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PART III THE ALLEGED INEVITABILITY OF SOCIALISM
SECTION I Social Evolution
1 Thought and Being
The Materialist Conception of History
It was said by Feuerbach: "thought proceeds from being, but not being from thought."
This remark, which was intended to express merely the renunciation of Hegelian Idealism,
becomes in the famous aphorism, "Man is what he eats" ("Der Mensch ist was er isst")
the watchword of Materialism, as represented by Büchner and Moleschott. Vogt stiffened
the materialist thesis by defending the statement "that thoughts stand in about
the same relation to the brain as the gall to the liver or urine to the kidneys."
The same naive materialism, which, ignoring all the difficulties, attempts to solve
the basic problem of philosophy simply and completely by referring everything concerned
with the mind to a physical phenomenon, is revealed also in the economic conception
of history of Marx and Engels. The title "Materialist Conception of History" is
true to the nature of the theory; it emphasizes, in the striking manner intended
by its founders, the epistemological homogeneity between their belief and the materialism
of their time.
According to the materialist conception of history thought depends on social being.
This doctrine has two different versions fundamentally contradictory to each other.
The one explains thought as a simple and direct development of the economic environment,
of the conditions of production, under which men live. According to this version
there is no history of science and no history of the individual sciences as independent
evolutionary sequences because the setting of problems and their solutions do not
represent a progressive intellectual process, but merely reflect the momentary conditions
of production. Descartes, says Marx, regarded the animal as a machine, because he
"sees with the eyes of the manufacturing period, as distinguished from the eyes
of the Middle Ages, when the animal was regarded as the assistant of man—a position
assigned to it also at a later date by Herr von Haller in his Restauration der Staatswissenschaft."
In such a passage it is clear that the conditions of production are regarded as
facts independent of human thought. They "correspond" in turn to a "definite stage
of development" in the "material productive forces," or, what is only another
way of putting the same thing, to "a definite stage in the development of the means
of production and of transport." The productive forces, the means of work, "result
in" a definite order of society. "Technology reveals the active conduct of man
towards nature, the direct productive process of his life, and consequently his
social conditions of life and the spiritual ideas which arise from them." It
never seems to have occurred to Marx that the productive forces are themselves a
product of human thought, so that one merely moves in a circle when one tries to
derive thought from them. He was completely bewitched by the word-fetish, "material
production." Material, materialistic, and materialism were the fashionable philosophic
catch-words in his time, and he could not escape their influence. He felt that his
foremost task as a philosopher was to remove the "deficiencies of the abstract natural-science
materialism which exclude the historical process"; those deficiencies which he thought
he could perceive "in the abstract and ideological theories of its spokesmen, as
soon as they venture beyond their special sphere." And that is why he called his
procedure "the only materialistic, hence the only scientific method."
According to the second version of the materialist conception of history, class
interest determines thought. Marx says of Locke that he "represented the new bourgeoisie
in all its forms: the industrialists versus the working classes and paupers, the
merchants versus the old-fashioned usurers, high finance versus state debtors, and
in one of his own works he even demonstrated the bourgeois intelligence to be the
normal human intellect." For Mehring, the most prolific of the Marxian historians,
Schopenhauer is "the philosopher of the terrified philistines ... in his sneaking,
selfish, and slandering way the spiritual image of the bourgeoisie which, frightened
by the clash of arms, trembling like the aspen, retired to live on its revenues
and foreswore the ideals of its epoch like the plague." In Nietzsche he sees
"the philosopher of the Upper Bourgeoisie."
His judgments in economics represent this point of view most clearly. Marx was the
first to divide economists into bourgeois and proletarian, a division which etatism
afterwards made its own. Held explains Ricardo's theory of rent as "dictated simply
by the hate of the moneyed capitalists against the landed proprietors," and thinks
that Ricardo's whole theory of value can only be looked upon "as the attempt to
justify, under the semblance of an endeavour to secure natural rights, the domination
and profits of Capitalism." The best way to disprove this view is to point out
the obvious fact that Marx's economic theory is nothing more than a product of the
Ricardo school. All its essential elements are taken from the Ricardian system,
from which it derives also the methodological principle of the separation of theory
and politics and the exclusion of the ethical point of view. Politically, classical
economics was employed both for defending and for attacking Capitalism, for advocating
as well as for rejecting Socialism.
Marxism makes use of the same method with regard to modern subjective economics.
Unable to oppose it by a single word of reasonable criticism, the Marxian tries
to dispose of it by denouncing it as "bourgeois economics." To show that subjective
economics is not "capitalist apologetics" it should be sufficient, surely, to point
out that there are socialists who stand firmly by the theory of subjective value.
The evolution of economics is a process of the mind, independent of the supposed
class interests of economists, and has nothing to do with supporting or condemning
any particular social institutions. Every scientific theory can be misused for political
purpose; the politician does not need to construct a theory to support the aims
he happens to pursue. The ideas of modern Socialism have not sprung from proletarian
brains. They were originated by intellectuals, sons of the bourgeoisie, not of wage-earners.
Socialism has captured not only the working class; it has supporters, open and secret,
even amongst the propertied classes too.
2 Science and Socialism
Abstract thought is independent of the wishes which move the thinker and of the
aims for which he strives. Only this independence qualifies it as thought. Wishes
and purposes regulate action. When it is said that economic life influences thought
the facts are reversed. Economy as rational action is dependent on thought, not
thought on economy.
Even if it were wished to admit that thought is determined by class-interest, it
could only be done by considering recognized class interests. But the recognition
of class interest is already a result of thought. Whether such thought shows that
special class interests exist or that the interests of all classes in society harmonize,
the process of thought itself has taken place before the idea of class influenced
For proletarian thought, it is true, Marxism assumes a truth and eternal value,
free of all limitations of class interest. Though itself admittedly a class, the
proletariat must, transcending class interests, guard the interests of humanity
by abolishing the division of society into classes. In the same way, proletarian
thought contains in place of the relativity of class-determined thought, the absolute
truth content of the pure science which will come to fruition in the future socialist
society. In other words, Marxism alone is science. What preceded Marx historically,
may be reckoned the pre-history of science. Marxism gives philosophers before Hegel
about the same place which Christianity gives to the prophets, and grants Hegel
the same position which Christianity assigns to the Baptist in relation to the Redeemer.
Since the appearance of Marx, however, all truth is with the Marxist, and everything
else is lies, deception, and capitalist apologetics.
This is a very simple and clear philosophy, and in the hands of Marx's successors
it becomes still simpler and clearer. To them science and Marxian Socialism are
identical. Science is the exegesis of the words of Marx and Engels. Proofs are demonstrated
by the quotation and interpretation of these words. The protagonists exchange accusations
of ignorance of the "Writ." Thus a real cult of the proletariat arises. Engels says:
"Only in the working class does the German theoretic mind persist unstunted. Here
it is not to be exterminated. Here no regard is paid to career, profit-making, gracious
patronage from above. On the contrary, the more regardlessly and disinterestedly
science proceeds the more it finds itself in unison with the workers' interests
and strivings." According to Tönnies "only the proletariat, i.e. its literary
spokesmen and leaders," suscribe, "on principle, to the unscientific view and all
To reveal these presumptuous assertions in their proper light we have only to recall
the socialist attitude towards all scientific achievements during recent decades.
When about a quarter of a century ago, a number of Marxian writers tried to cleanse
the party doctrine of its grossest errors, a heresy hunt was instituted to preserve
the purity of the system. Revisionism succumbed to Orthodoxy. Within Marxism there
is no place for free thought.
3 The Psychological Presuppositions of Socialism
According to Marxism, the proletariat in capitalist society necessarily think socialistically.
But why is this the case? It is easy to see why the socialist idea could not arise
before there was large scale enterprise in industry, transport, and mining. As long
as one could conceive of redistributing the actual physical property of the wealthy,
it occurred to no one to devise any other way of securing equality of income. Only
when the development of the division of labour had created large scale enterprise,
unmistakably indivisible, did it become necessary to invoke the socialistic way
of achieving equality. But although this explains why in the capitalist system there
can no longer be any question of "dividing up," it by no means explains why the
policy of the proletariat must be Socialism.
In our day we take it for granted that the workman must think and act socialistically.
But we arrive at this conclusion only by assuming that the socialist order of society
is either the form of social life most advantageous to the proletariat or, at least,
that the proletariat thinks it so. The first alternative has already been discussed
in these pages. In view of the undoubted fact that Socialism, though it counts numerous
supporters in other classes, is most widespread amongst the workers, there remains
only the question why the worker, because of the position he occupies, tends to
be the more receptive to the socialist ideology.
The demagogic flattering of the socialist parties praises the worker of modern Capitalism
as a being distinguished by every excellency of mind and character. A sober and
less biased study might perhaps arrive at a very different opinion. But this kind
of inquiry may safely be left to the party hacks of the various movements. For knowledge
of social conditions in general and the sociology of the party system in particular
it is quite valueless. Our problem is simply to discover why the worker's position
in production should incline him to the view that the socialist method of production
is not only possible in principle, but that it would be more rational than the capitalist
The answer is not difficult. The workman in the large or medium scale capitalist
enterprise sees and knows nothing of the connections uniting the individual parts
of the work to the economic system as a whole. His horizon as worker and producer
does not extend beyond the process which is his task. He holds that he alone is
a productive member of society, and thinks that everyone, engineer and overseer
equally well as entrepreneur, who does not, like himself, stand at the machine or
carry loads, is a parasite. Even the bank clerk believes that he alone is actively
productive in banking, that he earns the profit of the undertaking, and that the
manager who concludes transactions is a superfluity, easily replaceable without
loss. Now from where he stands, the worker cannot see how things hang together.
He might find out by means of hard thinking and the aid of books, never from the
facts of his own working environment. Just as the average man can only conclude
from the facts of daily experience that the earth stands still and the sun moves
from east to west, so the worker, judging by his own experience can never arrive
at a true knowledge of the nature and functioning of economic life.
But when the socialist ideology comes to this economically ignorant man and shouts:
Working man, awake, awake!
Of thy strength full measure take,
All the wheels must needs stand still
If thy strong arm so doth will,
is it any wonder if,
dizzy with dreams of power, he follows this invitation? Socialism is the expression
of the principle of violence crying from the workers' soul, just as Imperialism
is the principle of violence speaking from the soul of the official and the soldier.
The masses incline towards Socialism, not because it really tends to their interests
but because they believe that it does so.
Feuerbach, Vorläufige Thesen zur Reform der
Philosophie, 1842, Collected Works, Vol. II (Stuttgart, 1904), p. 239.
Feuerbach, Die Naturwissenschaft und die
Revolution, 1850, Vol. X (Stuttgart, 1911), p. 22.
Vogt, Köhlerglaube und Wissenschaft, 2nd ed.
(Giessen, 1855), p. 32.
Max Adler, who tries to reconcile Marxism with the
Kantian New Criticism, vainly tries to prove that Marxism and philosophic materialism
have nothing in common. See especially Marxistische Probleme (Stuttgart, 1913), pp. 60 if.,
216 ff., in which he conflicts sharply with other Marxists. See, for example, Plekhanov,
Grundprobleme des Marxismus (Stuttgart, 1910).
Marx, Das Kapital, Vol. I, p. 354, note. But
between Descartes and Haller stands La Mettrie, with his "homme machine," whose philosophy
Marx has unfortunately omitted to interpret genetically.
Marx, Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, p. xi.
Marx and Engels, Das Komnunistische Manifest, p. 27.
Marx, Das Elend der Philosophie, ibid., p. 91.
See also p. 303 of the present work.
Marx, Das Kapital, Vol. I, p. 336.
Marx, Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, p. 62.
Barth, Die Philosophie der Geschichte als Soziologie, Vol. I, pp. 658 ff., says rightly that
the comparison between the innate privileges of the nobility and the presumably innate ideas
can be considered as at most a joke. But the first part of Marx's characterization of Locke
is no less untenable than the second.
Mehring, Die Lessing-Legende, 3rd ed.
(Stuttgart, 1909), p. 422.
 Ibid., p. 423.
Held, Zwei Bücher zur sozialen Geschichte
Englands (Leipzig, 1881), pp. 176, 183.
Schumpeter, "Epochen der Dogmen und
Methodengeschichte," Grundriss der Sozialökonomik, Pt. I (Tübingen, 1914), pp. 81 ff.
Hilferding, Böhm-Bawerk's Marx-Kritik
(Vienna, 1904), pp. 1, 61. For the Catholic Marxist Hohoff, Warenwert und Kapitalprofit
(Paderborn, 1902), p. 57. Böhm-Bawerk is "an indeed well gifted, ordinary economist who
could not lift himself out of the capitalistic prejudices among which he grew up." See my
Grundprobleme der Nationalökonomie (Jena, 1933), pp. 170 ff.
See Bernard Shaw, for example, Fabian Essays
(1889), pp. 16 ff. In the same way, in sociology and political science, natural law and
contract theory have served both to advocate and fight Absolutism.
If one wants to credit the materialist conception
of history with having stressed the fact that social relations are dependent on the natural
conditions of life and production, one must remember that this can appear as a special merit
only in contrast to the excesses of the Hegelian historians and philosophers of history. The
liberal philosophy of society and history and the writing of history since the end of the
XVIIIth Century (even the German, see Below, Die deutsche Geschichtsschreibung von den
Befreiungskriegen bis zu unseren Tagen [Leipzig, 1916], pp. 224 ff.,) were beforehand with
Of the chief representatives of French and Italian
Syndicalism, Sombart, Sozialismus und soziale Bewegung, 7th ed. (Jena, 1919), p. 110, says,
"So far as I know them personally—amiable, fine, educated people. Cultured people with clean
linen, good manners and elegant wives, whom one meets as gladly as one's own kind of people,
and who certainly do not look as if they represented a movement which turns above all against
the increasingly bourgeois nature of Socialism and wants to help the wealed fist, the genuine
and true only-manual-workers to their rights." And De Man, Zur Psychologie des Sozialismus,
pp. 16 if., says, "If one accepted the misleading Marxist expression which connects every
social ideology with a definite class attachment, one would have to say that Socialism as a
doctrine, even Marxism, is of bourgeois origin."
The wish is father to the thought, says a
figure of speech. What it means is that the wish is the father of faith.
Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach und der Ausgang der
klassischen deutschen Philosophie, 5th ed. (Stuttgart, 1910), p. 58.
Tönnies, Der Nietzsche-Kultus (Leipzig, 1897), p. 6.
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