31 October 2010

Socialism, Utopian and Scientific

The Classics, Engels’ Classics, Part 6

Socialism, Utopian and Scientific

The main downloadable linked text below is “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific”, by Frederick Engels. It is a short text derived from three chapters of Engels’ larger classic work, “Anti-Dühring”, which we can therefore reasonably treat as having been covered in this course on “The Classics”.

This text reflects to some extent upon what a “Classic” is. Dealing with the period subsequent to the Renaissance and prior to the French Revolution that is often referred to as “The Enlightenment”, Engels writes:

We know today that this kingdom of reason was nothing more than the idealized kingdom of the bourgeoisie; that this eternal Right found its realization in bourgeois justice; that this equality reduced itself to bourgeois equality before the law; that bourgeois property was proclaimed as one of the essential rights of man; and that the government of reason, the Contrat Social [Social Contract] of Rousseau, came into being, and only could come into being, as a democratic bourgeois republic. The great thinkers of the 18th century could, no more than their predecessors, go beyond the limits imposed upon them by their epoch.”

Therefore what were “Classics” in bourgeois philosophy, such as the works of the romantic philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, are not necessarily classics for all time. What is “classic” is something that changes. The classics for the purposes of this ten-part course are the Marxist classics, and “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific” is a typical one.

By Utopian, Engels meant imaginary, or ideal, and therefore typical of the early socialists such as Robert Owen, Henri de Saint-Simon, and François Fourier. Marx and Engels respected these pioneers but also distinguished themselves critically from them. The third part of the Communist Manifesto of 1848 discusses the difference.

Engels begins “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific” with the Great French Revolution that started in 1789. From this point on we meet the class protagonists who allied and clashed from that time on until now, in all possible permutations: Alliances holy and unholy, strategic and tactical; Marriages of convenience and marriages made in heaven.

These classes were the feudal aristocrats; the peasants; the bourgeoisie; and the proletariat.

This work of Engels’ has the additional benefit of introducing the rudiments of political philosophy, and also of leading our thoughts towards the “democratic bourgeois republic”, which is at one and the same time the highest form of political life before socialism - the prerequisite of concerted proletarian action - and on the other hand a form of the State that has to be transcended and left behind.

Engels describes the limitation imposed upon the human Subject by the objective circumstances, and also the possibility of transcending such limitations. This is humanism. Humanism says that humans build humanity within the given material world and history.

There is no great need to search for modern summaries of the classics when the masters themselves have provided very good summaries of their work. Frederick Engels in particular left great summarising, concretising texts, especially towards the end of his friend Karl Marx’s life, and after Marx’s death in 1883.  As much as he was apt to deny it, Engels’ works are also thoroughly original.

The current SACP Discussion Document, published in September 2010, called “Expanding Democratic Public Control over the Mining Sector”, makes good use of “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific” to carry a crucial point about nationalisation: That Marxists have never asserted that state ownership, as such, is an inherently pro­gressive or socialist measure. It quotes Engels:

“the official representative of capitalist society – the state – will ultimately have to undertake the direction of production. This necessity for conversion into state property is felt first in the great institutions for in­tercourse and communication – the post office, the telegraphs, the railways.” (En­gels, “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific”, 1880).

Engels was very clear that, in this case, state ownership was NOT about abolish­ing capitalism.

On the contrary:

“the transformation…into state prop­erty, does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces… The more it [the bourgeois state] proceeds to the tak­ing over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The work­ers remain wage-workers – proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head.” (En­gels, ibid.) 2

The teachers, including SADTU members, remain wage-workers – proletarians.

After this week the Classics course moves beyond Marx and Engels to include Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, and Gramsci. You can find a full, hyperlinked list of the main works of Marx and Engels on Marxists Internet Archive (home page reproduced above).

Please download and read this text:

Further reading:

26 October 2010

Critique of the Gotha Programme

The Classics, Mature Struggles, Part 5b

Critique of the Gotha Programme

Today’s main text download, linked below, is Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme, a great classic. Among our twelve Communist University courses it is used in four of them.

In this case, our introduction can largely come from Great Lenin himself, in the fifth chapter of his “The State and Revolution”, which is dedicated to “The Critique of the Gotha Programme”. While writing of the “withering away of the state”, Lenin begins by making a distinction between the “polemical” and the “positive” parts of this text of Marx’s:

“Marx explains this question most thoroughly in his Critique of the Gotha Programme. The polemical part of this remarkable work, which contains a criticism of Lassalleanism, has, so to speak, overshadowed its positive part, namely, the analysis of the connection between the development of communism and the withering away of the state.”

Lenin takes the (dialectical) “theory of development” as a given, fixed and firm. He writes:

“The whole theory of Marx is the application of the theory of development - in its most consistent, complete, considered and pithy form - to modern capitalism. Naturally, Marx was faced with the problem of applying this theory both to the forthcoming collapse of capitalism and to the future development of future communism.”

Lenin quotes the following from Marx, directly:

"Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat."

Lenin notes, however, in the same chapter, as follows:

“In the Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx goes into detail to disprove Lassalle's idea that under socialism the worker will receive the "undiminished" or "full product of his labor". Marx shows that from the whole of the social labor of society there must be deducted a reserve fund, a fund for the expansion of production, a fund for the replacement of the "wear and tear" of machinery, and so on. Then, from the means of consumption must be deducted a fund for administrative expenses, for schools, hospitals, old people's homes, and so on. Instead of Lassalle's hazy, obscure, general phrase ("the full product of his labor to the worker"), Marx makes a sober estimate of exactly how socialist society will have to manage its affairs.”

This is a point for the advocates of nationalisation to ponder, and as for co-ops, t
he best that Marx can manage to say is:

“That the workers desire to establish the conditions for co-operative production on a social scale, and first of all on a national scale, in their own country, only means that they are working to revolutionize the present conditions of production, and it has nothing in common with the foundation of co-operative societies with state aid. But as far as the present co-operative societies are concerned, they are of value only insofar as they are the independent creations of the workers and not protégés either of the governments or of the bourgeois.”

Prior to the above Marx remarks (about the Gotha Programme):

“Vulgar socialism (and from it in turn a section of the democrats) has taken over from the bourgeois economists the consideration and treatment of distribution as independent of the mode of production and hence the presentation of socialism as turning principally on distribution.”

The co-operation that is patronised by the state, and also state distribution - or what we now call “delivery” - is only “vulgar socialism”, says Marx.

The Critique of the Gotha Programme is a very relevant document for today, and it is short, and it is a classic. It is worth studying.

Please download and read this text:

Further reading:

25 October 2010

On Authority and Political Indifferentism

The Classics, Mature Struggles, Part 5a

On Authority and Political Indifferentism

Today we have two short pamphlets one by Engels and one by Marx, one on “Authority” and one on “Indifferentism”, compiled together in one document, downloadable via the link below. Which brings us to an announcement.


Google has announced a unilateral change. It is to do away with the “Files” and “Pages” facilities that have been part and parcel of Google Groups for the past five years or so. Our files now have to be migrated to a new, separate site. See the work in progress, here.

What this may mean is that in the future, links that we have given may not continue to work from older documents and blog posts, because the downloadable files have been housed on Google Groups, and therefore they may disappear.

The links given below are to documents stored on the new site. Please, if you find any difficulty downloading them, do drop us a line by reply to the group and tell what happens. Let us hope that there are no such problems.

Says Engels: 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.

This is written in 1872 and published in 1874, in Italy. It is a “classic” because it addresses a familiar argument. The “politically correct” of the day were saying that all forms of “authority” were bad and must be done away with. Engels corrects this “politically correct” error.

Marx, writing in 1873, also for publication in Italy in 1874, addresses what he calls “Political Indifferentism”. In this pamphlet, Marx first quotes Proudhon, and readers can be deceived to think that Marx is approving of Proudhon. But this is only polemic. Marx quotes Proudhon extensively, only so as to thoroughly contradict him.

This is a very profound lesson of Karl Marx’s. What he is saying is that although, under the bourgeois dictatorship, in the bourgeois democracy, whose choices are all bourgeois choices, yet we cannot therefore say that we should have nothing to do with it, and refuse to choose.

On the contrary, we have to study it with more attention than anyone else and make the tactically right choices in the interest of the working class.

In South Africa in the early 21st century, clearly the communists are deeply involved in the politics of the bourgeois state, and Marx would, according to this text, say that such involvement is more than inevitable. It is deliberate and it is right. The communists cannot remain indifferent to what the bourgeoisie is doing.

Please download and read this text:

Further reading:

23 October 2010

The Housing Question

The Classics, Mature Struggles, Part 5

The Housing Question

In the period following the 1867 publication of Capital, Volume 1, the rise and fall of the Paris Commune in 1871, and the effective lapse of the formal International Working Men’s Association (the “First International”) in 1872, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels continued to be active and prominent leaders.

The international working-class movement continued to correspond and to meet. There was a Congress in Ghent, Belgium in 1877, and what is regarded as the Founding Congress of the Second International took place in Chur, Switzerland in 1881 (This was still within the lifetime of Karl Marx, who only died at age 65 in 1883). Between these two meetings the main body of anarchists dropped out of formal liaison with the organised communists, never to return.

There is nevertheless a continuity of international solidarity. Anti-communist bourgeois historians (e.g. the authors of the Wikipedia entry on the Second International) are inclined to depict a collapse and a vacuum in this period, followed by a sudden re-founding of the “socialist international” in 1889, in Paris. The fullest record of the founding of the Second International is, as usual, on the Marxists Internet Archive. It shows continuity, and not a vacuum.

For as much as in our course on “Classics” we may like to call this section “Mature Struggles”, yet some of these struggles were repetitions of earlier ones. This much is well illustrated by Engels’ book called “The Housing Question” (downloadable extract linked below). You will recall that the first published “classic” of Marxism (at least according to Lenin’s judgement) was “The Poverty of Philosophy”, which came out in 1847 and was a polemic against the anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865).

It sometimes helps to regard Marxism as a matter of marking out boundaries, or borders. The first demarcation is the one that separates the Bourgeoisie from the Proletariat, as was done, for example,  in the “Communist Manifesto” of 1848. Although this division and the consequent prospect of class struggle is contested by some liberals, yet most bourgeois intellectuals find themselves obliged to accept it, most of the time.

This boundary is not the only one that is required for an all-round definition of Marxism. From the start, a different lot of liberals, usually called anarchists or “ultra-leftists” but still essentially liberals, challenged Marx and Engels at every point. Their names crop up even before the 1845 genesis of Marxism: Stirner, Weitling, Proudhon. Later, Bakunin wastes time in the First International by opposing the organised proletarian communists.

Now, in 1872, a quarter of a century after the publication of “the first mature work of Marxism” (“The Poverty of Philosophy”), and with the author of Marx’s old antagonist long deceased, Engels finds it necessary to re-launch the polemic against Proudhon, in this classic work “The Housing Question”. This was because of a resurgence of “Proudhonism”.

Thanks to his own 1845 book, “The Condition of the Working Class in England”, Frederick Engels was already a pioneer of urban studies.

One might approach his book “The Housing Question” (linked below) expecting answers to the housing question. One might hope for instructions about what to build. One might expect sermons about “delivery”, or even model house-plans. Instead, one finds severe polemic about very fundamental issues of class struggle.

Let us first briefly consider what “polemic” is. The rules of polemic are roughly these: It is done in writing. It is always against another named individual’s writing. It is direct and frank and pays little regard for bourgeois squeamishness; on the other hand, it pays the utmost respect to the meaning of the opponent’s words. Opponents in polemic never misrepresent each other. Everything is permissible, except misrepresention.

For example, Engels begins the linked text with references to his opponent Mulberger, who had complained that Engels had been blunt to the point of rudeness. Engels concedes little more than sarcasm:

"I am not going to quarrel with friend Mulberger about the ‘tone’ of my criticism. When one has been so long in the movement as I have, one develops a fairly thick skin against attacks, and therefore one easily presumes also the existence of the same in others. In order to compensate Mulberger I shall try this time to bring my ‘tone’ into the right relation to the sensitiveness of his epidermis."

But later, admitting that he had misrepresented Mulberger on a particular (quite small) point, Engels lambastes himself as “irresponsible”.

"This time Mulberger is really right. I overlooked the passage in question. It was irresponsible of me to overlook it"

After his remarks about “Mulberger”, Engels goes straight into a long paragraph (the second half of page 1, going over to page 2) that contains a summary of theory and practice, vanguard and mass, from the 1840s up until his point of writing, just one year after the fall of the Paris Commune. The paragraph mentions “the necessity of the political action of the proletariat and of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the transitional stage to the abolition of classes and with them of the state.”

This is the Communist Manifesto all over again. So, we can ask, why does Engels “go to town” to this extent? Is this not merely “housing” we are talking about? Is not housing something that everybody needs? Classless, surely? A win-win situation? Motherhood and apple-pie?

Engels says: NO! Engels says: the class struggle is here, and everywhere.

What we can read in Mulberger, through Engels’ eyes, is the petty-bourgeois (and full bourgeois) greed for this Housing Question as a means, or a tool, for reproducing petty-bourgeois consciousness, and this is just exactly how the post-1994 South African Government started dealing with the housing question. Yes, there should be lots of houses, it said in effect, but they must be petty-bourgeois-style houses, both in type, and in form of ownership.

The argument about housing is an argument about the reproduction of capitalism. It is an argument about the continuation of the ascendancy of bourgeois values over those of the working-class. For the bourgeoisie, the creation of a dwelling is an opportunity to invest the house with peasant-like values of individuality, and with petty-bourgeois ideas of “entrepreneurship”, and to regulate and control the people according to these values.

Everything that happened in “housing” in South Africa post-1994 is pre-figured in the banal prescriptions of Mulberger that Engels lambastes. Any critique of housing in South Africa will inevitably have to follow the example of Engels if it is to be of any use. Please, comrades, read the first pages and the last paragraphs of this document, if you cannot read all of it.

As the Communist Manifesto says, the history of all hitherto-existing societies has been a history of class struggle. The coming “development” period of South African history will also be a period of class struggle. We may not necessarily win every specific struggle. But what this text of Engels says is: let us never fool ourselves. Win or lose, we are in a class struggle and there is no neutral ground, least of all on the question of housing and land development. There is much more to be studied here, but the key is political.

[This post is adapted from the one in the series “Development” originally posted here.]

Pictures: Shack, Abahlali BaseMjondolo; RDP House, David Goldblatt: “Miriam Mazibuko watering the garden of her new RDP house, Extension 8, Far East Bank, Alexandra Township, Johannesburg, 12 September 2006. It has one room. For lack of space, her four children live with her parents-in-law.”

Please download and read this text:

Further reading:

20 October 2010

Value, Price and Profit

The Classics, Revolutionary Work, Part 4c

Value, Price and Profit

By 1863 Karl Marx had a sketch plan that was beginning to resemble the shape of the full work that was published in 1867, as “Capital, Volume 1”. By 1865 when he did “Value, Price and Profit” (download linked below), Marx had solved most of the theoretical as well as the literary problems of the work.

“Value, Price and Profit” continues our theme of “Revolutionary Work”. It is an address delivered by Karl Marx at two sessions of the General Council of the First International on June 20 and 27, 1865. This is a point where Karl Marx’s theoretical work comes face-to-face with his activities as a political leader, actually the principal political leader of the International Working Men’s Association, otherwise known as the First International.

The Introduction to the 1969 edition of “Value, Price and Profit” makes clear that this June 1863 moment was crucial in the history of the organised working class, and that Marx saved the day and saved the movement with this outstanding, classic piece of work.

“Value, Price & Profit” has subsequently served various purposes. Because it debunks the argument, still used by employers today, that wage rises will cause unemployment, “Value, Price and Profit” has been a mainstay for generations of shop stewards and union negotiators. A version of the same anti-working-class “fixed fund” argument was used by Richard Baloyi, the employing Public Services Minister, during the 2010 public service workers’ strike in Johannesburg.

Secondly, and prefiguring Lenin’s argument against “Economism” four decades later in “What is to be Done?”, “Value, Price and Profit” states clearly that trade unionism, without political organisation, will never succeed in throwing off the yoke of capital (see the excerpt from Chapter 14 on the last page of our 8-page download).

This abridged 8-page version of “Value, Price and Profit” can also serve as a “mini-Capital” or in other words as the short version of “Capital” that so many people seem to yearn for. It will at least help us to get a better grip on some of the key concepts such as Labour, Value, Labour-Power, Surplus-Value and Profit.

The two quoted paragraphs that follow are particularly instructive. Hobbes’ 1651 book “Leviathan” was a tremendous groundbreaker; Karl Marx noticed that Hobbes had “instinctively hit upon this point overlooked by all his successors”, namely the distinction between Labour-Power and Labour, which Marx had worked so hard and so long to see clearly (see the remarks about the hunt for surplus value in our earlier post on Wage Labour and Capital)

What the working man sells is not directly his labour, but his labouring power, the temporary disposal of which he makes over to the capitalist. This is so much the case that I do not know whether by the English Laws, but certainly by some Continental Laws, the maximum time is fixed for which a man is allowed to sell his labouring power. If allowed to do so for any indefinite period whatever, slavery would be immediately restored. Such a sale, if it comprised his lifetime, for example, would make him at once the lifelong slave of his employer.

‘One of the oldest economists and most original philosophers of England — Thomas Hobbes — has already, in his “Leviathan”, instinctively hit upon this point overlooked by all his successors. He says: "the value or worth of a man is, as in all other things, his price: that is so much as would be given for the use of his power." Proceeding from this basis, we shall be able to determine the value of labour as that of all other commodities.’

“Value, Price and Profit” includes a counter-intuitive surprise in Marx’s statement that “Profit is made by Selling a Commodity at its Value” (top of page 8 in our downloadable version). Capitalism would still exist even if it had to shed its nasty price-gouging habits. Capitalism as such is not a simple swindle, but is a system and a class relationship.

The source of the “self-increase of capital” is located in the workplace, and not in the marketplace. This is the fundamental message of “Capital”, the greatest “classic” of them all. “Capital” will not be included in this "classics" course but will instead have its own separate, dedicated course. “Value, Price and Profit” will have to represent it here. 

In the next part of this course on the classics, we will move to the period after the publication of “Capital”, when the working-class movement revived, organised and expanded in Europe as never before in history, with the active involvement of Marx and Engels.

The image is of a capitalist, by George Grosz.

Please download and read this brief but powerful text:

Further (optional) reading:

19 October 2010

The First International

Course on Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 1b

Revolution in Paris, France, February 1848

The First International

The Communist Manifesto is a deliberately internationalist document. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were deployed in 1847 to write it by the international Communist League, of which they were members. The League was strongly based among continental workers in London, where the first edition was printed (in German) while Marx was running a part of it in Brussels, Belgium, Engels was in Germany, and Communist League members were in action in many other countries including France.

The Manifesto’s publication coincided almost exactly with the outbreak of revolution in France, in February of 1848, which quickly spread to other countries. The final Chapter IV of the Manifesto says among other things that: “… the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things,” and it finishes with the famous slogan “Working Men of All Countries, Unite!”

The Communist Manifesto is one of the first two books of Marxism. Both were written and published in 1847/early 1848 (the other book is “The Poverty of Philosophy”). Marxism was internationalist from the start and has never ceased to be so.

Most of the revolutions of 1848 were aimed at overthrowing feudal monarchies, or in other words turning kingdoms into republics, if necessary by supporting the bourgeoisie in the anti-monarchy revolution. The content of Marxist internationalism still includes relentless opposition to monarchy.

Our main text today is Marx’s 1864 Address to the International Working Men’s Association (The First International) which was the consequence of his being invited and elected to the leadership of that organisation (formed in London in a hall next to where the South African High Commission now stands). Please download and read the Address in the downloadable MS-Word version linked below. Marx had been in exile in London since 26 August 1849 after being banished in quick succession from Belgium and Germany and twice from France. By 1864, Marx’s reputation was that of being the foremost internationalist of his time.The First International survived until shortly after the Paris Commune fell in 1871. 

The Second International was established at a gathering in Chur, Switzerland ten years later (1881), two years before Marx’s death in 1883, and fourteen years before Engels’ death in 1895. The Second International fostered Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg among many others. Its collapse in 1914 marked the great division between the opportunists (such as “the renegade” Kautsky) who in the face of imperialist war folded their internationalism and became cowardly national chauvinists, and on the other hand the true internationalists like Luxemburg and Lenin who opposed the imperialist war. These latter ones, the true internationalists, were also the communists, who established the communist parties that still exist today.

The Third International, also called the Communist International (or Comintern) was launched in Soviet Russia less than two years after the October Revolution, in 1919, and in 1921 it admitted the Communist Party of South Africa into membership, thus founding the party that is today known as the South African Communist Party, the SACP.

The history of the communists is an unbroken line of internationalism of which the SACP is an indissoluble part. There is no communism separate from internationalism. The SACP is still internationalist and continues to promote the same relentless anti-monarchical, anti-feudal, anti-colonial, anti-neo-colonial, anti-imperialist cause as before and will do so until the day of continental permanent proletarian revolution arrives in Africa.

Please download and read this brief but powerful text:

Further (optional) reading:

18 October 2010

Political Economy

The Classics, Revolutionary Work, Part 4a

Political Economy

This part of our course on the revolutionary Classics is concerned with the hard-working period that followed the 1848 revolutions in France, Germany and other European countries and which culminated in the publication in 1867 of Volume 1 of Karl Marx’s “Capital”, which is of course the greatest Marxist “classic” of them all. That book is too large to accommodate in this ten-week course. It will have a ten-part course of its own, followed by a further ten-part course on Volumes 2 and 3.

After the insurrections of 1848-1852 Karl Marx got down to work on the unsolved problem of what he called “the source of the self-increase of capital”. Marx’s working papers are collected in the enormous posthumously-published “
Grundrisse”, of which “Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” (download linked below) is Chapter 1.

Marx, now in London, read everything. He compiled notes of all the Political Economy books that had been written before his time (eventually published as “Capital” Volume 4), and he compiled an outline or plan for the first volume of his masterpiece, “Capital”, which is fully named “A Critique of Political Economy”.

The “Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” was written in 1857. It precedes another, different work of Marx’s called “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” that was published two years later, and which itself precedes the full “critique”, Capital Volume 1, by eight years. Capital Volume 1 was published in German in 1867.

First and foremost, today’s text reminds us that none of these works of Marx’s are comparable to
economics. On the contrary, they expose “economics” as a false and fraudulent discipline. Instead, they deal with political economy, or in other words, with the real relations between actual classes of people.

Marx begins by clearly differentiating his argument from that of the romantic philosopher 
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and also from Adam Smith, and from David Ricardo, upon whom in other respects Marx relies quite heavily. It is worth quoting this passage at some length:

“The solitary and isolated hunter or fisherman, who serves Adam Smith and Ricardo as a starting point, is one of the unimaginative fantasies of eighteenth-century romances a la Robinson Crusoe; and despite the assertions of social historians, these by no means signify simply a reaction against over-refinement and reversion to a misconceived natural life.

“No more is Rousseau's contrat social, which by means of a contract establishes a relationship and connection between subjects that are by nature independent, based on this kind of naturalism. This is an illusion and nothing but the aesthetic illusion of the small and big Robinsonades.

“It is, on the contrary, the anticipation of "bourgeois society", which began to evolve in the sixteenth century and in the eighteenth century made giant strides towards maturity.

“The individual in this society of free competition seems to be rid of natural ties, etc., which made him an appurtenance of a particular, limited aggregation of human beings in previous historical epochs. The prophets of the eighteenth century, on whose shoulders Adam Smith and Ricardo were still wholly standing, envisaged this 18th-century individual -- a product of the dissolution of feudal society on the one hand and of the new productive forces evolved since the sixteenth century on the other -- as an ideal whose existence belonged to the past.

“They saw this individual not as an historical result, but as the starting point of history; not as something evolving in the course of history, but posited by nature, because for them this individual was in conformity with nature, in keeping with their idea of human nature.”
Sure, it’s tough to read this stuff but it is brilliant. It’s a great classic.

A little later on in the “Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”, Marx writes:

“But all this is not really what the economists are concerned about in the general part. It is rather -- see for example Mill -- that production, as distinct from distribution, etc., is to be presented as governed by eternal natural laws which are independent of history, and at the same time bourgeois relations are clandestinely passed off as irrefutable natural laws of society in abstracto. This is the more or less conscious purpose of the whole procedure.”
So Marx is saying, in 1857, that the purpose of all the economic “analysts”, then as now, is to falsely present bourgeois reality as the permanent and the only possible reality.

The entire text is worth reading. It will be helpful towards understanding Capital Volume 1, as well as towards understanding the politics of today’s massive price rises, which are invariably, and falsely, presented in our bourgeois media as “governed by eternal natural laws which are independent of history”!

The cartoon (Political "Economy", “Reform Bill 1859”) is by 
Tenniel, from the London magazine “Punch”, made at the time when Karl Marx was working in London on his critiques of political economy. It illustrates the bourgeois turn from “protectionism” to “free trade” (now called “globalisation”). This happened when it suited the capitalists, whether it suited the workers or not. It happened in Britain approximately a century before it happened in the USA.

In this period, Marx continued to be, as we would say, “active”. In the next part, we will see the momentous role that Marx was about to play as an individual leader in the foundation of structures which were the fore-runners of many still-existing revolutionary organisations of today, including the SACP.

Please download and read as much of this text as you can:

Further (optional) reading: