s Mapping of History,” Gary Gutting (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (2nd edn.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K. and New York. 29–48.

Gutting, Gary. 2005. “Foucault and the History of Madness,” in Gary Gutting (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (2nd edn.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K. and New York. 49–73.

Khalfa, Jean. 2006. “Introduction,” in Michel Foucault, History of Madness (ed. Jean Khalfa; trans. Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa). Routledge, New York. xiii–xxvi.

Merquior, José Guilherme. 1991 Foucault (2nd edn.). Fontana, London.

Midelfort, H. C. Erik. 1980. “Madness and Civilisation in Early Modern Europe: A Reappraisal of Michel Foucault,” in Barbara C. Malament (ed.), After the Reformation: Essays in Honour of J. H. Hexter. Manchester University Press, Manchester. 247–265.

Midelfort, H. C. Erik. 1990. “Comment on Colin Gordon,” History of the Human Sciences 3.1: 41–45.

Midelfort, H. C. Erik. 1999. A History of Madness in Sixteenth-Century Germany. Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif.

Olssen, Mark. 2003. “Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Neo-Liberalism: Assessing Foucault’s Legacy,” Journal of Education Policy 18.2: 189–202.

Pérez, Jesús, Baldessarini, Ross J., Undurraga, Juan and José Sánchez-Moreno. 2012. “Origins of Psychiatric Hospitalization in Medieval Spain,” Psychiatric Quarterly 83.4: 419–430.

Porter, Roy. 1990. “Foucault’s Great Confinement,” History of the Human Sciences 3: 47–54.

Scull, Andrew. 1990. “Michel Foucault’s History of Madness,” History of the Human Sciences 3: 57–67.

Scull, Andrew. 2007. “Scholarship of Fools,” Times Literary Supplement no. 5425, 23 March 2007, pp. 3–4.

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Windschuttle, K. 1998. “Foucault as Historian,” in Robert Nola (ed.). Foucault. F. Cass, London and Portland, Or. 5–35.