28 September 2010

The Condition of the Working Class in England

The Classics, Beginnings, Part 1b

Frederick Engels, 1841

The Condition of the Working Class in England

The Marxists Internet Library’s Encyclopedia’s entry on Rheinische Zeitung starts thus:

“The Rheinische Zeitung für Politik, Handel und Gewerbe was founded on January 1 1842. It was, generally, a pro-democracy reformist publication of the Rhine's oppositional bourgeoisie to Prussian absolutism. Karl Marx wrote his first news article for it in May 5 1842. By October 1842, he was named editor.

“On November 16 1842, en route to England, Engels paid a visit to the Rheinische Zeitung offices – where he first met the new editor. Engels' time in England would result in a series of articles for the RZ – and those would, in turn, lead to his famous book, The Condition of the Working Class in England.”

The Rheinische Zeitung was Karl Marx’s first, and possibly his only ever regular employer, but the record shows that Frederick Engels had an article published in the Rheinische Zeitung even before Marx arrived there. Therefore they must have known each others’ writing even before they met in 1842.

The two teamed up for good in Paris, in August 1844, by which time Marx was already in exile from his native Germany. The question in this first part of our “Classics” course remains: When did these two become “Marxists”? And the answer is that the crucial transition took place through their joint writing of “The German Ideology”, from 1845 onwards.

A related question could be: What did each of them separately bring to “Marxism”? The text today can serve to show that Frederick Engels brought with him a strong sense of the historical destiny of the working class. It is the chapter on “Labour Movements” from Engels’ “The Condition of the Working Class in England” (download linked below).

It seems that by 1844 when they re-met in Paris, these two young men (Engels was 24 and Marx was 26 years old) had already both formed the unusual opinion that the working class was destined to be the gravedigger of the capitalist bourgeoisie.

For all of the historical materialism and the later discovery of the Marx’s theory of surplus value, yet without a candidate for the part of free-willing revolutionary agent and Subject of History, there was never going to be a communist movement. Marx and Engels agreed that the revolutionary subject was bound to be the working proletariat, and they never subsequently wavered from that view.

Engels’ research into the working class in (at the time) its most advanced condition in the world, was quite crucial for both of their ability to be able to take the partisan view in favour of the working class that they did take. It gave them the empirical, abstract factual knowledge that allowed them to concretise there revolutionary project with confidence. Hence this book of Engels’ book (his first) is certainly a classic. As he put it in our downloadable chapter:

“These strikes… are the strongest proof that the decisive battle between bourgeoisie and proletariat is approaching. They are the military school of the working-men in which they prepare themselves for the great struggle which cannot be avoided…”

It is a classic in at least two other ways. It is a classic example of the well-organised marshalling and synthesis of library research, interview research and personal observation. It is also a classic of urban social theory or urbanism, of which it is a pioneering example.

Image: Frederick Engels in his military year, 1841, the year before he first met Marx.

Please download and read some of this text:

Further reading:

27 September 2010

The German Ideology

The Classics, Beginnings, Part 1a

The German Ideology

From August 1844 when they re-met in Paris, France, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels began a lifelong collaboration, and immediately began to write together the book that was published the following year as “The Holy Family” - a polemic against the “Young Hegelians” or otherwise “The Free”, a group of German political intellectuals (“Saint Bruno” Bauer, “Saint Max” Stirner, and others).

But it was in their second major joint work that the two managed to firmly lay down the basics of what we know as Marxism in the book called “The German Ideology”, again critiquing the Young Hegelians and now also Ludwig Feuerbach. This manuscript was written between 1845 and 1847 but it was never published, or even prepared for publication, during the lifetimes of the two authors, Marx and Engels.

The “Theses on Feuerbach” that we studied as our previous item are said to be notes of Marx’s in preparation for “The German Ideology”, according to the Preface to this work in Progress Publishers’ Collected Works of Marx, which also says of “The German Ideology” and its associated writings:

“They were all written between the spring of 1845 and the spring of 1847, during Marx’s stay in Brussels, where he moved in February 1845 following his deportation from France by the Guizot government. Engels came to Brussels from Barmen in April 1845 and remained till August 1846. This was the period when Marxism was finally evolved as the scientific world outlook of the revolutionary proletariat. Marx and Engels had arrived at the decisive stage in working out the philosophical principles of scientific communism.

This, then, is the Holy Grail for those who seek the precise origin of “Marxism”. Progress Publishers goes on:

“It was in The German Ideology that the materialist conception of history, historical materialism, was first formulated as an integral theory. Engels said later that this theory, which uncovered the genuine laws of social development and revolutionised the science of society, embodied the first of Marx’s great discoveries (the second being the theory of surplus value) which played the main role in transforming socialism from a utopia into a science.”

What is this thing called “historical materialism”? Here are two paragraphs from the chapter of The German ideology that is downloadable via the link below.

"This conception of history depends on our ability to expound the real process of production, starting out from the material production of life itself, and to comprehend the form of intercourse connected with this and created by this mode of production (i.e. civil society in its various stages), as the basis of all history; describing it in its action as the state, and to explain all the different theoretical products and forms of consciousness, religion, philosophy, ethics, etc. etc. arise from it, and trace their origins and growth from that basis. Thus the whole thing can, of course, be depicted in its totality (and therefore, too, the reciprocal action of these various sides on one another)…

"It shows that history does not end by being resolved into "self-consciousness as spirit of the spirit", but that in it at each stage there is found a material result: a sum of productive forces, an historically created relation of individuals to nature and to one another, which is handed down to each generation from its predecessor; a mass of productive forces, capital funds and conditions, which, on the one hand, is indeed modified by the new generation, but also on the other prescribes for it its conditions of life and gives it a definite development, a special character. It shows that circumstances make men just as much as men make circumstances.”

Later on the work says says “In reality and for the practical materialist, i.e. the communist, it is a question of revolutionising the existing world, of practically attacking and changing existing things.”

The point is to change the world, as the eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach says.

In the last part of the chapter, called “Ruling Class and Ruling Ideas”, you will read the following well-known, classic words:

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance.”

The Progress Publishers Preface quotes Marx as writing, in 1859, about “The German Ideology”: “We abandoned the manuscript to the gnawing criticism of the mice all the more willingly as we had achieved our main purpose — self-clarification.”

Image: Statue of Marx and Engels in Marx-Engels-Forum, Berlin, Germany.

Please download and read this short text:

Further reading:

26 September 2010

Theses on Feuerbach

The Classics, Part 1, Beginnings

Marx: Theses on Feuerbach

New course, “The Classics”, Introduction

Four courses have been run through the SADTU Political Education Forum so far in 2010. These were “Basics”, “National Democratic Revolution”, “State and Revolution” and “Development, Rural and Urban”. In future, we will hold four ten-week courses per year to be sufficient, but in this opening year we need to do one more course, and we have time to do it. The course is on “The Classics”. It is being done for the first time, so comments and criticisms from subscribers will be more than usually welcome.

There is no last word on what “The Classics” are, or might be. There is no attempt here to lay down a definitive, prescriptive “canon”. Instead, what we will be doing is creating a skeleton or framework around which individuals might wish to build or to flesh out their own ideas of what “The Classics” consist of.

We will go from Marx and Engels in the mid-1840s to Lenin, Luxemburg and Gramsci, towards the mid-1920s. We will use some material that already appears in our other courses, together with works that have not yet been used in any of these courses, but which are “classics” nonetheless.

Lenin in his “The State and Revolution” (a classic, and itself a review of the classics) wrote that in his opinion “The Poverty of Philosophy”, written and published in 1847, is “the first mature work of Marxism”. But we will begin in Brussels, Belgium, in early 1845, shortly after Marx and Engels had (in Paris, in August 1844) teamed up. As we know, they stuck together until death parted them. We will begin with the short piece of work by Karl Marx that is known as the “Theses on Feuerbach” (named as such by Frederick Engels, and published by him in 1888, five years after the death of Karl Marx).

Theses on Feuerbach

Any one of the eleven short Theses on Feuerbach (download linked below) would be adequate on its own as a topic for discussion in a study circle. The most famous of them is the last one, and justifiably so:

“Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”

This shows Marx in 1845 as being firmly in the camp of those humanists for whom the active, free-willing Subject is the centre and the starting point of all philosophy and all politics. It puts Marx in the opposite camp from those “materialists” who regard the human as derivative of, and secondary to, the purely physical. Marx never shifted from this strong and logical position. Marx poses the Subject in a dialectical relation with the Objective universe, but the Subject is the one with the initiative. The Subject makes things happen. The Subject can change the world – and that’s the point.

This is different from the idealism that ignores the material world, and it is equally different from the materialism that prioritises the mechanical over the mental. Thus, Marx settles the controversy over “dialectical materialism” right here, at the beginning.

Feuerbach’s intervention into the philosophical debates of the early 1840s created a sensation in the intellectual crucible that included Marx and Engels as well as the “Young Hegelians” with whom Marx and Engels were in the process of falling out.

Reading the eleven “Theses” reveals that Marx immediately recognised Feuerbach as a materialist, but also that he at once rejected Feuerbach’s particular and limited kind of anti-religious materialism.

Thesis number two says that truth is a practical question. This is something that is repeated later on in the “classics” of Marxism. This again reinforces the assertion that the world or universe is a human world or universe. “It is men who change circumstances” says Marx in the third Thesis, and “human activity or self-change can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.”

The subsequent Theses develop this understand through to Thesis 10 which says: The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society or social humanity.”

This is a good reminder that for Marx in particular, the term “civil society” only means “bourgeois society”, and that therefore for Marxists, “civil society” is something to be overcome and transcended, and not something to be put on a pedestal and worshipped.

Image: Karl Marx being arrested in Brussels, 1840s.

Please download and read this very short text:

Further reading:

21 September 2010

Building SADTU

Development, Part 10b

Building SADTU

In the context of building the National Democratic Revolutionary Alliance at local level SADTU has a unique relevance because its sites are in every ward. SADTU has an unequalled opportunity to spearhead the integration of the COSATU federation into practical alliance with the SACP and the ANC at local level.

Therefore the downloadable text related to this, the last item in the last part of our course on Development, Rural and Urban, is SADTU’s recruitment brochure, previously downloaded from the SADTU web site.

Also from the SADTU web site is the following on Membership:

“SADTU is a union proud of its history and confident of its future. The union is currently boasting a membership of 240,000 representing more than 2/3 of the teaching force in the country. It is an affiliate of COSATU, the biggest federation in South Africa. SADTU is a member of Education International (EI), the global union federation of organisations representing 30 million teachers and other education workers, through 394 member organisations in 171 countries and territories.”

and the following on Joining SADTU:

“Membership of SADTU is open to any person who is eligible for such membership [according to the SADTU constitution] and subscribes to its aims and objects. Persons can apply for full membership for those practicing as teachers or educationalist including those in auxiliary services, both formal and non-formal institutions of learning. Associate membership can be applied for by persons professionally admitted to the teaching profession but no longer practice as such and all persons who qualified as teachers and are yet not employed as such and student teachers.”

The SADTU Constitution (72-Page PDF) can be downloaded here.

Please download and read this document:

Further reading:

20 September 2010

Imvuselelo Campaign

Development, Part 10a

Imvuselelo Campaign

The SACP’s call to “swell the ranks” of the ANC is not an attempt to gain a majority in the ANC and thereby to take it over. To do that would be counter-productive. The SACP does not need another clone of itself. The SACP needs the ANC to be the ANC: The expression of National Democratic Revolutionary class alliance, of unity in action; in short, the SACP needs the ANC to be South Africa’s liberation movement.

The growth of the ANC is a tactical necessity for a South Africa that is still trying to realise its full freedom. This is the same reason that the SACP has been building the ANC since the 1920s, without any pause. In the beginning the ANC was a much smaller organisation than the SACP .

The ANC complements the SACP and COSATU. No one of these three can replace or substitute for either of the others. None of them can do without the others. All three have to be grown, for the sake of all three.

Now, while the SACP is aiming for half a million members, the ANC is pushing for one million. The organised trade union movement may altogether have three million members.

This growth of mass democratic formations is the working out of the National Democratic Revolution, which moves towards completion in proportion to the democratisation of the popular masses in various mass democratic structures, elaborated at different levels and throughout the country.

The ANC’s expansion and extension plan is called the Imvuselelo Campaign. The linked document below is made up of part of an ANC statement re-launching the Imvuselelo Campaign on 12 August 2010, plus a link to the “How to join the ANC” pages on the ANC web site.

Tomorrow we will look at the growth and extension of Trade Union organisation, in general, and at the actual and potential role of SADTU in particular.

Please download and read this document:

Further reading:

19 September 2010

The Party Goes Local

Development, Part 10

The Party Goes Local

The recent SACP Conference of Commissars, which was themed to discuss the Local and Local Development State, rightly gave considerable attention to the decision to re-organise SACP Branches on the basis of Voting Districts, a decision long since taken but so far not yet applied throughout the country (see the linked download).

The SACP is also determined to achieve a 500 000 membership by 2014, or roughly one per cent of the South African population.

Urban Voting Districts contain some 3,000 voters on average located within a radius of some 7,5 km of the Voting District’s single voting station. Rural Voting Districts accommodate some 1,200 voters located within a radius of some 10 km of the voting station. There are normally several, often four or five, Voting Districts in each electoral ward.

SACP Party Branches are supposed to have a minimum of 25 members according to its Constitution, which has not changed. The same rules apply to the new situation.

The next item in this last part of the Development Series will focus on the ANC’s Imvuselelo Campaign, aiming to increase its membership to one million, and the third and final part will focus on SADTU’s recruitment, which in turn is paralleled by recruitment in other trade unions both within and outside of COSATU, our federation.

Localisation of the Alliance

What are the implications of all this recruitment? What qualitative changes may arise from the envisaged quantitative increase?

The National Democratic Revolutionary Alliance is principally tripartite, consisting of the SACP - the vanguard party of the working class, the ANC – the mass, class-alliance, unity-in-action liberation movement, and COSATU, the federation of mass industrial trade unions. In addition, the small “civic” movement SANCO has a nominal status as the fourth member of the Alliance.

The qualitative change which can be expected if the SACP succeeds in creating a substantial number of branches at Voting District level; and if the ANC is able to consolidate its 100-member-plus-per-ward branch structure; and if the local structures of the Trade Union movement can become similarly well-defined; is that the localisation of the Alliance will become a practical possibility.

For many years past sundry expressions of disappointment have been heard saying that the Alliance does not function at local level. The main stumbling block to this local functioning of the Alliance was never a lack of intention but rather the lack of equivalent basic structures across the three main organisations. The SACP especially was apt to be patchy in terms of its coverage on the ground, with hardly any organisational correspondence to the ANC at branch level. SACP Districts have hardly talked to ANC Regions or to COSATU locals. Only at Provincial and National levels have the three structures been equivalent across all three of the main Alliance organisations.

The coming increase in membership of the SACP and the ANC will mean that it will be possible to populate viable parallel structures all the way down to branch level. This in turn will open up the prospect of a renewed relevance for SANCO, which can be the locus of combination with other mass organisation, of women, of religious people, and more.

The implications for the possibility of conscious, all-round development of the country in the fullest sense are profound.

The main linked downloadable document is a compilation of the Commission Report on Building a Strong SACP from the Conference of Commissars, and notes on forming Voting District Branches, including relevant extracts from the SACP Constitution.

Please download and read this document:

Further reading:

15 September 2010

COSATU Growth Path Document

Development, Part 9b

COSATU Growth Path Document

This post introduces COSATU’s Growth Path Document, fully titled “A Growth Path Towards Full Employment” which was launched yesterday and which is linked for download below.

The African National Congress National General Council - the NGC – a national delegate policy conference - is to be held from 20-24 September 2010.

In his introduction to the COSATU Growth Path document, COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said “It is going to be our Koran and Bible and nobody will burn it” (quoted in The Times, Johannesburg, 15 September 2010).

In keeping with this biblical metaphor, the document begins with a “Genesis” section that chronicles the “begats” of “growth path” controversies since the 1990 COSATU workshop that begat the very term “growth path”, according to this document. The 1992 COSATU Economic Policy Conference begat six defined areas. The ANC begat the “Ready to Govern” document.

In 1993, MERG begat “A Framework for Macroeconomic Policy in South Africa”, and all of the above together begat the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) in 1994. Then GEAR appeared, begat by the 1996 Class Project, and GEAR smote the RDP. Then COSATU came forth the same year with Social Equity and Job Creation (SEJC).

Other documents followed all the way to Polokwane in 2007.

There is nothing of political economy in this document, but only empirical and utilitarian arguments and projections that inhabit the same intellectual framework as that which confines their liberal competitors.

The document is relatively more “dirigiste” (steering) and less “laissez-faire” (let it be, or leave well alone) than the mainstream of the South African Treasury would be, or the editorials of the Business Day, but it is far from revolutionary. The argument is only about “getting the balance right”.

As the COSATU GS pointed out, the document is intended to stand alone as a Bible without equals, antecedents or successors, outside of the listed chain of documents from which it sprang. Of course this poses problems for those of us who study works of political economy and history. Where the document connects to Marx’s Capital, Volumes 1, 2 or 3, for example, if it does at all, is a mystery.

In our particular course on development, of which this is the ninth part of ten, prepared without the prior benefit of the COSATU growth path document, we have looked at dialectical laws of development and of class struggle, and we have looked at the history of the NEP in the Soviet Union and of peasant life in Africa, of five-year plans and the management of capitalism in China. None of the material we have looked at appears anywhere in the new COSATU document, or in its pedigree, as far as we can see, so far.

The document is 120 pages long and certainly contains some material that could stimulate a good Freirean dialogue. Here is a shortened version of the last two pages, called the “Conclusions” of the document.

COSATU’s ‘Growth Path’ document, September 2010, Conclusions (edited)

1.      The aims of the new growth path are the creation of decent work; Redistribution of income and power; Industrial development; Meeting basic needs; Environmental Sustainability; and the development of Southern Africa
2.      On Economic Policy, we have identified five areas and proposed policy interventions: Industrial Policy; Rural Development; Trade Policy; Skills Development and Macroeconomic Policy
3.      In terms of social policy we have also identified six broad areas in which the state must take the lead: Education; Healthcare; Crime, Corruption and the Justice System; Basic Infrastructure; Environmental Sustainability and Green Jobs and Social Protection
4.      We also argue that for this growth and development path to be successful there needs to be a change in the patterns of ownership.
5.      In terms of regional development, we note that the failure of South Africa to change its industrial structure, and the continued dominance of our economy by conglomerates, especially around the core Minerals Energy sectors, spells doom for regional industrial development.
6.      It is therefore incumbent upon South Africans to ensure that they change the pattern of economic development.
7.      The policy proposals made in this document should be considered as a package.
8.      This framework document is a start to a process of more detailed engagement.
9.      Er… that’s it.

Please download and read this document:

Further reading:

14 September 2010

Local Democracy and LED

Development, Part 9a

Local Democracy and LED

From 15-18 July 2010 the South African Communist Party staged a national Conference of Commissars in Johannesburg, with emphasis on the localisation of politics and on the politics of development at local level.

In this second post of the ninth and penultimate part of our course on “Development”, we take two of the commission report-backs of that Commissars’ Conference, downloadable via the main links below.

In the next post we will foreground COSATU’s Growth Path Document, fully titled “A Growth Path Towards Full Employment”, which was published today, and which is now also linked for download below under “Further Reading”.

We must hope that the ANC will fully deliberate upon these matters of “growth path” at its National General Council from 20-24 September 2010, so that we will be able to update this course with that material before our ten parts are fully run.

Otherwise, the final part will be dedicated to material on the local organisation of the SACP, of SADTU, and of the ANC.

The first of today’s two main linked documents is on the Local Government Turnaround Strategy (LGTAS), but ranges on to electoral tactics and what is called the “deepening” of Local Government.

The second of today’s main linked documents is on Local Economic Development (LED) and on the creation of sustainable livelihoods, including through Co-operatives.

Both of these documents, being unedited commission report-backs, are compiled of dozens of listed points, separated into rudimentary categories. This makes them difficult to summarise.

What one might say is this: That whereas on the face of it the local level is where individuals and small groups of individuals have their best opportunity of taking initiatives, exercising agency, and becoming free subjects within the democracy, yet it is also at local level that the same individuals encounter the most formidable barrage of controls, restrictions, bureaucracy and corruption.

A conclusion from this would be that a great effort now has to be made to educate, organise and mobilise people democratically at the scale of the smallest demarcations, so that democratic interventions at the national level do not translate into bullying, anti-democratic dictatorship and consequent stagnation of the communities at the base of the national pyramid.

The cartoon image is designed to suggest that the negotiation of competing interests is as difficult at the local and the individual level of society as it is at any other level, whereas the education and the expertise to overcome the managerial difficulties is scarcer at that local level. The absent expertise can only be replaced with democratisation, in line with the National Democratic Revolution.

Please download and read these two documents:

Further reading: