I. Why Did Engels Write Anti-Dühring?
In the 1870s the German professor Eugen Dühring joined the German Social Democratic Party. He made a lot of friends and began interpreting socialism along lines that were new and different and which he thought were more in accord with modern science. Engels' German comrades asked him for clarification on some of these new views as Dühring was starting to collect a following. Engels, however, was busy doing other things. But after three years of requests he decided to write the book ANTI-DÜHRING: HERR EUGEN DÜHRING'S REVOLUTION IN SCIENCE. This book became one of the most important of the so-called Marxist "classics" and is a basic foundational document for the understanding of DIAMAT (Dialectical Materialism).
In this article I will make some comments on the prefaces to the work (there are three for the three German editions made in Engels' lifetime) before going on to review the First Part of the work, that devoted to philosophy, to try and situate it in our time at the beginning of the 21st century.
Engels tells us that Anti-Dühring is an extension of the world view first developed by Marx in his book THE POVERTY OF PHILOSOPHY, then extended by the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO and DAS KAPITAL. To make sure that this solo flight would properly represent their joint philosophy, Engels read aloud the whole manuscript to Marx and the latter even wrote a chapter for the book (chapter ten of part two). I note this because many people today try to divorce the thought of Marx from that of Engels and maintain that Anti-Dühring is a deviation from Marx's philosophical views which were more sophisticated than those of Engels.
In order to write the book, Engels first took eight years to review the math and natural sciences of his day. The reason he did this was to convince himself that the laws of the materialist dialectic of motion which he and Marx had detected at work in history and in the evolution of human consciousness, were equally at work in Nature. These laws were first developed by the German philosopher G.W.F. HEGEL but, Engels says, in a "mystic form." Once stripped of this form, Marx and Engels were able to apply the dialectical method to both the natural and historical sciences.
Engels was aware that the charge might be made that the dialectic was being forced upon Nature from the outside and that the "facts" were being forced into the straight jacket of the theory. This serious charge is still made today by the bourgeois opponents of Marxism. Engels however says that he did all he could to avoid this: "to me there could be no question of building the laws of dialectic into nature, but of discovering them in it and evolving them from it."
Engels lived in a time of rapid scientific advance towards the end of the 19th century. Only a few years before he wrote the second preface to his book, he says, the LAW OF THE CONSERVATION OF ENERGY was propounded ("the great basic law of motion") but it was put forth NOT qualitatively but only quantitatively as the "indestructibility and uncreatabilty of
But now (1885-- the time of the second preface) Engels sees a more dialectical approach as scientists are beginning to discuss THE TRANSFORMATION OF ENERGY which when fully understood will remove "the last vestige of an extra mundane creator." A mere ten years after Engel's death (1895) Einstein published his famous equation E=mc2.
Engels says we still see rigid barriers in Nature-- the wave vs particle theory of light had not yet bloomed into quantum physics-- but had he lived I don't think Engels would have been thrown off by such seeming contradictions. Contradiction is the essence of dialectics. He writes that: "The recognition that these antagonisms and distinctions, though to be found in nature, are only of relative validity, and that on the other hand their imagined rigidity and absolute validity have been introduced into nature only by our reflective minds-- this recognition is the kernel of the dialectical conception of nature."
So, the purpose of the book is to reaffirm the scientific nature of Diamat, to exclude the erroneous accretions of Herr Dühring, and to demonstrate that modern science, including Diamat, is the result of a long tradition of philosophical development whose two poles (as we shall see) include Aristotle and Hegel.
Engels thinks that science must "assimilate the results of the development of philosophy during the past two and half thousand years" to avoid basing itself on some bogus world view [as the Nazi movement later did] and to also get rid of its metaphysical (i.e., mechanistic and non-dialectical) baggage which is "its inheritance from English empiricism."
II. Anti-Dühring: The General Introduction
Modern Socialism, says Engels, is the product of the class war between capitalists and workers and the irrational anarchy rampant in capitalist production. Its theoretical elaboration is descended from the French philosophers in years just prior to the Great French Revolution. In a note we are informed that the FIRST socialists were Morelly and Mably.
Morelly published THE CODE OF NATURE in 1755. Nobody really knows anything about "Morelly" and this name might have been a pseudonym for either Francois-Vincent Toussaint OR Denis Diderot. Gabriel Bonnot de Mably (1709-1785) published ENTRETIENS DE PHOCION in 1757.
Engels says the French thinkers just before the Revolution were "extreme revolutionists" and means that as a compliment. They did not accept any authority except REASON. "Reason became the sole measure of everything." Engels then quotes HEGEL on the Revolution as a "dawn of a new day" the advent of the Kingdom of Reason. "All thinking beings," Hegel wrote in The Philosophy of History, "participated in celebrating this holy day."
Today we know that this "holy day" was not of Reason but was "the idealized kingdom of the bourgeoisie." Great as the French thinkers were (especially Rousseau with his Contrat Social) they could not "go beyond the limits imposed upon them by their epoch." And we should keep this in mind too when we read Engels (and Marx)-- these giants of the nineteenth century-- in the twenty-first century.
Capitalist development was still in its infancy in the eighteenth century and the bourgeoisie put itself forward as the representative of all the classes being oppressed by feudalism. The bourgeoisie, the workers, and peasants comprised "the people" against the exploiters (the feudal nobility). But there are always hints of the coming struggle between the bourgeoisie and its class allies. Engels gives three examples:
1. The Reformation-- The Peasant's War-- Thomas Münzer, the Anabaptists.
2. The great English Revolution-- The Levelers.
3. the great French Revolution [Engels likes to put "great" in front of any revolution]- Babeuf.
Engels says even though the workers as a class were just beginning to form in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there were still thinkers that had begun to express the interests of the future class, although in a utopian manner [Thomas More "Utopia" 1516, Thommaso Campanella "City of the Sun 1623]. Then came 'the three great utopians"-- i.e., Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Owen. What the three had in common, according to Engels, is that they presented systems of universal social salvation and did not base themselves on the working class as such.
All these systems, Engels says, end up in "the dust hole" just because they are as irrational as the bourgeoisie that they represent: in the last analysis they just can't work to liberate humanity. "To make a science of socialism," Engels says, "it first had to be placed upon a real basis."
So, part of the real basis was rooted in the French philosophers -- materialism and revolution, but something else was still needed-- dialectics. And that was provided by HEGEL. Hegel's philosophy was the high point of German philosophy. "Its greatest merit was taking up again of dialectics as the highest form of reasoning.
Hegel made advances on the philosophy of Aristotle ("the Hegel of the ancient world") and developed ideas first enunciated by the ancient Greeks. Other philosophers responsible for laying the real basis for socialism as a science who Engel's mentions are Heraclitus, Descartes, Spinoza, Diderot and Rousseau.
The Greeks saw a world in flux and change, everything in motion and change (for the most part at least, there were major exceptions) and they laid the foundations of modern science, also the Arabs (Muslims) of the middle ages contributed, but real modern science actually dates from the middle of the fifteenth century. Due to the influence of thinkers such as Bacon and Locke, Engels says, the idea of flux and dialectical thinking was given up and people began looking at the world as made up of unchanging forces and objects subject to immutable mathematical laws. Engels calls this "the metaphysical mode of thought" characterizing the eighteenth century. It will have to give way to the dialectical mode of thought before socialism can be scientific.
This won't be so difficult because, as Engels says, "Nature is the proof of dialectics" and the biggest blow against the metaphysical outlook was struck by DARWIN whose theory of evolution reveals a biological world in constant change and flux. But this theory can also be extended to the solar system and the universe itself as revealed by KANT and LAPLACE and their formulation of the nebular hypothesis which put an end to NEWTON'S eternally enduring universe. HEGEL, of course, saw the course of human history as an evolutionary development. So, by the mid nineteenth century the natural, biological, and human sciences were all poised to be studied with the dialectical method.
Hegel's idealism proved inadequate to a correct understanding of the world. Hegel's view was that the flux and change of evolution was the reflection in the material wold of the development and manifestation of the Absolute Idea, which when once achieved would then arrive at rest. Engels considered this an unresolvable contradiction-- that world of flux would end up at rest. So idealism is replaced by MATERIALISM which sees the process of change as unending. But Engels may have a contradiction too. Why should the social question end with the arrival of socialism. If flux is eternal why would not a socialist world also change and break up (as we have apparently seen happen around 1989-91)?
Perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. Lets stay with Engels' intro. We have arrived at scientific socialism based on science and a materialist outlook. We can make sense of the social question without resorting to metaphysics or utopian schemes. A scientific study of how capitalism works, that is the world economic system currently in place, is now possible. The secrete of capitalism is not revealed simply by enumerating its bad social consequences. That won't tell us how it works. The secrete is to reveal how SURPLUS VALUE works, how unpaid labor "is the basis of the capitalist mode of production."
There is a short second part of the introduction, "What Herr Dühring Promises" this is about six pages. I am only going to say a few words about this section. It is basically a series of quotes from Dühring's works showing what a ridiculous megalomanic he was. He claimed to have arrived at the absolute final truth about philosophy, science, socialism, etc., and anyone who disagreed with him was simply backwards and wrong. Engels mocks Dühring's oversized ego in this section.
Well, this is enough on the Introduction to Anti-Dühring. I will now proceed to Part One "Philosophy" and go over the fourteen chapters devoted to this topic. Keep in mind, that Engels doesn't see any role for modern philosophy over and above the role of science for understanding the world-- except for logic and dialectical thinking.
III. ANTI-DÜHRING: Part One: Philosophy -- Classification & Apriorism
There are eleven chapters in Part One of Anti-Dühring which deal with the topic of philosophy. This part begins with Chapter Three: "Classification. Apriorism."
Dühring, Engels informs us, believes philosophy is the supreme form of the consciousness of all the PRINCIPLES of willing and knowledge and, since all the forms of being are studied by consciousness, then these principles must appear to consciousness as objects of philosophy. Being thus appears to us under three headings-- as the form of the universe, as Nature, and as the human world. Being appears to us in that order as a logical progression.
What Dühring proceeds to do is deduce the structure of the world system and the role of the human sciences from this logical structure produced by his philosophical consciousness. This is IDEALISM and quite the method used by Hegel half a century before. Dühring is quite confused as the facts relating to the nature of the universe and humankind are to be discovered by the study of Nature and History and the logical structure arrived at by philosophers is only valid, insofar as it is valid, because it is derived from experience of the external world not because it is imposed upon it.
Idealists were struck by the fact that the laws of thought and the laws of nature were in such close correspondence but failed to see that the laws discovered by the human brain were so discovered because the brain is a part of nature. Thus, "it is self-evident that the products of the human brain, being in the last analysis also products of nature, do not contradict the rest of nature's interconnections but are in correspondence with them."
Dühring's idealism leads him, Engels says, to view human consciousness as not human! Here are Dühring's own words: It's "a degradation of the basic forms of consciousness and knowledge to attempt to rule out or even put under suspicion their sovereign validity and their unconditional claim to truth, by applying the epithet 'human' to them." But consciousness (human) and knowledge (human) have only developed through the process of evolution in human brains. How can Dühring think they have some kind of transcendental existence?
Engels writes that "no materialist doctrine can be founded on such an ideological basis." But let us see if we can salvage some of Dühring's idea here. Granted that A=A is a human concept developed in a human brain. But A=A appears as a basic law of thought -- it would hold for any rational consciousness including non-human extraterrestrial rational beings. So we can agree that A=A or Reason may not be limited to just the human brain or to the Earth.
Engels says that Dühring, by separating thought from being a human product "has to sever it from the only real foundation on which we find it, namely man and nature." Well, maybe "thought" can be severed from the human brain-- how can we rule out that some other star system does not have intelligent life that reasons on the basis of A=A. But still this would be the result of a process of nature, the natural conditions of this other star system. So Engels is still basically correct, but Dühring too has his point: that rational consciousness may exist independently of humanity(even though we have yet to discover any other rational creatures in the universe). But it is no "degradation" to Reason to call it human.
Engels main point remains true-- we understand the world structure not from our minds but THROUGH our minds. In this sense we don't need philosophy "but positive knowledge of the world" that is "not philosophy, but positive science." I think Engels goes too far when he suggests "if no philosophy as such is any longer required, then also there is no more need of any system, not even of any natural system of philosophy." I want to suggest that we still need philosophy. DIAMAT itself is a philosophical system based on scientific realism or naturalism (materialism). Just a few sentences later in Anti-Dühring Engels himself makes some observations that suggest that we will still need philosophy.
I will argue that Engels, in fact, proposes ideas remarkably similar to what Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) the great English skeptic will say, some seventy years later than Anti-Dühring, is the nature of philosophy. Here is Russell, from the introductory remarks to his HISTORY OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY: "Philosophy, as I shall understand the word, is something intermediate between theology and science. Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation. All DEFINITE knowledge-- so I should contend-- belongs to science; all DOGMA as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology. But between theology and science there is a No Man's Land, exposed to attack from both sides; this No Man's Land is philosophy." Needless to say, when some kind of definite knowledge is discovered in No Man's Land it quickly moves on over into science leaving philosophy behind.
Now, what Engels has to say about knowledge is pretty much the same as Russell, so much so that Engels, save for stylistic differences, could have himself penned Russell's words. What does he say? Engels says that the goal of science is to give a complete description of nature. The mind, via perceptions of the external world, constructs a mental image of "the world system." The scientific world view is the result of an interconnection between the processes of nature and our mental image of them.
But, Engels says, it is not possible for us to attain a complete scientific description of this interconnection. If we ever attained a complete understanding of nature, the mind and history, it would mean knowledge "had reached its limit." If we made society in agreement with this absolute knowledge it would be the End of History ('further historical evolution would be cut short). "This is absurd, it is nonsense", says Engels.
Humanity faces a big contradiction. We strive to attain absolute knowledge, but due to the nature of the world system and of mankind, it is unattainable. "Each mental image of the world system is and remains in actual fact limited, objectively by the historical conditions and subjectively by the physical and mental constitution of its originator." This being the case every advance in knowledge brings about new conditions and new problems ad infinitum. So, as it were, there will always be a speculative No Man's Land where philosophy will be located between dogmas of the past on one side and definite knowledge on the other.
So, Engels rejects Dühring's concept of Being. He also rejects his ideas about mathematics. In pure mathematics, Dühring says, the mind works "with its own free creations and imaginations" with regard to figures and numbers it deals with ideas which are "the adequate object of that pure science which it can create of itself" and so with a "validity which is independent of PARTICULAR experience and of the real content of the world."
Engels agrees that the particular experience of individuals can be left out of account, 2+2=4 will still be 2+2=4, but rejects the idea that in mathematics the mind is only working "with its own creations and imaginations." Ideas of number and figure "have not been derived from any source other than the world of reality." [Since the "mind" is part of that world this would seem to follow ipso facto.] Engels means they are "borrowed exclusively from the external world" and do "not arise in the mind out of pure thought." [Whatever is "pure thought" anyway?]
Higher mathematics can become very abstract and seemingly removed from the empirical world but this is the result of the historical evolution of mathematical thought that seems to result in "the free creations and imaginations of the mind."
The truth is, Engels says, "Like all other sciences, mathematics arose out of the NEEDS of men." As knowledge evolves the concepts and laws derived from concrete reality become more and more abstract until they seem to be independent of their mundane origins. They then begin to appear "as something independent, as laws coming from outside, to which the world has to conform." This is what has happened with economics and political science. The economic laws of capitalism, an economic system created by mankind after a long social evolution, now appear as independent economic laws to which all economic life must conform. We make the idols we worship.
So much for chapter three of Anti-Dühring. But I should remark that Engels makes a few more remarks about mathematics that, while they are not crucial to his argument, have been attacked as showing confusion with regard to his understanding of the axiomatic method and the relation of mathematics to logic. Anyone wishing to pursue these criticisms should start with a paper by Jean van Heijenoort, "Frederick Engels and Mathematics" available on the internet.
IV. ANTI-DÜHRING: Part One: Philosophy -- World Schematism
[Engels and Philosophy 2]
There are eleven chapters in Part One of Anti-Dühring which deal with the topic of philosophy. This posting deals with chapters four, five and six.
Engels opens chapter four [World Schematism] with a couple of "oracular passages' from Dühring which amounts to about two pages of the latter's philosophical mumbo-jumbo which Engels translates for us. Dühring is trying to say that he begins by thinking about "being" and uses his thoughts to deduce the world since there can be nothing beyond his thoughts. Engels, shows that this belief in the "identity of thinking and being" is simply lifted from Hegel.
What is comical about Dühring is how he tries to prove the NON-EXISTENCE of God with this idea. He thinks Thought and Being form a unity (an identity of substance). He then uses the ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT to prove there is no God (this argument is usually used with the opposite intention.) The God version is like this: When we think of God we think of a Being that is Perfect. Existence is a perfection. Therefore when we think of a Perfect Being we are forced to think it must exist (otherwise we are not really thinking of a perfect being), therefore God exists.
Dühring's version: When I think of Being I think of one idea, i.e., of a Unity, therefore there is no God. This is because all the things having being are parts of the unified world of experience. God as a separate being would make two things, not a Unity. There is no problem for a pantheist-- God = Nature = the Material World, no problem. Religious people won't go for this since God is just anothet word for the universe-- who will answer prayers, etc.
Well, Engels believes in the unity of Being, i.e., of the material world, but he doesn't think it can be proved by Dühring's idealistic speculations. Engels says the unity of the world isn't due to its being, its existence, but it does have to exist before it can be a unity. Also note that beyond what we can observe being is "an open question." We can't discover world unity without "a long and wearisome development of philosophy and natural science."
Engels spends the rest of the chapter showing that Dühring, who is trying to deduce the world we live in from the first abstract notions of Being (unity), as against Nothingness, and the emergence of Becoming, has done no more than produce an inferior pilfering of Hegel's Logic, Part I, the doctrine of Being. And while Dühring speaks of the "delirious fantasies" of Hegel, he himself has taken all his ideas from him. Engels really resents Dühring for calling Marx more or less "ridiculous" for following Hegel in saying "quantity is transformed into quality." This from a man who stole almost all his ideas from Hegel.
Well, enough of this: on to the next chapter: Five-- "Natural Philosophy. Time and Space".
The first thing to keep in mind is that physics today is very different from the 1870s and 80s. There is no point in turning to Engels for a physics lesson. All I want to do is contrast Engels attitudes towards science with those of Dühring.
Dühring claims to answered all the questions regarding the nature of space and time . To this absurd claim Engels counters by pointing that he has only lifted his ideas from Kant's CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON (first part, Second Division, Book II, Chapter II, Section II: The First Antinomy of Pure Reason). There Kant says, "The world has a beginning in time, and with regard to space is also limited." Dühring rephrases this in his organ jargon and calls it (his great discovery) "The Law of Definite Number." As Aquinas with Aristotle, Dühring borrows what he likes from Kant and junks the rest.
The rest of this chapter deals with Dühring's views on the nature of infininity and the science of mechanics as well as the nature of motion and rest. We need not bother ourselves with these speculations. Engels real point is to show that Dühring's views are borrowed from others and his treatment of the topics is not only derivitive but incoherent.
Don't forget, Engels wants to discredit Dühring's reputation as a great philosopher because he has joined the German socialist movement and is seeking to become a leader by down playing Marx. Engels' real targets are his views on economy and political science. By showing that he is a boob in philosophy and natural science it is more likely we will agree on his boobishness in these latter areas as well.
Let us move on to chapter six,"Natural Philosophy. Cosmogony, Physics, Chemistry."
Again we are dealing with outdated science, nevertheless Engels makes some general observations that are of interest. As far as Dühring is concerned he is out to lunch when it comes to understanding science. Even thoughthis chapter is dedicated to refuting his views we can just ignore him and concentrate on those things of general interest brought up by Engels.
Engels mentions that Kant's Nebular Hypothesis, that the all the celestial bodies were made out of rotating nebular clouds of dust and particles, "was the greatest advance made by astronomy since Copernicus." Engels thinks this so because Kant's theory for the first time allowed people to see that nature had a history. Thed stars and planets were not eternal fixtures of the heavens but had an historical development just as every thing else in nature. [While Kant certainly popularized the Nebular Hypothesis, some version of which is still taught in Astronomy today, it was actually the Swedish mystic theologian and scientist Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) who first put forth the Nebular Hypothesis.]
Dühring dismisses Kant and has his own theory which Engels shows is completely unscientific. Dühring claims only matter "is the bearer of all reality." The old materialists spoke of matter AND motion. You can't just start with only matter because then you can't explain where motion comes from. The Marxist solution is summed up by saying, "MOTION IS THE MODE OF EXISTENCE OF MATTER." Engels has old fashoned physics in mind when he talks about the conservation of motion, etc., but his views can easeily be updated to a more modern vocabulary. Today science speaks of the conservation of energy, momentum, and angular momentum and that these three cannot be created or destroyed.
This chapter has a few more pages where Engels rags on Dühring's views on chemistry and some other topics but since the science here is outmoded we can pass on. Chapter seven begins Engel's discussion of the organic world and that is where the next section of this exposition will pick up.
V. The Organic World: Natural Philosophy
Frederick Engels discusses the state of natural philosophy in the nineteenth century in light of the views of Herr Eugen Dühring in chapters seven and eight of Part I "Philosophy" of his Anti-Dühring.
Dühring doesn't have much to say about the transition from the inorganic to the organic world. He seems to favor a gradual transition whereas Engels thinks of things in terms of a leap, no matter how gradual it appears to outside observation. Again, Dühring appears to be borrowing his views from Hegel without giving the latter credit. Hegel at least recognized the leap involved-- a quantitative change leading to a qualitative one, so he is far in advance of Dühring.
Dühring also lifts the idea of teleology in nature from Hegel, but in an incorrect and mangled fashion. Teleological explanations, i.e., nature working towards ends, are no longer fashionable in natural science-- since God was kicked out as an explanatory device. But even as he dumps all over Dühring, Engels seems more supportive of Hegel's view. In his Logic (the section on the Doctrine of the Notion),Hegel appeals to "purpose" to explain life arising out of chemism.
For Hegel this is an "inner purpose" which, Engels points out, is completely within nature itself and to be explained from the nature of the elements at hand. It is not "purpose" coming from the outside from some other source than nature itself (such as God, or eternal wisdom, etc.) Confusion with regard to these different meanings of purpose results in people "thoughtlessly ascribing to nature conscious and purposive activity." Dühring, who calls Hegel "crude" himself makes this mistake and speaks of nature "knowing'' and indirectly "willing" such and such actions and results. Hegel would never make such an error. Yet Dühring even has the nerve to attack DARWIN for, in his own words, "pseudo-scientific mystifications " when that is just what he himself has done.
Darwin is attacked for using the ideas on population put forth by Malthus as part of his theory of evolution. Dühring also says Darwin got his ideas from animal breeders and copied the views of Lamarck. So Darwin's views are "frivolous." Dühring, according to Engels holds that if you take out Lamarck then Darwinism "is a piece of brutality directed against humanity." Dühring doesn't like the struggle for existence aspect of the theory.
Marx and Engels were early enthusiasts of Darwin so it is no surprise that Engels mounts a major assault against Dühring on this issue. He both explains Darwin's theory and gives a robust defense. Natural selection is analogous to animal and plant breeding. In the latter case humans select the traits that pop up and breed those individuals to the neglect of others until they have created a new breed of plant or animal.
In nature there is no conscious selection. If a trait turns up, and is useful, and the individual survives to breed and pass it on, then eventually, if it leads to better reproductive survival and success it will produce a new population with the trait and the older population will die out and be replaced (all other things being equal). This is the origin of species. And there is a struggle for reproductive success-- "the survival of the fittest." [This phrase was first used by Herbert Spencer as a synonym for natural section but was picked up and used by Darwin as well.]
It was true that Darwin did use Malthus' theory of population to illustrate the struggle for survival in the natural world and this was an error. Malthus' theories have long been discredited, Engels says, and all trace of them could be booted out of Darwinism without in any way harming the theory. It would only strengthen it.
It is strange, then, that Engels does not mention the work of Michael Thomas Sadler (1780-1835) whose The Law of Population (1832) was a major anti-Malthusian work. But there were many other critics as well and for Engels the most important would have been none other than Karl Marx. Engels notes "the organisms of nature also have their laws of population, which have been left practically uninvestigated, although their establishment would be of decisive importance for the theory of the evolution of species." Since Engels' day this has come about through the development of population genetics as part of the modern evolutionary synthesis developed by scientists such as Ernst Mayer, J.B.S. Haldane, R.A. Fisher, Sewall Wright, George Gaylord Simpson and others.
Another complaint Dühring brings against Darwin had, at the time, more substance. He complains that Darwin's theory "produces its transformations and differences out of nothing." Engels admits that Darwin does not explain the CAUSES which produce the changes brought about by natural selection. The laws of genetic inheritance had not yet been discovered by the science of Darwin's day. [Actually they had been by Mendel but his work was ignored and they had to be discovered all over again at the beginning of the last century.]
Engels says these causes, whatever they are "up to the present are in part absolutely unknown." He should have left the "in part " out because what he thought was the known part turned out to be wrong. Engels writes: "In recent times the idea of natural selection was extended, particularly by Haeckel, and the variation of species conceived as a result of the mutual interaction of adaptation and heredity, in which process adaptation is taken as the factor which produces variations and heredity as the preserving factor."
Engels had read Erst Haeckel's [1834-1919] Schöpfungsgeshichte which, since Haeckel didn't like natural selection, put forth a theory explaining evolution based on Darwin, Lamarck and Goethe. By using Lamarck, the notion of acquired characteristics, independent of genetic mutation, being inherited maintained its unscientific foothold in biology. Haeckel was also one of the founders of "scientific" racism. Haeckel's influence on Engels had some unfortunate unintended consequences for the history of Soviet science (e.g., Lysenko).
Engels is correct is criticizing Dühring for attributing "purpose" to nature, but he himself adds some confusion to this point when he writes, with regard to tree frogs being green and polar animals being white, that although "the colours can only be explained of the basis of physical forces and chemical agents" the animals are nevertheless, with respect to their colours, "purposely ADAPTED to the environment in which they live." This use of "purpose" is a relic of Lamarck's evolutionary theory. The animals were adapted due to random genetic mutations that happened to prove of advantage in their environments-- they were not PURPOSELY adapted. Natural selection is the only modality at work in evolution that we can so far state we know to be at work. If Engels had known about Mendel's discoveries he would never had expressed himself in this way. But Engels' main point is that Dühring's view of purpose in nature, being due to "ideas," leads to Deism and hence to mixing up spirit with natural processes.
Engels next takes issue with Dühring's claim that Darwin traced the origin of all life on earth back to a single common ancestor. Dühring finds fault with this view and Engels quotes The Origin of Species to show that Darwin actually said "SOME FEW BEINGS" were at the root of all life on Earth. That was then. Today many, if not most, biologists hold that there was indeed a UNIVERSAL COMMON ANCESTOR from which all life has descended. Darwin actually ends The Origin of Species with the following: "There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
The view today, if it hasn't changed recently--science goes by so fast these days-- is that there are three great "kingdoms" of life, or FORMS. The first is the Archaea-- simple one celled critters without a cell nucleus. These are the oldest life forms. From them evolved the Eubacteria (bacteria) and also, a billion years later or so, the Eukarya-- critters one or many celled that have a cell nucleus-- this includes us and everything else that has a cell nucleus. Somewhere back there in the primeval soup the first Archaean cell started up and-- voíla--here we are and everything else too.
How do we know it came about this way? Well, we still don't know anymore than Engels, who wrote: "With regard to the origin of life, therefore, up to the present, natural science is only able to say with certainty that it must have been the result of chemical action."
The next attack on Dühring, in this first chapter on organic nature, concerns Dühring's characterizing Darwin as superficial for thinking the origin of new traits is sexual. Engels rejoins Darwin says natural selection is only concerned with the PRESERVATION of these traits not their origin. Without having Mendel's discoveries at hand, neither Darwin, nor Dühring, nor Engels have any idea how natural selection actually works. Basically there is a mutation in a gene making up the DNA in an X or Y (or both) chromosome[where sexual reproduction is concerned] and this is passed along to the off spring. If it is useful and the off spring lives to pass it on a new trait can become established and eventually a fish becomes a philosopher.
Dühring is also upset because he thinks Darwinists put down Lamarck and his theory of acquired characteristics. Engels says this in not true. Darwin and his followers do not "belittle" Lamarck and in fact recognize "his great services" and have "put him up again on his pedestal."
It is true that modern science does not "belittle" Lamarck. He was a great pioneer and the first one to advocate evolution based on natural law and a materialist framework. But his views on how evolution works and how new traits arise and are passed on-- just by the need for them or because animals acquire them from their environment-- has been basically disowned by modern science.
Engels still used some Lamarckian views in his scientific writings (Australian Aborigines can't learn geometry as easily as Europeans because Europeans have studied it longer) but that was the science of his day and it is difficult to jump out of your time and place 100% of the time. But he did write that "The theory of evolution itself is however still in a very early stage, and it thereby cannot be doubted that further research will greatly modify our present conceptions, including strictly Darwinian ones, of the process of the evolution of species."
Further research actually did modify the conceptions of Engels' day, but in the direction of strengthening and deepening our appreciation of the Darwinian theory. Engels would have been among the first to accept this.
This discussion is based on Part I Chapter VII of Anti-Dühring. Chapter VIII consists of some concluding remarks by Engels concerning Herr Dühring's views on the nature of life and consciousness, but the science is so out of date I don't think we gain much going over this chapter except to be reinforced in the view that Dühring was no match for Engels.
Engels does however make a methodological comment about definitions in science to which I want to call attention. In the antepenultimate paragraph of this chapter Engels says, "From a scientific standpoint all definitions are of little value." He means that to really understand a subject you have to have "an exhaustive knowledge" of it. In Marxism, I think, we have a lot of definitions from the classics. Definitions of the working class, of the capitalist class, of the state, of class struggle, of the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc., etc. These definitions are part of the common language Marxists use to communicate with each other and to explain Marxist ideas to non Marxists. There are some who get all upset with some of these definitions and want to to strike them out of the Marxist lexicon. Well, Engels has just said definitions are of little value in science because science seeks exhaustive knowledge. True, but we can't expect everyone to have digested all three volumes of Das Kapital before we can talk to them.
So, Engels continues by saying, "But for ordinary usage such definitions are very convenient and in places cannot well be dispensed with; moreover, they can do no harm, provided their inevitable deficiencies are not forgotten." So, maybe we should remember this before we start cleaning up our lexicon. There is a big difference between updating the lexicon and abolishing it. There are some people who no longer speak the common language at all and you would never suspect they were Marxists after listening to them.
In the next chapter of his book Engels will discuss "Eternal Truths." Let's see if he has found any other than death and taxes.
VI. Eternal Truths
Engels discusses this topic in chapter IX of Anti-Dühring (Morality and Law. Eternal Truths). He begins as usual by calling Dühring's statements on this topic BALDERDASH: and well he might since the good Herr begins by saying, "He who can think only by means of language has never yet learnt what is meant by ABSTRACT and PURE thought. "Indeed! Thinking without language? This prompts Engels to say then the "animals are the most abstract and purest thinkers." This quip is reminiscent of Hegel's response to the theologian Schleiermacher who said the essence of Christianity was unquestioning faith in your Lord. Hegel said then "the dog makes the best Christian."
Dühring is not a relativist on the subject of laws and morals. There is only one true moral law, not only for humans but creatures form outer space as well. He says, morals "must occur in concordant fashion among all extra-human beings whose active reason has to deal with the conscious ordering of life impulses in the form of instincts." By "extra-human beings" he means those living "on other celestial bodies." "Rational beings" would be (following Kant) a better term I think.
Dühring is quite insistent about this sort of thing, writing, "GENUINE TRUTHS ARE ABSOLUTELY IMMUTABLE ... so that it is altogether stupid to think that the correctness of knowledge is something that can be affected by time and changes in reality." What he is claiming is that human knowledge can attain, as Engels says, "sovereign validity and an unconditional claim to truth."
Well, is that true? "Is human thought sovereign?" Engels asks us to consider the following (it is very instructive for those who accuse Marxists of being DOGMATIC): "... in all probability we are just at the beginning of human history [not at the End of History as some pundits declared tr], and the generations which will put US right are likely to be far more numerous than those whose knowledge we --- often enough with a considerable degree of contempt --- have the opportunity to correct." This is to ward off Herr Dühring and his absolutely immutable balderdash. With some exceptions Engels has held up fairly well I think (with some refurbishing along the way.)
As for human knowledge being sovereign, Engels says it is "in its disposition, its vocation, its possibilities and its historical ultimate goal; it is not sovereign and it is limited in its individual realization and in reality at any particular moment." As for "eternal truths," Herr Dühring's conception is too idealistic and not of much use in the actual practice of science. Reason would arrive at the point where the intellectual world would be completely at a stand still if we had only Dühring's immutable truths to work with. But this does not mean that there are NO eternal truths at all.
Well there are some such as 2+2=4, water is H2O, Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Simple mathematical, chemical, historical truths, etc., but certainly no BIG eternal truths such as Dühring has in mind-- laws of history or of politics.
Especially when we are dealing with social phenomena are we not going to find eternal laws. This type of knowledge is always limited and relative and, as Engels points out , these kinds of law "exist only in a particular epoch and among particular peoples and are by their very nature transitory." And as for the dogmatism of Marxists-- Engels wants to stress that NO "individual whatsoever is in a position to deliver the final and ultimate truth." One can imagine what he would have thought of the Cult of Personality.
Outside of trivial truths we cannot have much faith that absolutely immutable truth is going to be available to us in the physical and social sciences with respect to truth and error, but what about morality and the knowledge of good and evil? Well, throughout history and all over the world we find different moralities and moral outlooks and some "are in direct contradiction to each other."
In the West we have two versions of Christian feudal morality, Catholic and Protestant, and many subdivisions of these as well. No morality is "true" in the sense of ultimate reality. Different classes have different values. There is a bourgeois morality and a working class morality. Engels thinks the morality of the future is, for us, truer than that which represents the past. The working class represents the future of humanity, for Engels, and so as far as "truth" is concerned it is working class morality that is "true" for us. It has been over a hundred and thirty years since Engels wrote Anti-Dühring and we have seen two large scale experiments in working class control-- the Chinese and Soviet experiments. It would be interesting to compare the morality taught in these two dispensations with Western bourgeois notions of morality. The following reference is a place to start [The Role of Morality in Communist Production by GeorgLukács1919 www.marxists.org/archive/lukacs/works/1919/morality.htm. ]
Engels says the three classes of modern society are the feudal aristocracy, the the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. I think by now only the last two have any relevance in the major parts of the world. These two have different moral ideals, although many strata of the proletariat have been contaminated by bourgeois values. But the fact of these two different moral outlooks shows "that men, consciously or unconsciously, derive their ethical ideas in the last resort from the practical relations on which their class position is based--- from the economic relations in which they carry on production and exchange."
If there are areas of agreement between differing moralities, Engels says, this is because they have shared a common historical development and thus overlapping is to be expected. Engels rejects any attempt to impose eternal truths of morality since they are the products of historical conditioning. He also thinks there has been progress in moral ideas as in other fields (science, medicine, industry, etc.) and this is due to the class struggle, the struggle of people to free themselves from exploitation and poverty, which has led to moral reforms. But a truly human morality that rests on foundations independent of class struggle "becomes possible only at a stage of society which has not only overcome class antagonisms but has even forgotten them in practical life."
Engels discusses this topic in Chapter X, Part I of Anti-Dühring (Morality and Law. Equality). Engels discusses Dühring's method of analysis. Dühring thinks you break a subject down to its most simple components and then, using mathematical axioms, you can logically deduce what its true nature is. Engels calls this the A PRIORI method. In this method you logically deduce the nature of the object from its concept not from from the object itself. Then you reverse the process. You take your refurbished concept of the object and then judge the nature of the object by means of it instead of just studying the object itself. This is the garbage in, garbage out method.
In discussing "equality", Herr Dühring deduces the nature of society by logic "instead of from the real social relations of the people around him." He says the simplest form of society consists of just two people. Here you have two human wills and at this stage the two are ENTIRELY EQUAL to one another. From this Dühring says we can deduce "the development of the fundamental concepts of right." These two persons, by the way, are men.
Engels calls these two equal men "phantoms" because to be entirely equal they have to be free from any real life distinctions, including sexual distinctions and experiences, and thus become just abstract creations of Dühring's brain not real people at all.
Now what would justify one person becoming subordinate to another if they are entirely equal? Well if one of the two wills was, Engels explains, "afflicted with inadequate self-determination" then Dühring allows for its subordination. In other words the entirely equal wills are not entirely equal after all. Engels gives two more examples from Dühring in which "equality" will be replaced by inequality and subordination: they are "when two persons are 'morally unequal'" and when they are unequal mentally. Of course it is Herr Dühring and his followers who decide the moral and mental qualifications.
All this goes to show, Engels concludes, that Dühring has a shallow and botched outlook regarding the notion of equality. But this does not mean the idea of equality does not play "an important agitational role in the socialist movement of almost every country." The issue of Human Rights is the contemporary version of this debate. Following Engels, I will say that the "scientific content" of Human Rights will "determine its value for proletarian agitation."
The scientific content will be established by studying the history of the idea of Human Rights (AKA "equality.") It took thousands of years to get from the ideas about equality in the ancient world to those that the socialist movement holds, or should hold today. In the classical world of Greece and Rome inequality was as important as equality (slaves versus Roman citizenship for example).
Christianity recognized a form of equality-- all were equally subject to original sin. There was also, early on, the equality of the ELECT. But these were really bogus forms of equality as far as THIS world was concerned. Then, when the Germans overran the Roman Empire the ideals of human equality were set back for a thousand years due to the entrenchment of the FEUDAL ORDER.
Nevertheless, within that order a class was growing that would "become the standard- bearer of the modern demand for equality: the bourgeoisie." As a result of the maritime discoveries of the fifteenth century (da Gama, Columbus, etc.,) markets began to grow and the handicraft industries of the middle ages expanded into manufacturing concerns. This economic revolution took place within the political structure of feudalism. The bourgeoisie began to champion the notion of human rights and equality because human labor qua labor was seen as of equal value, a fact recognized in bourgeoisie political economy as the law of value "according to which," Engels writes, "the value of a commodity is measured by the socially necessary labour embodied in it." This connection was first brought to light by Marx in Das Kapital, Engels says.
The social contradiction between the new economic order of capitalism and the feudal political order brought about the great revolutions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Engels explains that "where economic relations required freedom and equality of rights, the political system opposed them at every step." It is interesting to note that the bourgeoisie was able to wrest power from the feudalists and is to day's dominant ruling class. The same contradiction on a higher level, this time between the working classes and the bourgeoisie, has not been resolved. But only a revolutionary transfer of political power to the workers can overcome the economic problems, as well as the social questions of war and imperialism, that mark the present period of bourgeoisie decline.
Engels points out that with the decline of the Roman Empire and the development of independent states each claiming the same rights to nationhood as the others, and being, in the bourgeois world at least, on similar levels of development, the notion of equality gave way to to that of universal human rights. That "universal human rights" are basically bourgeois rights is illustrated by the fact that "the American constitution, the first to recognize the rights of man, in the same breath confirms the slavery of the coloured races existing in America: class privileges are proscribed, race privileges sanctioned."
The logical extension of the call for the abolition of class privileges by the bourgeoisie is the working class' call for the abolition of classes themselves. There are two aspects to the demand for equally made by the working people. The first is a protest against the poverty and oppression of the workers as compared to the wealth and power of the rich. This first aspect is spontaneous and "is simply an expression of the revolutionary instinct" of oppressed people. The second aspect is derived from the bourgeoisie's own ideals and demand for equality in face of the feudal order and is put forth "in order to stir up the workers against the capitalists with the aid of the capitalists' own assertions." In both cases, according to Engels, the real demand of the workers is not class equality but the ABOLITION OF CLASSES. Any demand beyond [i.e., other than] that, he says, "passes into absurdity."
What Engels has tried to show is that our modern notions of human rights and of human equality are not eternal verities good for every time and clime. Both the bourgeois and proletarian versions are historical products. So are the views of the Taliban, for example, on the treatment of women and the rights of non Islamic people or those of some South Africans on the number of wives a man can have. These views as well as those we call "modern", by which we mean 'Western" in their capitalist or working class incarnations developed as a result of "definite historical conditions that in turn themselves presuppose a long previous history."
Those values, therefore, WE take for granted are the product of a specific historical trajectory in which they functioned to bring about and stabilize the world capitalist system. Engels says, quoting Marx, if the modern notion of human rights "already possesses the fixity of a popular prejudice" this is due to the continuing influence of the Enlightenment on our times. The task of socialists today is to agitate for truly effective universal human rights-- and these include the right to a living income, to health, to food, housing, education, and to live in a world at peace-- attainable once and for all through the abolition of classes.
VIII. Freedom and Necessity
Engels discusses this topic in Chapter XI, Part I of Anti-Dühring (Morality and Law. Freedom and Necessity). Dühring claims to discuss the problems of law and politics with knowledge gained from "the MOST EXHAUSTIVE SPECIALIZED STUDIES." And he contrasts his own in depth studies with the "admittedly neglected legal studies of Herr Marx."
Well, if Thomas Henry Huxley was Darwin's Bulldog, Engels was Marx's and nothing sets him off more that Dühring's propensity to portray himself in a favorable light at the expense of Marx, especially when Marx's knowledge of the subject matter under review was many magnitudes greater than the paltry speculations put forth by Dühring.
In his discussion on law and politics Dühring begins by making sweeping generalizations about the law in general, such as that "revenge" is the basis of criminal law, and then moves on to comparisons of French law with the Prussian 'Landrecht'-- all of which reveals that Herr Dühring knows very little about these matters. He seems ignorant of the fact that French law,that is, modern civil law [outside of England] "rests on the social achievements of the Great French Revolution" as embodied in the Code Napoléon.
Dühring puts himself forward as a great student of the law, but Engels points out that he is not only ignorant with regard to French law, but that his ignorance carries over to Roman law and even Germanic law (especially its English version "which is the only Germanic law which has developed independently of Roman authority up to the present day and spread to all parts of the world....")
Dühring's form of socialism has another great defect and that is his rampant anti-Semitism. Engels says "his hatred of the Jews" is carried "to ridiculous extremes" which he "exhibits on every possible occasion." Engels really takes Dühring to task over this issue. Dühring thinks that hatred of Jews is based on "natural grounds" and is a "natural judgment" while Engels says it is a wide spread prejudice "inherited from the bigotry of the Middle Ages."
What is worse is that Dühring thinks one of the arguments in favor of "socialism" is that it will lead to better methods of Jew control. These are Dühring's words: "socialism is the only power which can oppose population conditions with a rather strong Jewish admixture." Engels sums up his view of Dühring's opinions as those of a man full of "grandiloquent boasts" and exhibiting "the crassest ignorance."
At this point Engels remarks that when dealing with questions of morality and law it is hard to ignore the question of "free will." Are all our actions predetermined or can we be held responsible for them? Herr Dühring gives two, conflicting, answers to this problem. His first answer is that there is a tug of war in the mind (brain) between instincts and reason. Our instincts pull us one way and reason another. The more rational we are, the more educated and subject to reason, the less we will be subject to the irrational emotions driven by out instinctual impulses. Dühring thinks this explanation will do away with the silly notion of "inner freedom." Each individual's behavior will be determined by his or her proportion of rational to irrational "drives".
Engels does not really evaluate this first answer, but says it is blown out of the water by Dühring's second answer. Engels quotes Dühring: "We base moral responsibility on freedom, which however means nothing more to us than susceptibility to conscious motives in accordance with out natural and acquired intelligence. All such motives operate with the inevitability of natural law, notwithstanding an awareness of possible contrary actions; but it is precisely on this unavoidable compulsion that we rely when we apply the moral levers."
I think the problem is this second answer ends up with "unavoidable compulsion." Yet the first answer also says about the same thing. The tug of war between reason and unreason will be resolved by the preponderance of the strength of each force within the individual. Engels calls it a "parallelogram of forces" resulting in the action taken being a mean between them. So perhaps Engels overstates the case that Dühring's two answers contradict each other.
Be that as it may, Engels is really interested in the second answer. It is not, he says, the result of any original thinking on the part of Dühring. It is a dumbed down version of Hegel, as is so often the case with Dühring's views. It was Hegel who "was the first to state correctly the relation between freedom and necessity". "Necessity," Hegel wrote, " is BLIND only IN SO FAR AS IT IS NOT UNDERSTOOD."
Engels explains that. FREEDOM is knowing what the laws of nature are and how we can use them "towards definite ends." This is true both for the natural [or external] realm (physics, chemistry, etc.,) and for the inner or mental realm. These two sets of laws can be separated conceptually (the physical and mental) but they are actually one set in reality. "Freedom of the will therefore means nothing but the capacity to make decisions with knowledge of the subject."
This means the more knowledge you have, the more educated you are about the things you are dealing with the FREER you are in dealing with them and at the same time the more NECESSITY comes into play-- i.e., of knowing what necessary actions must be done to attain the goal sought. Engels says, with respect to the will, "the uncertainty, founded on ignorance, which seems to make an arbitrary choice among many different and conflicting possible decisions, shows precisely by this that it is not free, that is is controlled by the very object it should it self control. And since freedom increases with knowledge of the world it, like equality, and law and morality, is "necessarily a product of historical development."
The greatest liberation from natural necessity of humankind on record, yet still strictly determined by physical laws, was the discovery of how to make FIRE: "the generation of fire from friction." Engels says that in our [his] age we might think the greatest advance in human control of nature, and thus in freedom, was the invention of the STEAM ENGINE and the modern world that it has made possible. We would be wrong. Fire was the very first of the forces of nature that humans began to learn how to control and it was this feat of "man" that "thereby separated him for ever from the animal kingdom."
Nevertheless, the invention of the steam engine was a great leap forward. Engels thought that the steam engine had so increased the productive forces of humankind that we could, in the age of steam, solve the social problem. For the increase in the PRODUCTIVE FORCES "alone make possible a state of society in which there are no longer class distinctions" in which there be will enough socially created product for all and "for the first time there can be talk of real human freedom"-- that is, "of an existence in harmony with the laws of nature that have become known."
Well, if we are threatening to destroy our environment, killing the oceans, and destroying the last of the oxygen producing rain forests (the lungs of the planet) and billions of people are facing starvation and famine, something has gone amiss in the last century and a half and we are definitely out of sync with the laws of nature while the increase in the productive forces is bringing servitude not freedom to masses of humanity. Engels vision is on hold.
Engels, however, was no utopian socialist, and would not have been shocked if he had been told that the human race was still many generations away from his musings on the attainment of "real human freedom." He had a longer time frame than many of his erstwhile followers who throw in the towel whenever there is a major setback. "But how young the whole of human history still is," he wrote, "and how ridiculous it would be to attempt to ascribe any absolute validity to our present views, is evident from the simple fact that all past history can be characterized as the history of the epoch from the practical discovery of the transformation of mechanical motion into heat up to that of the transformation of heat into mechanical motion." Engels' views are, of course, not absolutely valid, but I see nothing that has happened in the miniscule slice of time that has expired since he expressed them and the present day which would lead one to think they are out of date.
IX. Dialectics: Quantity and Quality
Engels discusses the dialectics of quantity and quality in chapter 12 of part one of Anti-Dühring. In this chapter Engels takes on Dühring anti-dialectical approach to philosophy. Not having understood Hegel, Dühring thinks that since a contradiction appears to be absurd (how can you have A and not-A at the same time?) there can be no contradictions in reality. Engels sets himself the task of clearing up Dühring confusions.
Examples of contradictions in nature, according to Engels are, for example, MOTION, where a body is "in one and the same place and also not in it" and LIFE, where a being "is at each moment itself and yet something else." This, I must admit, sounds a bit like Sartre's existentialism and is perhaps for our time a bit more metaphorical than scientific. What Engels means by motion being a contradiction is perhaps best expressed in the following quote from the article "Motion" in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
"The contradictory nature of motion consists in the unbroken unity of two opposing factors --- changeability and stability, motion and rest. in fact, the concept of change makes sense only in connection with the idea of a relatively stable, continuously fixed state. This very change, however, is at the same time also a fixed state, which continues and maintains itself; that is, it also possesses stability. In this contradictory unity of changeability and stability the leading role is played by changeability, for everything new in the world first appears by means of it, whereas stability and rest merely fix what has been attained through this process" (from the article by V.I. Sviderskii).
Dühring also makes fun of Das Kapital because of Marx's use of dialectics.
Marx's book, Dühring writes , is an example of the "absence of natural and intelligible logic" resulting in "dialectical frills and mazes and conceptual arabesques." As an example of Dühring complete misunderstanding of Marx's Das Kapital, Engels focuses on his attack on Marx's use of the dialectical notion that quantitative changes bring about qualitative changes.
Here is what Dühring himself has to say about this: "What a comical effect is produced by the reference to the confused, hazy Hegelian notion that quantity changes into quality, and that therefore an advance, when it reaches a certain size, becomes capital by this quantitative increase alone!"
By adding the word "alone" Dühring falsifies both the Hegelian law and Marx's understanding of it. This is what Marx wrote in Vol. 1 of Das Kapital when he discussed how a sum of exchange values, after reaching a certain quantity could become capital. "Here, as in natural science, IS SHOWN the correctness of the law discovered by Hegel (in his LOGIC) that merely quantitative differences beyond a certain point pass into qualitative changes."
Engels says Marx held a sum of exchange values can become capital only when it reaches a definite minimum size, depending on the conditions, "this fact is a PROOF OF THE CORRECTNESS of the Hegelian law." Dühring says Marx held BECAUSE quantity changes in to quality THEREFORE at a certain sum exchange value will become capital. The part about "depending on the conditions" is left out so "the very opposite" of what Marx meant [ i.e., an effect is taken as a cause] is put forth as his meaning. This is typical of what Dühring calls his "philosophy of reality." And, Engels adds, "he has the cheek to describe as COMIC the nonsense which he himself has fabricated."
One of the most obvious examples of the dialectical law under discussion is that of H2O. Water in the solid state becomes a liquid with the quantitative addition of heat and with even more heat the liquid state qualitatively changes into a gas.
Engels also points out that all of Part IV of Das Kapital (where Marx discusses the production of relative surplus value and modern industry, etc.) "deals with innumerable cases in which quantitative change alters the quality, and also qualitative changes alter the quantity, ot the things under consideration." The molecular theory of modern [1880s] chemistry is also based on this law.
Thus, Engels maintains, in both the social world and the natural world around us we "can see how 'quantity changes into quality,'and this allegedly confused, hazy Hegelian notion appears in so to speak corporeal form in things and processes--- and no one but Herr Dühring is confused and befogged by it."
Next we will deal with the last chapter on Engels' discussion of philosophy in Anti-Dühring-- the chapter on the negation of the negation.
X. Dialectics: The Negation of The Negation
Engels discusses the negation of the negation in Chapter XIII of Part One of Anti-Dühring [on Philosophy].
It seems that Herr Dühring approves of Marx's discussion of primitive accumulation at the end of Vol. I of Das Kapital: he calls it "relatively the best part of Marx's book." However, he has one big objection, viz., that Marx uses the "dialectical crutch" of "Hegelian verbal jugglery" to explain how private property will become social property. That verbal jugglery consists of the Hegelian concept of "the negation of the negation."
Herr Dühring thinks Marx ends up spouting nonsense since that is what "must necessarily spring" from using "Hegelian dialectics as the scientific basis" of one's discussion. This upsets Engels, but Dühring could take comfort from the fact that most bourgeois economists today would agree with him. In fact, it is because they agree with him that most of them themselves spout nonsense
Before getting down to the nitty-gritty of the negation of the negation, Engels wants to take Dühring to task for thinking Marx was spouting nonsense when he spoke of property being both individual AND social at the same time.
Engels now explains the meaning of Marx's notion of property being both individually and socially owned at the same time. This problem comes up in Chapter 32 of volume one of DAS KAPITAL ("Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation").
In this chapter Marx details how the growth of capitalism led to the concentration of workers into factories and their loss of their own tools (which as individual craftsmen they formerly owned) resulting in their dependence on the capitalists not only for employment but also for the tools with which to work.
This development of capitalism is the FIRST NEGATION , with respect to the workers, of private property-- i.e., they lose their means of production to the capitalists (their tools and handicraft properties. But capitalism brings about its own negation (the SECOND NEGATION). This means that it gives birth to socialism as a result of its own internal contradictions ("with the inexorability of a law of Nature"). Thus Marx says: "It is the negation of the negation." [The "It" is socialism.]
"This does not, " Marx writes, "re-establish private property for the producer, but gives him individual property based on the acquisitions of the capitalist era: i.e., on co-operation and the possession in common of the land and of the means of production."
So, Engels maintains, Herr Dühring is way off the mark by calling that notion of Marx's a lot of contradictory Hegelian nonsense. Engels says, "To anyone who understands plain talk this means that social ownership extends to the land and other means of production, and individual ownership to the products, that is, the articles of consumption."
How can Dühring be so confused with regard to Marx's meaning? He misquotes Marx's words over and over again. Engels decides it is either because Dühring can't understand Marx, or he is quoting him from memory and getting it wrong.
It is important to realize that Marx is not using dialects in a mechanical fashion to construct his description of capitalism. Marx's famous observation, in this chapter of Das Kapital, that "One capitalist always kills many" and that capitalism should lead to socialism, is the result of an EMPIRICAL investigation of the capitalist mode of production. Due to competition and monopoly, capitalist concentration leads to the domination of a few big corporations, to over production and to the relative impoverishment of the working masses.
These masses, however, have been trained to work in large socialized industrial enterprises which run on principles of specialization of functions and cooperation of labor. It is a small step from this capitalist set up to socialism. Only the private ownership of these effectively socialized means of production needs to be replaced by public ownership.
Right now, Spring 2010, General Motors Corporation is already a virtually socialized enterprise (60% owned by the American people). It is only the lack of a socialist consciousness in the working class that allows GM to remain under capitalist control and allows representatives of the capitalist class to be elected to positions of governance in the US.
What Marx showed was that this process of change by which the petty producers were eliminated and replaced by the capitalist enterprises has now developed to the point where capitalism has, as Engels says, "likewise itself created the material conditions from which it must perish." [It's taking its sweet time about it.]
The point is that this is an HISTORICAL PROCESS, and Engels says "if it is at the same time a dialectical process, this is not Marx's fault, however annoying it may be to Herr Dühring."
This means that Marx is not appealing to the NEGATION OF THE NEGATION to demonstrate the historical necessity of the transformation of capitalism into socialism. He is doing just the opposite according to Engels. He is showing, by an appeal to history, that such a transformation is already under way and that this is the trend of future development. Only after doing this does Marx also point out this development can be described as well "in accordance with a definite dialectical law." He is NOT saying the law determines this development. E=mc2 does not determine that mass and energy are interchangeable, but that they are allows us to discover that E=mc2. Failure to realize this shows "Herr Dühring's total lack of understanding of the nature of dialectics."
Engels proceeds to give several examples of dialectical thinking that exemplify the negation of the negation. For example, in olden times there was common ownership of land which was negated by private property and all the attendant evils of that negation are currently manifest in our time and can only be eliminated by a negation of the negation (socialism).
Engels discusses how this was seen by Rousseau as far back as the middle of the 18th century, and although he did know the "Hegelian jargon" he nevertheless developed "a line of thought which corresponds exactly to the one developed in Marx's CAPITAL." Let's look at the work Engels refers to.
Rousseau wrote the DISCOURSE ON THE ORIGIN OF INEQUALITY in 1755. Unlike most of the thinkers of the Enlightenment Rousseau thinks that the development of civilization, the growth of private property and individualism have led to the intensification of human inequality rather than being forces for the growth of liberty, equality and fraternity.
The invention of agriculture brought about he concept of property and the idea of justice to ensure the rights of people with respect to it. It is not possible, Rousseau says, “to conceive how property can come from anything but manual labor.”
But once property in land and its products was introduced greed, competition, the desire to accumulate the produce and labors of others was also introduced. “All these evils were the first effects of property, and the inseparable attendants of growing inequality.”
We must remember that in the state of nature there is no “right” to property other than what a person, by his/her own labor can extract for the necessities of life. The growth of private property, the development of classes, the foundation of the state and laws to protect private property represent a negation of the original existential condition of humanity vis a vis nature.
Now, under the rule of law and living in a state, how do the rich and powerful few prevent the many, the poor and oppressed, from asserting their rights to their own labor and the natural use of the products of nature? That is, how do they keep their negation of the natural state from being negated?
Rousseau says “the rich man, thus urged by necessity, conceived at length the profoundest plan that ever entered the mind of man: this was to employ in his favor the forces of those who attacked him, to make allies of his adversaries, to inspire them with different maxims and to give them other institutions as favorable to himself as the law of nature was unfavorable.”
This was done by appealing to all to join together in forming a society based on laws designed to protect everyone from everyone. Here is what we should do, said the first usurpers of the common property of humanity: “Let us, in a word, instead of turning our forces against ourselves, collect them in a supreme power which may govern us by wise laws, protect and defend all the members of the association, repulse their common enemies, and maintain eternal harmony among us.”
Well this certainly sounds good. Liberty and Justice for All-- who could be against that. Throw in motherhood and apple pie and you have an unbeatable formula. Thus, Rousseau says, “All ran headlong to their chains, in hope of securing their liberty.”
This was, "or may have been," Rousseau says, "the origin of society and law." This was a clever set up pulled off by the rich. Engels would suggest, I am sure, that it was probably not consciously done. This scenario is a retroactive description based on a rational analysis of the consequences of the agricultural revolution. Rousseau lacked the vocabulary, as did Enlightenment intellectuals in general, to describe these historical developments as purely objective developments. This vocabulary would have to await Hegel, Feuerbach and Marx.
The result of the negation of individuals living in a state of nature was the appearance of civilization and the existence of numerous independent political organizations which recreated the conditions of the state of nature but now. on a higher level, between states and peoples.
One need only turn to the daily press to read about the outrages in Afghanistan, the rape of Iraq for its oil, or the constant bullying of small states by powerful ones to see the truth of Rousseau's words that this change is responsible for "national wars, battles, murders, and reprisals, which shock nature and outrage reason; together with all those horrible prejudices which class among the virtues the honor of shedding human blood. The most distinguished men hence learned to consider cutting each other's throats a duty; at length men massacred their fellow-creatures by thousands without so much as knowing why, and committed more murders in a single day's fighting, and more violent outrages in the sack of a single town, than were committed in the state of nature during whole ages over the whole earth." Well, this is where we find ourselves today. I hope left-center unity will get us out of here to a better place.
The remedy to this state of affairs, the negation of the negation, is the abolition of private property and the establishment of a world socialist order. The heroic attempt, and temporary defeat, to establish this order in the last century reminds us of the immense difficulty involved in this task, but it in no way diminishes the need to do it.
Engels gives several other examples of the negation of the negation for the edification of Herr Dühring but I think his point is sufficiently clear. He concludes his discussion of philosophy (part one of Anti-Dühring) with a brief conclusion (Chapter XIV) which is that Herr Dühring has absolutely nothing of importance to say about philosophy. Nevertheless, as we have seen, he served as a useful foil for Engels to give a fine presentation of Marxist philosophy.
XI. The Once and Future Communist
FREDERICK ENGELS ON THE SUBJECT MATTER AND METHOD OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND THE COMING REVOLUTION
(Reflections on Chapter 1 Part 2 of Anti-Dühring)
What is the subject matter and method of political economy according to Engels? First, though, what is political economy? Today we tend to teach economics as a special discipline and political science as another separate subject. This is an attempt by the bourgeoisie to keep politics and economics independent of one another. Marx and Engels, as did most nineteenth century thinkers, thought they were closely interrelated.
Political economy for Engels was the study of the laws governing the PRODUCTION and EXCHANGE “of the material means of subsistence in human society." While production and exchange are human functions they are intimately related to each other and have a reciprocal causative relationship.
However, there are many different ways to carry out production and exchange and they vary from society to society and culture to culture. Thus: “Political economy is therefore essentially a HISTORICAL science.”
By which Engels means its laws are not like those of physics-- the same for all-- but conditioned by historical circumstances.
Nevertheless there are some general statements that can made. For example, Engels thinks it doesn’t matter what society you are dealing with the modes of production and exchange will CONDITION the way the society distributes its social product.
He says large and small scale farming always have very different distribution patterns. This is because the former is associated with class struggle (masters and slaves, lords and serfs, capitalists and wage slaves) while the latter can exist without class struggle (i.e., without classes).
Modern large scale industry can be contrasted with Medieval local handicraft production controlled by guilds. The latter lacks large capitalists and permanent wage slaves and the former is, along with the modern credit system and "free competition" (the exchange form of modern industry and credit) responsible for both these new classes.
Differences in distribution leads to CLASS DIFFERENCES and the development of the STATE which originally came about to defend small groups from external aggression and to protect the common interests (irrigation systems in the East according to Engels). As classes begin to develop the state takes on another function, that "of maintaining by force the conditions of existence and domination of the ruling class against the subject class."
New forms of distribution are not simply neutral developments of the interaction of the MODE OF PRODUCTION and the FORM OF EXCHANGE. In fact as new modes of production and exchange develop the old forms of distribution, the state, and the laws act as drags trying to
maintain the older forms of distribution. The new mode production and exchange faces a long struggle before it can cast off the older forms of distribution.
Engels thought that capitalism, in his time about three hundred years old, was undergoing just such an antithesis in its forms of distribution which was leading to its downfall. He described the antithesis as follows: on the one hand CONCENTRATION OF CAPITAL at one pole of society (that of the bourgeoisie) and at the other pole CONCENTRATION OF THE PROPERTYLESS MASSES without much capital into cities and towns.
He thought that as far a capitalism goes this double concentration "must of necessity bring about its downfall."
Well, Engels' timing was a bit off and the development of monopoly capitalism (modern imperialism), two world wars, premature revolutions in underdeveloped regions of the world, and the development of vast new markets in the third world have postponed the day of reckoning.
Capitalism is now over four hundred fifty years old and the CONCENTRATIONS Engels spoke of are even greater and more unstable. Capitalism has, in fact, run out of places to go and can no longer rely on the expansion of new markets to pull it out of the disruptions and market collapse caused by cyclical overproduction. The DOWNFALL expected by Engels is once again on the agenda and the current inability of the US, Europe, Japan, and much of the rest of the world to overcome the present world wide capitalist crisis means that the final conflict may be closer than any of us thinks.
As long as capitalist production is on the rise everyone, Engels says, welcomes it, even the victims of its way of distributing its products. Capitalism just seems to be the way economics works. The first hints that something is wrong with the system does NOT come from "the exploited masses themselves"-- it comes from "within the ruling class itself." Engels gives as examples the great utopians Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen.
The appearance of these early objectors indicates that the system has reached the top of its curve and is just beginning to decline. The utopians became aware of the horrible conditions of living the system was forcing upon its wage slaves and were full of moral indignation. But, Engels says, "moral indignation, however justifiable, cannot serve economic science as an argument, but only as a symptom."
If capitalist horrors became more and more manifest in Engels' day just think what they are like today. Millions around the world are unemployed or living in poverty and even slavery (or should I say billions)-- armed conflicts on every continent save Australia and Antarctica over resources and land, and the very oceans as well as the atmosphere, is in the process of being destroyed in the pursuit of capitalist profits.
The duty of economists is to explain how all of this is the consequence of the capitalist mode of production (although many economists prostitute themselves in the service of the system for the rewards of position and money at the cost of truth) and beyond that "to reveal, within the already dissolving economic form of motion, the elements of the future new organisation of production and exchange which will put an end to those abuses." Today only the communist , socialist, and workers parties are able to do this on a grand scale.
In his day, Engels pointed out that political economy had concentrated on the analysis of the capitalist system and had not yet described other modes of production from the past. In the century or so since his death this has been remedied by Marxist historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists and others.
In the meantime capitalism has developed even greater productive capacities than Engels imagined-- but these "colossal productive forces" the capitalists can no longer control-- they can't control their exploitation of the earth without destroying it-- Exxon, BP, and other giant oil companies, they can't mine it with polluting its water and air, blowing off the tops of its mountains, creating hugh rivers of toxic sludge, cutting down it rain forests and melting its glaciers and driving thousands of species toward extinction.
It only remains for us to show that all the vast powers of production the capitalists can no longer control "are only waiting to be taken possession of by a society organized for co-operative work on a planned basis to ensure to all members of society the means of existence and the free development of their capacities and indeed in constantly increasing measure." We should be yelling this from the roof tops: "We're mad as Hell and we're not going to take it anymore!" Put that in your tea bag and brew it. If the BP oil "spill" in the Gulf of Mexico doesn't convince you that the power of modern industry cannot be safely left in the control of for profit corporations, I'm afraid nothing will.
The science of political economy can be traced back to the beginnings of capitalism. Its most famous proponent was Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations) but it was also advanced by the great French thinkers of the Enlightenment. However, Engels points out, these thinkers thought they were dealing with universal laws of economics, just as physical scientists propose universal laws of nature.
"To them," Engels says, "the new science was not the expression of the conditions and requirements of their epoch, but the expression of eternal reason; the laws of production and exchange discovered by this science were not the laws of a historically determined form of those activities, but eternal laws of nature; they were deduced from the nature of man."
It was the work of Marx, and Engels, that really matured this science and saw that rather than eternal laws of nature economic laws of production and distribution were relative to economic systems-- feudalism, capitalism, etc. This is one reason Engels, in his book Anti-Dühring, could hold Dühring in such disdain who could write, after Das Capital, that he would, in his own words, explain "the most general LAWS OF NATURE governing all economics...."
There are a few more ideas exposited by Herr Dühring that Engels wants to correct. First Dühring thinks that capitalists, for instance, use FORCE as a means to exploit working people. Engels says this is wrong. Engels maintains that EVERY socialist worker KNOWS that force does not cause exploitation it only PROTECTS it: "the relation between capital and wage -labour is the basis of" exploitation and this relation is an economic one not one based on force.
Engels says Dühring also confounds the difference between PRODUCTION and CIRCULATION (i.e., exchange) by lumping them together under and heading of production and then adds DISTRIBUTION as a second and INDEPENDENT department of the economy. Far from this being the case, Engels tells us, distribution is in fact DEPENDENT on the production and exchange relations of any given society. In fact, if we know these two relations for any given historical society we can "infer the mode of distribution" in it.
So, Engels point is that, after a rough start in the seventeenth century and blooming forth in the Enlightenment, the science of political economy became fully scientific in the last half of the nineteenth century with the theories of Marx and the work of those economists who were influenced by him. Through their work working people the world over slowly became aware of their true role in production and distribution (the creation of surplus value) and how it is the exploitation of their labor power that is the basis of the capitalist system.
It is important to note that, for Marxists, it is not the idea that capitalism is somehow unjust and immoral (a la Dühring) that is the key point. Engels writes: "If for the impending overthrow of the present mode of distribution of the products of labour, with its crying contrasts of want and luxury, starvation and surfeit, we had no better guarantee than the consciousness that this mode of distribution is unjust, and that justice must eventually triumph, we should be in a pretty bad way, and we might have a long time to wait."
Engels appears to be a bit too optimistic. We are still waiting for the "impending overthrow" of capitalism. It has been overthrown in a few places but it has also been restored in large areas where it was previously overthrown. So, I think we are still waiting for a general overthrow-- which is long overdue. We should be impatient, but not unduly so. We have been waiting a hundred years or so while many of our fellows have been waiting over two thousand years for the overthrow of this earthly order with even less likelihood of being gratified. But we still "might have a long time to wait."
Well, just why did Engels think we would have a short wait? The reason was that unlike previous centuries when the only forces opposed to the exploitation of the masses of people by the few were based on appeals to morality or ethics, the nineteenth century saw the creation of a MATERIAL FORCE, not an ideal or religious one, that could actually contest and overthrow the existing economic order based on exploitation.
Two great revolutions had recently created movements calling for the end of class exploitation and for the equality of the people-- the English and French bourgeois revolutions. But these movements, Engels says "up to 1830 had left the working and suffering classes cold." But in Engels' day this call and this movement has in one generation "gained a strength that enables it to defy all the forces combined against it and to be confident of victory in the near future."
What made Engels so confident? There were two factors. First, modern industrial capitalism had created a working class ("called into being" a proletariat) that not only had the power to overthrow class privilege but the class system itself and further this is something it must do "on pain of sinking to the level of the Chinese coolie." Second, the bourgeoisie "has become incapable of any longer controlling the productive forces" created by modern industry. The bourgeoisie is "a class under whose leadership society is racing to ruin like a locomotive whose jammed safety-valve the driver is to weak to open."
History has a way of sometimes frustrating our expectations. To the working people of the generation following that of Engels, Lenin and the Russian Revolution represented the promise of the socialist victory. The bourgeois locomotive went off the rails and the resulting crash created two world wars and brought down the colonial empires of the Western Powers (at least de jure.)
However, unbeknownst to Engels, another engine was waiting in the roundhouse. This was the engine of US Imperialism which reconstructed the failed bourgeois system after the Second World War and brought about the downfall of the Russian Revolution. For a generation the call for the abolition of the classes left the workers of the US and it allies once again cold.
Meanwhile, against all expectations, the "Chinese coolies" had liberated themselves and created their own working class and are now creating a modern society based on a mixed economy. However, Engels was not too far off the mark. The advanced workers (in terms of pay scales) of the West are seeing their incomes sinking to the level of the Chinese. This will continue unless they "warm up" to the idea of socialism.
What are the future chances of socialism? Engels two factors are still at work. Capitalism is ripe for overthrow. As far as factor one is concerned. The class consciousness of the workers directed towards this end does not seem to be as developed as in Engels day. This is due to the massive pro capitalist propaganda both in the educational system and the mass media. But this hold is weakening and working people around the world are slowly beginning to wake up from their long sleep and see capitalism for what it really is. A naked system of human exploitation that can and must be replaced.
As for the second factor. The bourgeoisie is out of control! The rain forests, the oceans and the atmosphere are being destroyed by their run away system. These words of Engels are absolutely true today: "both the productive forces created by the modern capitalist mode of production and the system of distribution of goods established buy it have come into crying contradiction with that mode of production itself, and in fact to such a degree that, if the whole of modern society is not to perish, a revolution in the mode of production and distribution must take place, a revolution that will put an end to all class distinctions."
Unfortunately, I cannot agree with Engels that these two factors give me confidence that the Revolution will soon arrive. But that our society will perish if it doesn't seems all too apparent.
XII. The Force Theory of Herr Eügen Duhring
Chapters two, three and four of Part Two of Anti-Dühring "Political Economy" deal with Dühring's theory that political systems and power are PRIMARY and economic relations are SECONDARY-- both historically and in the present day. Engels says Dühring gives no evidence or arguments in favor of this theory (which he claims is ORIGINAL) but simply asserts it as a given. Engels says this is old hash and has been the way history has been seen since the beginning. The true history of mankind has actually taken place behind the scenes and is the real basis for the pompous doings of the kings and presidents, popes and generals that strut the stage and are memorialized in the history books.
Dühring's idea that all the previous history of mankind is based on man's enslavement of man-- i.e., on force-- and that this is the only way we can explain it is exemplified by his example of Robinson Crusoe and Friday. Crusoe enslaves Friday. But why does he do this? Engels says "only in order that Friday should work for Crusoe's benefit." That is for an ECONOMIC MOTIVE. Dühring has reversed the true relation between political order and economic order and does not see "that force is only the means and that the aim is economic advantage."
Slavery, by the way, the condition from which Dühring starts out his "political force is the basis of history" nonsense is itself the result of prior historical and economic developments.
Slavery requires two preconditions: tools and material for the slave to work upon and a food supply to provide a basic subsistence for the slave. This means that a prior historical period in which distribution of social wealth has developed must have preceded the introduction of slavery.
Engels gives as examples primitive societies with common land ownership where there was no slavery or it "played only a very subordinate role." This is also true of ancient Rome before it became an imperial power. Even in the US, Engels says, the cotton industry of England was more important than force in maintaining slavery in the South so that "in those districts where no cotton was grown or which, unlike the border states, did not breed slaves for the cotton growing states, it died out of itself without any force being used, simply because it did not pay."
But wait a minute. Doesn't this sound right about the world we live in? Dühring says capitalist property today is the result of the use of force in the past and in fact all past property accumulations are also based on force (Rome, Egypt, etc.,) and force is, in Dühring's words, "that form of domination AT THE ROOT OF WHICH LIES not merely the exclusion of fellow-men from the use of the natural means of subsistence, but also... the subjection of man to make him do servile work." It sounds right. Big business and the oil giants use force to take over natural resources (Niger Delta, Iraq, the Amazon), they force masses of third world workers into sweat shops at low wages, etc. Why isn't Dühring right on?
Well, Engels says he is not: "Private property by no means makes it appearance in history as the result of robbery [so much for 'property is theft'] or force. On the contrary, it already existed ... in the ancient primitive communes of all civilized peoples." Engels gives many examples of the development of private property by trade, individual labor, and the accumulation of wealth in the form of domestication of animals-- none of which involved force or robbery. His logical argument is, however, that before you can use force to take someone's property or to steal it from him, it (i.e., property) must already exist "therefore force may be able to change the possession of, but cannot create, private property as such." If Dühring had meant this he would have been correct but force is NOT at the root of the domination of man by private property.
Nor is force the cause of the "subjection of man to make him do servile work" at least with respect to modern capitalism. At this point Engels gives a long quote from DAS KAPITAL [from Vol. 1: Section One of Chapter XXIV "Conversion of Surplus Value Into Capital"] the upshot of which is that economies based on commodity production where property is based on the labor put into it evolve into capitalist economies where surplus value develops and labor becomes separated from property and "property," Marx writes, "turns out to be the right, on the part of the capitalist, to appropriate the unpaid labour of others or its product, and to be the impossibility on the part of the labourer, of appropriating his own product. The separation of property from labour has become the necessary consequence of a law that apparently originated in their identity."
Engels points out that Dühring never mentions Marx's arguments (since they would demolish his own) and that the whole structure of modern exploitation and servitude "can be explained by purely economic causes; at no point whatever are robbery, force, the state, or political interference of any kind necessary."
Again, Dühring is totally wrong when he writes "political conditions are the decisive cause of the economic situation." If that were the case, Engels says, then capitalism would have been voluntarily brought about by the feudal system; but that didn't happen. In the struggle to overthrow feudalism "the decisive weapon" was the ECONOMIC power of the bourgeoisie. An example being the great French Revolution of 1789 which broke out because the capitalist system had become the dominant economic power but, "The 'political conditions' in France remained unaltered, while the 'economic situation' had outgrown them." As a result the nobles no longer had an important social function but they nevertheless tried to keep control of the social wealth "in the revenues that came to" them.
This is not unlike today (2010). We have a socialized economy in that the large industries and banks etc., could be kept running by their workers alone if the capitalist class vanished overnight-- they too have no important social function. Even though they are useless they still fight to control the social wealth and increase their revenues. When the workers finally wake up to this fact, and their living conditions are as desperate as the French in 1789, the game will be up for the capitalists. A few more depressions will suffice one hopes.
While the living standards of the world's working class approaches, day by day, the level of the French in 1789 we find, as Engels says, "the bourgeoisie has already come close to occupying the position held by the nobility in 1789 [in our day they are no longer "close" they have equaled the position of the old nobility-tr]: it is becoming more and more not only socially superfluous, but a social hindrance; it is more and more becoming separated from productive activity, and like the nobility in the past, becoming more and more a class merely drawing revenues...." All this not only points to a socialist future but decisively shows that Dühring's view that politics determines economics is a "delusion."
XIII. The Theory of Value
Engels discusses the origin of the Marxist theory of value in Part II, Chapter V of his 1878 book Anti-Dühring confuting the views of the self styled "socialist" German professor Eugen Dühring. He does this by first taking issue with Dühring's faulty views and then presenting what he takes to be the correct, Marxist, outlook.
Dühring holds, in the first place, that the primary lesson of political economy is that the rule of wealth (and those who control it)throughout all world history is to be understood, in his words, as "economic power over men and things." Engels rejects this opinion for two reasons. First, the wealth associated with the ancient tribal and village societies at the basis of civilization was in no way created my "domination over men." These were cooperative non- class societies. Second, when we do come to more advanced class riven societies the wealth they created was more the domination over things that were then used to dominate men. Through out history we see "that wealth dominates men exclusively by means of the things which it has at its disposal."
The reason Dühring has explained wealth as primarily the domination over men is that he wishes to remove the discussion of exploitation from the realm of economics to that morality in order to resuscitate a version of Proudhon's "Property is theft" slogan. Dühring has divided the production of wealth into two great divisions; one of PRODUCTION and the other of DISTRIBUTION.
The production of wealth that is domination over things is GOOD but the wealth produced by domination over men is unjust and BAD.
Dühring's ideas applied to present day capitalism amount to the following: the capitalist system's production of wealth is fine and good and can be preserved, but the capitalist system's method of distribution is evil and bad and must be abolished. Engel's says views like this, that we can keep the capitalist mode of production and at the same time create a different and just mode of distribution, are "nonsense" and are expounded by people who have never grasped "the connection between production and distribution."
Dühring, having explained the origin of wealth, now turns to the subject of VALUE, and explains to us what "value" is. The value of a thing is, he says "the price or any other equivalent name, for example wages." The idea that Price = Value = Wages is absurd according to Engels.
So, what we have to find out is what value is and how it is determined. Dühring continues with a longer bombastic discussion of value and finally arrives at the conclusion that something's value depends on the labor time it takes to make it. He says: "The extent to which we invest our own energy into them (things) is the immediate determining cause of the existence of value in general and of a particular magnitude of it."
This is pretty pitiful as, Engels points out, this was already known, in the general way Dühring puts it, long before his (Dühring's) own time. And besides that, it is wrong in the way Dühring expresses it. It is not just your own energy-- you have to make something with a USE VALUE and you have take into consideration the SOCIALLY NECESSARY labor time it takes to make something.
But Dühring's theory gets worse. Besides the labor it contains there is another factor determining "value" and that is the fact another group of men besides the workers intervene and demand payment for the access to nature and the tools necessary for labor. This is done by force, "sword in hand," and amounts to an increase in the price of commodities and their value so that this group can collect its money. Dühring says this amounts to a "tax surcharge" imposed by force [added to the orignal or 'real' value].
Engels makes short work of this theory. If this is how prices are really set and value determined then what we have is, in effect, monopoly pricing. There are only two ways this could work. First all the sellers are jacking up the prices of their products. So as sellers they are reaping the profits of their "tax surcharge." But since all the products undergo this increase, the sellers, when they are buyers, also have to pay it and the surcharge cancels out. Engels says in this case "the prices have changed nominally but in reality -- in their mutual relationship -- have remained the same" and Dühring's forced increase in value is an 'illusion'."
The second way of explaining the increase in value is the "tax surcharge" actually represents real value that the men with "swords in hand" are getting-- namely they are getting value added to their products in the form of the unpaid labor of the working people. And this is just Marx's "theory of SURPLUS-VALUE." So Dühring's explanation of the creation of value is either an illusion or it is Marx's theory, a theory which Dühring rejects.
At least Dühring thinks he rejects it. His own theory, however, is just a "slovenly and confused" version of the theory of value proposed by David Ricardo and improved by Marx. Marx says: "The value of commodities is determined by the socially necessary general human labour embodied in them and this in turn is measured by its duration. Labour is the measure of all values, but labour itself has no value."
Dühring is trying to revive a really outmoded view that the value a commodity has is determined by the PRODUCTION OUTLAYS one of which, WAGES, measures what Dühring calls the "expenditure of energy" of the workers. This accounts for the production value of a commodity. The rest of the "value" is the "surcharge" added by the capitalist.
The view that wages = value = price [putting the "surcharge" aside] has been outmoded since the days of David Ricardo, Marx's immediate predecessor. Engels points out this view coexisted in Adam Smith with the view that labour time was the determinant of value but no one following scientific principles uses it now. However, there are still some who try to explain value this way [as true then as in 2010] for it is "the shallowest sycophants of the existing capitalist order of society who preach the determination of value by wages..." and who even say the capitalist's profits are themselves his wages-- i.e., "the wages of abstinence", of risk, management, etc. This is the kind of vulgar economics upon which Dühring founds his socialism.
Let's look at the real beginning of human society. At some time in the distant past primitive groups of ancient humans scrabbled about in bands spending most of their time in search of food. This conditioned lasted for untold generations from the time of our separation from the common ancestor we shared with the chimpanzees-- about five million years ago. Sometime in the last ten to twenty thousand years in our own species some groups (Engel's says "families") began to collect or create more food and useful instruments than they needed for day to day survival. A surplus of subsistence was created beyond the costs of maintaining the population and the surplus even was able to grow to the point of a creating a "social production and reserve fund."
The creation of this fund was a revolutionary historical development and the beginning of all human progress from then until now. However in "history, up to the present, this fund has been the possession of a privileged class, on which also devolved, along with this possession, political supremacy and intellectual leadership." Today, as in the past, this fund is a social fund made up of "the total mass of raw materials, instruments of production and means of subsistence." Every war imperialist or guerrilla, revolt, revolution, peasant uprising, worker's strike and election is a struggle over the control of this fund between those who control (or wish to control) it and those who make it. Socialism will exist when this fund is controlled by those who actually create it-- the productive portion the society-- the working people-- and it has become THE COMMON PROPERTY OF SOCIETY.
Today this fund, in almost every country in the world, rests in the hands of the capitalist class. This would be impossible if value was determined by wages. In that case the workers would get back in wages the value they created and there would be no capitalist exploitation.
It is, however, the quantity of socially necessary labour expended, not wages that determines value. The workers create more value for the capitalist than he pays out in wages and this fact f explains the origin of the profit on capital. It was Marx who discovered that these profits were merely a part, along with other kinds of appropriation, of the surplus value created by the workers. It is our duty as Marxists to educate the working people about these facts. One the workers are aware of the true origin of THE WEALTH OF NATIONS they will take steps to end their own exploitation and in so doing the exploitation of humanity in general.
XIV. Skilled and Unskilled Labor
In Chapter Six ('Simple and Compound Labour') of Part Two of his classic work Anti-Dühring, Frederick Engels addresses a charge made by the German professor Eugen Dühring to the effect that in his work Das Kapital Marx has made a major blunder which amounts to a socially dangerous heresy regarding socialism. What could this heresy be?
Dühring says that Marx's theory of value is only the common theory that all values are the result of labour and measured by labour-time. But Marx sheds no light on the difference between skilled and unskilled labour. In fact Marx is wrong when he tries to explain the difference by saying one person's labour can be worth more than another's because it has more average labour-time compounded within it. See below where Engels says Marx has no such conception regarding the "worth" of labour.
Dühring says that all labour-time is of absolutely equal value but one worker can have another's labour-time hidden within his own. For example, when I use a hammer made by another to do my work. The reason Marx can't see this, and actually thinks, one person's labour may be worth more than another's is his prejudice against giving the same value to the labour-time of a porter and to that of an architect. He also refers to Marx's theory as hazy lucubrations.
Engels tells us that the wrath of Dühring has been brought forth by a passage in Das Kapital (it is found in section two of Chapter One of Vol. 1) in which Marx distinguishes between skilled and unskilled labour. It runs as follows: "But the value of a commodity represents human labour in the abstract, the expenditure of human labour in general. And just as in society, a general or a banker plays a great part, but mere man, on the other hand, a very shabby part, so here with mere human labour. It is the expenditure of simple labour power, i.e., of the labour power which, on an average, apart from any special development, exists in the organism of every ordinary individual. Simple average labour, it is true, varies in character in different countries and at different times, but in a particular society it is given. Skilled labour counts only as simple labour intensified, or rather, as multiplied simple labour, a given quantity of skilled being considered equal to a greater quantity of simple labour. Experience shows that this reduction is constantly being made. A commodity may be the product of the most skilled labour, but its value, by equating it to the product of simple unskilled labour, represents a definite quantity of the latter labour alone. The different proportions in which different sorts of labour are reduced to unskilled labour as their standard, are established by a social process that goes on behind the backs of the producers, and, consequently, appear to be fixed by custom. For simplicity’s sake we shall henceforth account every kind of labour to be unskilled, simple labour; by this we do no more than save ourselves the trouble of making the reduction."
The main thing to notice is that Marx is talking about measuring the value of commodities that their producers exchange with one another in a simple society of commodity production. There is no such thing as "absolute value" involved and Marx is only setting up his definitions and categories in this first chapter of Das Kapital. Here he only states the relation between simple and compound labour, or skilled and unskilled labour. Engels remarks that this process of reducing skilled to unskilled labour in order to quantify it as a measure of value, at this point, "can only be stated but not as yet explained." Dühring is jumping the gun.
Not only that, but, Engels maintains, labour itself can have no value because value "is nothing
else than the expression of the socially necessary human labour materialized in an object." Labour is the measure of value and speaking of the value of labour is like speaking of the weight of heaviness. Here Engels remarks on Dühring's "brazenness" in his assertion earlier that Marx thought the labour time of one person was more valuable than that of another and that labour has a value. It was Marx "who first demonstrated that labour CAN have NO value, and why it cannot" [it is the measure of value not value itself].
This notion of Marx's is very important for socialism, Engel insists, as it is crucial for the socialist goal of liberating labour power "from its status as a COMMODITY." It is also the clue to the view, unlike Dühring's that distribution and production are completely separate departments within capitalism, that distribution will be geared to the interests of production and that production itself will be governed, reciprocally, "by a mode of distribution which allows ALL members of society to develop, maintain and exercise their capacities with maximum universality."
Dühring is simply wrong if he thinks every worker creates the same amount of value in the same amount of time. One worker works faster, another slower, one has more skill, another less, that is why an average has to be arrived at which is the basis of the notion of "socially necessary labour time." This is also why the slogan "Equal wages for equal labour time" is really a bit utopian. Unions of course demand equal hourly wages for all workers in the the same job grade because of the difficultly of measuring the value that each worker actually creates. Now that some unions have agreed to a two tier wage system even they are tacitily admitting the impracticability of "Equal wages for equal labour time." Anyway women and minorities and nonunionists have often been paid less for the same labour time. This results in a tendency for union wages to decline, as we now see happening. If working people only understood the socialist model of economics they would never tolerate the treatment doled out to them by the owning class.
How will the distinction between unskilled (simple) and skilled (compound) labour be handled under socialism? Engels says that under private production the costs of training a worker to become a skilled worker is paid for by private individuals and so they reap the rewards. A trained slave sells for more money and a skilled worker gets a higher wage.
However, under socialism the cost of training is borne by society [or the state]. The worker therefore has no right to higher pay for the extra values he creates. The extra value is reaped by society and used for general social purposes (education, medical care, food subsidies, the fire department, etc). This explains why medical doctors in socialist societies are seen as underpaid. They are not. The state paid for their skill and they work for fair wages, not having astronomical debts to pay off to private lenders, etc. Another slogan bites the dust here as it is not possible to adhere to it in either capitalism or socialism and that is the worker's demand that they should get "the full proceeds of labour." Under socialism the full preceeds of labour are collectively distributed throughout society on the basics of social needs. It is only in this sense that the workers can receive the "full" proceeds of their labour.
XV. Capital and Surplus Value
In chapters seven and eight of part two of Anti-Dühring ("Capital and Surplus Value"), Engels continues his role as Marx's bulldog. Again, Herr Dühring has gone too far in his criticisms of Marx and must be put in his place by sounder judgment and sharper intellect. Dühring has claimed Marx says that "capital is born of money" and the birth pangs took place at the "opening of the sixteenth century." Dühring calls Marx's ideas a mixture of history and logic which have become "bastards of historical and logical fantasy."
This upsets Engels to no end who himself responds that Dühring has "a crude and inept manner of expressing himself. Marx's real statement on this subject is found in Das Kapital vol 1, part 2, chapter 4 "The General Formula For Capital" where he writes: "As a matter of history, capital, as opposed to landed property invariably takes the form at first of money; it appears as moneyed wealth, as the capital of the merchant and of the usurer. But we have no need to refer to the origin of capital in order to discover that the first form of the appearance of capital is money. We can see it daily under our very eyes. All new capital to commence with, comes on the stage, that is, on the market, whether as commodities, labour, or money, even in our days, in the shape of money that by a definite process has to be transformed into capital."
But how does this transformation take place. Capital is used to invest to make more money and more capital. So how do I turn money into capital? Engels says when I take my own commodities to market I sell them to get money to buy things I need to live on. This is simple exchange. The capitalist goes to market to buy things he does not need to live on; he buys them in order to sell them for what he paid plus a profit-- and increment in money. "Marx calls this increment
But where does it come from? Capitalism results in an increase in the values in circulation so it can't come from cheating (that would effect the distribution not the amount of values) nor
from buying under or selling above the values of the commodities because the sum of values still remains the same. Yet capitalists do accumulate riches by selling dearer than they have bought."This problem," Engels says,"must be solved, and it must be solved in a PURELY ECONOMIC way, excluding all cheating and the intervention of any force-- the problem being: how is it possible constantly to sell dearer than one has bought, even on the hypothesis that equal values are always exchanged for equal values?"
The most important contribution of Marx to economic thought was the solution to this problem; Engels calls it "epoch-making." Here is the solution as presented by Engels. The increment doesn't take place in the money itself, nor in the price of the commodity sold (at this stage we are dealing with the exchange of equivalents: price = value, later we see how they can
differ). But something does change in the bought commodity--not its exchange VALUE but its USE-VALUE. The increment takes place during the commodity's consumption; and not just any commodity, but a very specific one.
Here is what Marx says about this from Das Kapital vol 1, chapter vi "The Buying and Selling of Labour Power": "In order to be able to extract value from the consumption of a commodity, our friend, Moneybags, must be so lucky as to find, within the sphere of circulation, in the market, a commodity, whose use-value, whose actual consumption, therefore, is itself an embodiment of labour, and, consequently, a creation of value. The possessor of money does find on the market such a special commodity in capacity for labour or labour-power."
But how is the value of labour-power determined? Again Marx: "The value of labour-power is determined, as in the case of every other commodity, by the labour-time necessary for the production, and consequently also the reproduction, of this special article. So far as it has value, it represents no more than a definite quantity of the average labour of society incorporated in it. Labour-power exists only as a capacity, or power of the living individual. Its production consequently pre-supposes his existence. Given the individual, the production of labour-power consists in his reproduction of himself or his maintenance. For his maintenance he requires a given quantity of the means of subsistence. Therefore the labour-time requisite for the production of labour-power reduces itself to that necessary for the production of those means of subsistence; in other words, the value of labour-power is the value of the means of subsistence necessary for the maintenance of the labourer."
This also includes the cost of raising a family of little baby laborers to take his place in the next generation. Suppose a worker could produce in six hours the value of goodies he needs to live on and Moneybags gives the worker the full value of his labor power. The goodies cost
$60 and that is what the capitalist gives the worker, paying him $10 an hour. The worker has also made $60 worth of goodies for the capitalist. An even exchange-- no increment for the capitalist.
What to do? The capitalist will hire the worker for $5 an hour for 12 hours. This is what free labor and the labor market are all about. After 12 hours the worker gets his agreed upon wage, buys his $60 of goodies and goes home. The capitalist however has been left with $60 from the first 6 hours AND $60 from the last 6 hours of the worker's toil. He sells the first $60 worth of goodies and gets his money back-- and sells the surplus $60 of goodies and makes a profit; a profit he did not work for but that he expropriates from the surplus value created by the worker. And this, Engels says, is how the "trick has been performed. Surplus-value has been produced; money has been converted into capital." Marx has thus demonstrated how surplus-plus value is created and has revealed "the core around which the whole existing social order has crystallized."
Now, under capitalism there is a "prerequisite" without which the capitalist can not get his hands on surplus-value and that is he must go to market and hire a FREE LABOURER. That is, a worker who can sell his labour power as a commodity and it is the only commodity he can sell. This is the condition working people have found themselves in since the end of the fifteenth century and the disintegration of the feudal order. Marx says "It is clearly the result of a past historical development." Marx and Engels appeared after this transitional period had been underway for about 400 years and we are two centuries further on than they. The present great world wide capitalist depression may or maynot be the "final conflict" which will mark the disintegration of capitalism and the arrival of the socialist order but as Marxists we must always be open to that possibility and continue to hold down the fort.
What is the upshot of all of Dühring's criticism of Marx and his proposed explanation of how capitalism works? Well, we need not go over all of Dühring's arguments and bombast against Marx. Suffice it to say that Engels concludes that Dühring actually steals his ideas from Marx, puts them forth in his own words and style and attacks Marx to cover up his theft; as Engels puts it Dühring "commits a clumsy plagiarism of Marx."
Just what, then, is the difference in Dühring's conception of capital and Marx's? For Marx every class dominated mode of production sweats surplus labour out of the productive class-- be they slaves, serfs, or modern workers (wage slaves). But it is only when, under a regime based on commodity production for a market, when the means of production employ surplus labour in the form of surplus value, that we have capitalism. This is a specific historical stage in the evolution of production. Dühring says any system that uses "surplus labour in any form" produces capital. He thus blurs the distinctions between different modes of production and makes capital an eternal law of nature with regard to economic activity.
What is more, for Dühring surplus value becomes simply the earnings of capital and is equivalent to profit. Whereas Marx makes it very clear in volume one of Das Kapital that surplus value should NOT be confused with profit. Dühring appears to only credit the capitalist in his role as a manufacturer as generating profit (surplus value.) Since Dühring claims to be explaining what Marx believes, Engels points out that Dühring should have paid more attention to what Marx ACTUALLY wrote. The profit made by the MERCHANT, Marx clearly says, is also a part of surplus value and the merchant can make a profit only because the industrial or manufacturing capitalist sells his product to him BELOW its full value "and thus relinquishes to him a part of the booty."
There are other subforms of surplus value besides manufacture's and merchant's profit, e.g., interest and ground-rent. But the explanations of these subdivisions will have to await volumes two and three of capital: only the outlines are being laid down in volume one. The complete explanation awaits "a scientific analysis of competition" and we can't make that analysis until the real inner nature, the essence, of capital is revealed in volume one. Engels gives as an analogy the understanding we have of the seeming motions of the planets which is based on knowledge of their real motions "which are not directly perceptible to the senses." [Empiricists take note!] Nevertheless, Marx gives us enough information in volume one to at least grasp in broad outline the subforms of surplus value to be dealt with in the later volumes.
It is because he doesn't know how competition works and also doesn't understand what Marx has said about it in volume one of Das Kapital, that Herr Dühring can't figure out how capitalists get back all that they have put out plus the surplus product at prices way above "the natural outlays of production." Where does this profit come from? He can't answer this question so he flees from the field of economics to that of politics and claims that the capitalist imposes a surcharge on his products by means of force. But Engels says FORCE can seize wealth but cannot produce it. Not only that, but Dühring leaves unexplained the ORIGIN of force itself. Dühringian economics gets us nowhere.
But all is not lost for Herr Dühring. His research finally leads him to some correct answers, although his distinctive way of expressing himself is not as clear as we might wish. Engels provides two quotes from Dühring that are on the right track. "IN EVERY CASE THE NET PROCEEDS OBTAINED BY THE UTILIZATION OF LABOUR-POWER CONSTITUTE THE INCOME OF THE MASTER...." And:"The characteristic feature of earnings of capital is that they are AN APPROPRIATION OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE PROCEEDS OF LABOUR-POWER."
What, Engels asks, is the INCOME OF THE MASTER but the surplus product the worker makes after the deduction for wages? What is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE PROCEEDS OF LABOUR-POWER but that part which comes after the worker has created the value of his own maintenance-- i.e., surplus value? So where did Herr Dühring finally get a clue to the correct explanation of the relation between capital and surplus value? He got it, Engels says by "in his own style, DIRECTLY COPYING from CAPITAL"[i.e., volume one of Das Kapital]. So much for Herr Dühring's alternative theory of economics.
XVI. The Natural Laws of Economics and Ground Rent
Engels deals with Dühring's views on ground rent and the natural laws of economics in chapter nine of part two ("Political Economy") of his famous book "Anti-Dühring." Dühring claims that his theories on capitalism and socialism are the scientifically correct ones, not the overrated views of Herr Karl Marx, and that the worker's movement should follow his ideas not those of Marx and Engels. Engels proposes to look at Dühring's views on the "natural laws" of economics and of ground rent to see if there is anything to them.
The FIRST NATURAL LAW of economics, somehow overlooked by Adam Smith and others, has been discovered by Herr Dühring and is thusly quoted by Engels: "The productivity of the economic instruments, natural resources and human energy is increased by INVENTIONS and DISCOVERIES." This is pretty vapid, according to Engels, as are the following four other "laws" discovered by Herr Dühring. Law Two: (the division of labour) "The cleaving of trades and the dissection of activities raises the productivity of labour." Law Three: "DISTANCE AND TRANSPORT are the chief causes which hinder or facilitate the co-operation of the productive forces." Law Four: "The industrial state has an incomparably greater population capacity than the agricultural state." And finally, Law Five: "In economics nothing takes place without a material interest."
Engels says that Dühring's method in explicating economics is the same as in his discussions of philosophy: poorly expressed commonplaces and banal formulations of so-called natural laws. Dühring gives no proofs, just dogmatic assertions about the nature of wages, the earnings of capital and the nature of ground rent. In previous articles we have discussed Dühring's views on capital, wages, and surplus value, so now let us turn our attention to the meaning of "ground rent."
In his own words, Dühring says ground-rent is "that income which the proprietor AS SUCH draws from the land." But this is a legal right of the proprietor, it doesn't tell us what the economic basis of ground-rent is, so Dühring must dig a little deeper. Engels says he then compares a farm lease to "the loan of capital to an entrepreneur" but come across a "hitch" in so doing. The "hitch" is that we are not dealing with natural laws but historically developed laws. Ground-rent, Engels points out "is a part of political economy which is specifically English."
This is because England developed an economic system in which "rent had in fact been separated from profit and interest." Unlike Germany (Dühring's model) England developed large scale agricultural industries and the farmer (unlike the German peasant) hires workers to work his lands "on the lines of full-fledged capitalist entrepreneurs."
In England we have the three main bourgeois classes and their incomes: landlords getting ground-rent, capitalists getting profits, and workers getting wages. In England it is quite clear, though Dühring doesn't see it, that the farmer's income is "profit on capital." This has been known at least since the time of Adam Smith.
Smith (The Wealth of Nations) tells us labour revenue is called WAGES, that from stocks, etc., PROFIT, and from the land RENT. This is very clear when each type goes to different individuals, the worker, the capitalist, the landlord. However when the same individual gets two or more of these types of income "they are sometimes confounded with one another."
This is exactly what Herr Dühring is guilty of, according to Engels. Dühring sees that the capitalist farmer exploits rural labour and this exploitation puts revenue in his pocket, thus it becomes unavailable to the landlord as rent. So, the capitalist farmer is living on "rent" (not the exploitation of surplus labour) which has been taken from that which would have been available to the landlord.
In this amazing notion, that the landlord pays "rent" to his tenant farmer, we can see just how confused Dühring really is. Dühring thinks that ground-rent is "the whole surplus product obtained in farming by the exploitation of rural labour." Everyone else who has seriously studied this subject divides the surplus product from agriculture into ground-rent AND profit on capital.
But Dühring thinks there is NO real difference between the earnings of capital and ground rent; the one is revenue from industry and/or commerce the other from agriculture. This is the result of his view that all surplus wealth is the result of the subjugation and domination of man by man. The agricultural surplus is rent and the industrial surplus is profit on capital.
Dühring's views pit him against the views of "all classical political economy" which divides agricultural surplus into both the profit of the farmer AND ground rent.
Engels has accomplished what intended in this chapter of Anti-Dühring--i.e., that Dühring doesn't understand what ground rent is. Engels has not, however, explained just what it is himself.
It is not my purpose here to give an exposition on ground rent and the distinctions between rent, profits of production and interest, all of which are derived from the surplus value created by labour power. For this I refer you to volume three of Das Kapital.
I will note, however, that the notion of ground rent is a controversial subject as can be seen from a recent article by Benjamin Kunkel in THE LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS of Feb. 3, 2011. In "How Much is too Much" Kunkel reviews two recent books by David Harvey, THE ENIGMA OF CAPITAL: AND THE CRISES OF CAPITALISM and A COMPANION TO MARX'S 'CAPITAL'.
Kunkel points out that many Marxists are embarrassed by the concept of ground rent because it SEEMS difficult to reconcile the labour theory of value with the concept of rent since unimproved land doesn't incorporate human labour power.
David Harvey suggests that ground rent is "fictitious capital" ["virtual" capital?] and writes that it is based on a "claim on future profits from the use of land or, more directly, a claim on future labour."
These discussions, however, take us beyond the parameters of Engels' critique of Eugen Dühring and his misconceptions regarding ground rent.
XVII. Marx's Chapter on Eugen Dühring
Anti-Dühring is Engels' enduring criticism of the mishmash of philosophy, science, and socialism published in Germany by Eugen Dühring (1833-1921) in the middle of the 19th century as an alternative to the thought of Karl Marx. Engels' book is divided into three parts-- philosophy, political science, and socialism. But Engels did not write every chapter in his famous book. Chapter 10, the last of the section on political economy, was written by his friend and life long collaborator Karl Marx. This article discusses Marx's opinions of Dühring in that chapter, entitled, "From the Critical History."
It is Dühring's 1871 work Critical History of Political Economy that Marx intends to critique, beginning with Dühring's claim that his work in Political Economy "is absolutely without precedent." Here we will find a definitive treatment of the subject in a scientific manner. The science is, he says, "peculiarly mine."
Dühring's first great "discovery" is that Political Science is a modern creation with no medieval or ancient roots. Marx points out, however, that this claim to modernity was already put forth by him in Capital and Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. The difference is that Marx begins with the great founders of this science(from William Petty (1623-1687) and Boisguillebert (1646-1714) to Ricardo (1772-1823) and Sismondi (1773-1842)) while Dühring begins with the "wretched abortions" of later bourgeois economists. Marx also has respect for the medieval and classical traditions.
Of course, since Political Science was founded in an attempt to scientifically understand modern CAPITALISM, you will not find it in the classical (slave) world , nor the middle ages (feudal). Capitalist societies are based on commodity production and exchange but there was limited commodity production and exchange in both the classical period and the Middle Ages and what the Ancients and other pre-moderns had to say about it is still worth while; Marx especially defends the economic writings of Aristotle (384-322 BC) and Plato (427-347 BC) from Dühring's unerudite "criticisms."
Dühring is also ignorant of the history and development of political economy in the modern period. For example, he takes a minor work [Antonio Serra's Breve trattato of 1613 as a defining work of Mercantilism-- the dominant economic theory of capitalism for its first 250 years of existence, ending around the time of Adam Smith (1723-1790)] while completely ignoring Thomas Mun's (1571-1641) A Discourse of Trade of 1609 which was "the mercantilist gospel" for the entire Seventeenth Century.
Worse than that is Dühring's treatment of William Petty, "the founder of modern political economy." After much hard thinking and many investigations, Petty in 1662
formulated one of the bed rock foundations of political economy as a science (Treatise on Taxes and Contributions). Here, Marx says he "lays it down in a definite and general form that the values of commodities must be measured by equal labour." Further, in a work of 1672 (Anatomy of Ireland) Petty has overcome "the last vestiges of mercantilist views."
These are great intellectual feats for the founder of the new science. Marx says about Petty, and this applies to Marx himself in our day, that what is "quite natural in a writer who is laying the foundations of political economy and is necessarily feeling his way, experimenting and struggling with a chaos of ideas which are only just taking shape, may seem strange in a writer who is surveying and summarizing more than a hundred and fifty years of investigation whose results have already passed in part from books into the consciousness of the generality." That Dühring fails to grasp this and thinks that "there is fair measure of superficiality" in Petty's thinking, only shows, Marx avers, that Dühring is a "vainglorious and pedantic mediocrity."
One of Petty's great successors was the the philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) who, besides his works on the social contract and the foundations of epistemology, also wrote an important work in the fledgling science of political economy: Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interests and Raising the Value of Money, 1691.
Petty had already compared interest to "rent on money"-- i.e. to "rent of land and houses." His position was that all rent should be unregulated and determined by the market. This, of course, is a reactionary view today but not so in 1691. This was part of the fight against Mercantilism which progressives in those days rightly viewed as a system that held back social and economic progress by using the state to impose import duties and taxes to defend domestic markets and subsidize exports.
Trying to regulate interest rates, i.e., rent on money, Petty felt was "against the law of nature". Petty, Marx wrote, "declared that legislative regulation of the rate of interest was as stupid as regulation of exports of precious metals [a pillar of Mercantilism] or regulation of exchange rates." Ideas that are reactionary and unworkable today (just think of the ridiculous economic and philosophical bloviations of Ayn Rand and her followers) in the end stage of capitalism, were forward looking and progressive during it birth pangs.
Locke, whose economic essay, basically followed Petty's lead, had a great influence in those European countries struggling to go beyond the strictures of the Mercanilists or economic nationalists. Petty, who is, incidentally credited with the invention of the laissie faire school, was also supported by Sir Dudley North (1641-1691) in A Discourse on Trade, 1691, a contemporary of Locke's, whose work, Marx says "is a classical exposition, driven home with relentless logic, of the doctrine of free trade-- both foreign and internal…."
Locke and North deserve credit for furthering Petty's views and in developing them along new lines. But Dühring sees none of this. For Marx, the period 1691-1752 is crucial for the understanding of the development of political science. In was in this period that the writers influenced by Petty, Locke, North, and others, laid down the foundations for overthrowing Mercantilism. This period is a blank page for Herr Dühring. Dühring passes directly to David Hume (1711-1776) and the physiocrats. Marx has many interesting things to say about Hume as an economist (his philosophy is not mentioned) and why Dühring is so enamored with him.
Hume published his Economic Essays in 1752 and they are, in our current terminology, basically a plagerised version of the 1734 work of Jacob Vanderlint (died 1740) Money Answers All Things. While Hume almost literally follows Vanderlint, he is, according to Marx, "less profound." Dühring is unaware of Vanderlint and praises Hume while none the less failing to understand what he says.
Since Dühring doesn't have a real understanding of Hume I will just present Marx's views for the record. Hume's theory of money is that money is just a TOKEN of value and, ceteris paribus, "commodity prices rise in proportion to the increase in the volume of money in circulation, and fall in proportion to its decrease." Hume is basically saying that the increase in the amount of gold and silver in circulation, due to the imports from the New World, increases the prices of commodities. He also notes that this takes some time to spread through out the country until it finally trickles down to the working people: in Hume's words "it must first quicken the diligence of every individual before it increases the price of labour." So old is Reaganomics.
But Hume is not, according to Marx, addressing the "real scientific question" in this description-- i.e., how an increase in money "affects the prices of commodities." However, Marx does not answer this question here as he really wants to remark on Hume's theory of INTEREST. Hume says it is the not the money supply but the rate of profit that regulates the amount of interest (here he attacks Locke's view). Hume's theory is not original. Just as he got almost all his ideas from Vanderlint on most economic issues, his interest theory is just a rehash, and not as exact, of the work of J. Massie (died 1784) An Essay on the Governing Causes of the Natural Rate of Interest, 1750.
Hume, by the way, maintains a low interest rate means a nation is in a "flourishing condition." Well maybe in his day-- but we have low interest rates in the USA and we are hardly "flourishing", at least with respect to the majority of the population which is made up of working people.
There are other problems with Hume's ideas, according to Marx. Marx says "he had not the slightest understanding of the function of the precious metals as the measure of value." This is because he didn't know what "value" itself meant in terms of capitalist production. For example, he corrects Locke for holding that the precious metals only have "an imaginary value" by saying what they really have is "a fictitious value." These views are "much inferior" not only to those of Petty but to his contemporaries as well who were writing on these subjects-- esp. his friend Adam Smith.
Hume also is blind to the economic world coming into existence all around him. He holds to the outmoded view "that the 'merchant' is the mainspring of production." Despite these limitations, Marx concedes that in his day Hume was still a "respectable" political economist. His criticism is meant to dispel the over wrought praise Hume is given by Dühring. Because, while respectable, Marx adds, "he is anything but an original investigator, an even less an epoch making one."
Why does Marx think that Dühring likes Hume so much? It is because Dühring identified with Hume. Hume was denounced by the church for some of his views, but not so much as Gibbon was for his, Dühring too fell afoul of the authorities for some of his views. Hume attained a better reputation as a philosopher, and Dühring thinks that will also be his fate (it was not to be.)
Marx can't resist giving two quotes which many Hume fans would resent. The first is from a popular German world history book by Friedrich Schlosser (1766-1861): "In politics Hume was and always remained conservative and strongly monarchist in his views." He was also highly racist in his views on Africans. And William Cobbett (1762-1835) calls him "selfish" and a "lying Historian" [Hume wrote a history of England] and implies he was an hypocrite for attacking monks for their fatness, their not having wives or children and begging for their bread while he himself was without "a family or a wife and was a great fat fellow, fed, in considerable part, out of public money, without having merited it by any real public services."
Well, enough about Hume. Marx next turns his attention to Dühring and the physiocrats, especially the Tableau Economique of Francois Quesnay (1694-1744). Marx says Dühring's attempt to explain Quesnay's economic theories (the physiocrats were the first real school of modern economics, not counting the Mercantilists as modern!, and Quesnay was the founder) is completely mixed up and confused and shows, once again, that Dühring doesn't know what he is talking about. But so that WE can understand what the school was all about, Marx undertakes to explain it for our benefit.
The physiocrats divided society into three classes: the PRODUCTIVE class-- i.e., agricultural workers and farmers-- all wealth comes from a nation's agricultural production; the LANDLORDS [landowners, the nobility, the Church] who live off of the surplus produced by the farmers; and the STERILE class [the industrial bourgeoisie, merchants, etc, who live off of the raw materials and surpluses of the productive class. Where's the proletariat? Sorry, 17th century France was too backward to have noticed this newly developing class.
Quesnay is not describing the actually real existing economy of France-- he is constructing a simple MODEL that represents a starting point for understanding the actual economy (just as Marx did in Das Kapital). Marx says Quesday makes three premises to simplify the model: 1) he only looks at circulation between the classes and not within them; 2) he only deals with simple reproduction and constant prices; and 3) he treats all the annual purchases between the classes as a lump sum. Marx also notes that at this time almost all the non-food articles consumed by peasant families in Europe were home made and "treated as supplementary to agriculture."
Lets start the ball rolling: the Tableau (all figures are based on the value of French money in the 17th century) the total value of the harvest for one year is the starting point. This amount will be the "total reproduction" in France for that year-- let us refer to it as 5 economic units [5EU-- this was 5 million livres in those days].
Since the farmers are the only productive class they have the entire 5EU to themselves. They produced it by investing 2EU in seeds, etc., so they have a surplus of 3EU. They give 2EU to the landlords as RENT and the landlords then buy food from them in the amount of 1EU for the year so now the farmers have 2EU and the landlords 1EU.
With their 1EU left, the landlords buy the things they need to live on, etc., [other than agricultural goods] from the STERILE class. The farmers also buy from the Sterile class say 1EU but the sterile class has to buy food from the farmers but it does not buy back as much in EUs from the farmers as the farmers gave to it because, instead of a fair trade in equivalents, the sterile class has extracted a profit from the farmers by selling their commodities to them above the cost of production AND above their real value.
By the end of the year it is time to reap another harvest and the cycle continues. I have simplified Marx's exposition because the physiocrats are now only of historical interest and the main point has been shown-- i.e., that for them all wealth is produced by the farmers and is then distributed about society to the other classes.
Having finished with the physiocrats Marx makes two more observations on Dühring's incompetence. First, Dühring thinks that the physiocratic school ended with Turgot (1727-1781) the originator of the Idea of Progress and controller-general of France, 1774-76, in charge of economic reforms under Louis XVI. But Marx says the school actually ended with Mirabeau (1749-1791) "the leading economic authority in the Constituent Assembly of 1789."
Second, Dühring barely mentions Sir James Steuart (1712-1780) whose work was between Hume and Adam Smith and who "permanently enriched the domain of political economy" (with An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Economy, 1767). And what he does say about him is wrong.
Marx ends his chapter with the opinion that Dühring's Critical History is not worth reading, and he is particularly upset that Dühring begins his history with the large landlords of ancient history and doesn't know anything about "the common ownership of land in the tribal and
village communities, which is the real starting-point of all history."
And with that said, we conclude our review of Part II of Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science.
XVIII. The Historical Development of Modern Socialism
In the first chapter of Part Three of his classic work Anti-Dühring, Engels discusses the origins of the modern socialist movement. He begins with the enthronement of "Reason" by the pre-revolutionary 18th century French philosophers who thought that only reason could be used to answer any of the questions of existence.
After the overthrow of Louis XVI and the abolition of the monarchical French state, a new state was constructed by the revolutionaries-- one based on "eternal" reason and designed to be completely rational. The spiritual progenitor of this state was Rousseau's book The Social Contract.
But "eternal" reason turned out to be simply the explanation of existence from the point of view of the rising bourgeois class. The complexity of the new political reality they had created quite eluded them as the contradictions between their class and the newly conscious masses of the disposed poor of Paris and the countryside began to manifest themselves.
The wretched of the earth exerted themselves and the bourgeois rational state fell apart and morphed into the Reign of Terror under which the masses, for a moment, gained "the mastery" and saved the Revolution. With the abolition of feudalism the bourgeoisie had expected social peace but instead got a furious international response and the development of an intense struggle between the poor and the rich at home.
After Robespierre and the Jacobins, representing the French masses, were overthrown on 9 Thermidor Year II (July 27, 1794) by the conservative bourgeoisie, the new ruling class lost faith in its own ability to rule. After five years of corrupt government under the Directory, they surrendered to the coup d'etat of Napoleon Bonaparte on 18 Brumaire Year IX (November 9, 1799).
All this turmoil was a reflection of the "development of industry upon a capitalist basis [which] made poverty and misery of the working masses conditions of existence of society." From the dispossessed Paris masses (the "have-nothings" and other disadvantaged groups the proletariat began to develop "as the nucleus of a new class." However, at this time "the antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, was still very incompletely developed."
At this historical juncture the three "founders" of socialism appeared: Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Owen. First on the scene was Claude Henri Comte de Saint-Simon (1760-1825). The Revolution was supposed to be a victory of the Third Estate (production workers) over a ruling class of idlers (the nobility and the Catholic hierarchy and its priests). But, in reality Engels says, the victory did not go to the Third Estate as a whole but only that part of it owning property, "the socially privileged part."
Saint-Simon saw the Revolution as a struggle between "workers" (anyone engaged in productive activity) and "idlers"-- people living off unearned income. For him "the workers were not only the wage workers, but also the manufacturers, the merchants, and the bankers." Science and Industry must move to the forefront and lead the revolution. The undeveloped nature of the class struggle within the Third Estate is apparent-- the proletariat and the capitalists are in the same "class." (I can't say the vast majority of the American people have gone much beyond that stage of consciousness yet but it has recently begin to dawn on them that class struggle is real).
Saint-Simon's heart was in the right place as he wanted to improve the conditions of the lowest and greatest number of the Third Estate-- what would become the proletariat and included the masses of downtrodden peasants, the most numerous and poor; Engels quotes him: "la class la plus nombreuse et la plus pauvre." However his socialism was utopian as he expected the bankers to lead the way into the new world! "The bankers especially were to be called upon to direct the whole of social production by the regulation of credit." Ironically the bankers today, the finance capitalists, do control production but in their interests not those of "la plus nombreuse et la plus pauvre."
Saint-Simon actually thought the rich bourgeoisie, bankers and manufactures, would change themselves into public servants and use their ruling positions to help the poor and oppressed. But at least he realized the "poor and oppressed" made up the majority of "the people" (Third Estate). In fact Engels credits him with understanding that the Revolution was a three way struggle-- Nobility vs. the Bourgeoisie AND the propertyless masses even though there was a tendency to group the latter two together when contrasted to the Nobility.
His greatness was in proclaiming that "all men ought to work" and recognizing that within the bourgeois revolution the Reign of Terror represented the power of "the toiling masses" against the haut bourgeoisie. Engels quotes Saint-Simon addressing himself to the poor masses: "See what happened in France at the time when your comrades held sway there; they brought about a famine." The "they" are the bourgeois enemies of Robespierre and the rule of the Parisian sans culottes.
Saint-Simon also saw a future where economics was more important than politics , i.e., the administration of things (planned economy) over the administration of people (the bourgeois state)-- i.e, he envisioned "the abolition of the state." We find in Saint-Simon the seeds, Engels says, of "almost all the ideas of later Socialists that are not strictly economic."
Following on the appearance of Saint-Simon came the ideas of Francois-Marie Charles Fourier (1772-1837). He contrasted the actual living conditions of the people after the establishment of bourgeois rule ("material and moral misery") with the pictures of what life would be like painted by their pre-revolutionary propaganda and by the "rose-colored phraseology of the bourgeois ideologists of his time."
In his first book, The Theory of the Four Movements (1808) he wrote, "Social progress and changes of a period are accompanied by the progress of women towards freedom, while the decay of the social system brings with it a reduction of the freedoms enjoyed by women." Therefore, "Extension of the rights of women is the basic principle of all social progress."
Engels says of him, with respect to the above passage, that: "He was the first to declare that in any given society the degree of woman's emancipation is the natural measure of the general emancipation." This not only tells us a lot about Saudi Arabia, but where our own society is heading with its failure to pass an Equal Rights Amendment and the movement to restrict the right to abortion, as well as the recent Supreme Court ruling that the woman discriminated against for years at Walmart have no right to a class action suit to redress their grievances.
Fourier also divided the history of human development up to the present era into "four stages of evolution," which were 1.) Savagery 2.) the Patriarchate 3.) Barbarism, and 4.) Civilization. In this scheme "Civilization" appears with the development of capitalism in the 1500s and he says "that the civilized stage raises every vice practiced by barbarism in a simple fashion into a form of existence, complex, ambiguous, equivocal [and] hypocritical."
Engels says that for Fourier civilization develops along "a vicious circle" throwing up contradictions it cannot resolve and arriving at the exact opposite destinations that it wants to arrive at or at least pretends to want to arrive at so that, as Fourier writes, "under civilization POVERTY IS BORN OF SUPER-ABUNDANCE ITSELF." For example the US, the richest country in the world, has 25% of its children at or under the official poverty line-- a completely ridiculous society!
One of the things Engels admires about Fourier is his masterly use of the dialectical method in his writings, which he compares to that of Hegel "his contemporary." Engels also says something curious here. He says Fourier postulates the "ultimate destruction of the human race" which he introduced into historical science just as Kant had introduced the "ultimate destruction of the Earth" into natural science. But, in this pre-Star Trek world, Kant's end of the Earth scenario would have entailed the end of the human race as well.
Saint-Simon and Fourier were products of the French Revolution but, Engels points out, at the same time over in England just as great a revolution was taking place. The whole basis of bourgeois society was being changed by the development of steam engines and tool making machines and manufacture (from the Latin "manus" hand) was being replaced by gigantic factories were machines tended by workers began to to turn out commodities rather than commodities directly made by them, "thus revolutionizing the whole foundation of bourgeois society."
This industrial revolution began to divide society in to a powerful group of capitalists on one hand, and propertyless proletarians on the other. The heretofore large and stable middle class began to break up and tended to be forced down into the lower class of workers-- "it now led a precarious existence." Sound familiar?
However, then the term "middle class" had a different meaning than it does now. Then it meant the class of artisans and small shop keepers who thrived in the era of manufacture. Now it is used to refer to an income group consisting of well paid workers and professionals whose wages were partially subsidized by the mega-profits of the imperialist international capitalist corporations who bought a modicum of social peace at home at the expense of the international solidarity of first world workers with third world workers and peasants by the creation of a labor aristocracy, according to Lenin, in the metropolitan countries.
Professionals such as lawyers, doctors and the parasitical class of preachers and priests were also included. With the decline of high paying production jobs in the West due to the rise of industry in the third world, among other factors, these high wage jobs are disappearing forcing the "middle class" down into lower paying jobs and so, as in the first days of capitalism, it now leads "a precarious existence."
Another difference is that today we have labor unions, pro-working class political parties and associations, and growing class awareness which is developing into a major class battle for the protection of people's jobs, life styles and incomes. This battle is just beginning and should grow as today's world capitalist system proceeds further down the path of decay and self destruction.
But in the England of the early 1800s, capitalism was on the rise and not the decline. It was into this world that the third great early founder of socialism arose: Robert Owen (1771-1858).
Owen was a materialist in philosophy and thought that humans were the product of their heredity (although at this time nothing was known of genes or DNA or any of the mechanisms of heredity) and their environment, most particularly their childhood environment.
For 29 years (1800-1829) he managed New Lanark the large cotton-mill employing around 2500 "hands" in Scotland. And, Engels says, by "simply placing the people in conditions worthy of human beings" the workers lived in a society without "drunkenness, police, magistrates, lawsuits, poor laws, [or] charity." He sent all the children off to school at age 2, put the working day at 101/2 hours (not the 13 or 14 that was the norm) and kept everyone on full wages when there was a four month shut down due to a cotton crisis AND made large profits and doubled the value of the business. Well, my goodness! Why didn't all the capitalists follow suit?
They didn't follow suit, for the same reason Owen fought with the other shareholders at new Lanark-- they didn't like the extra expenses that had to be put out for "conditions worthy of human beings." After Owen left in 1829 the community continued, in one form or another, under different capitalists, until 1968 when it went bust. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site drawing in around 400,000 tourists a year to visit it and the house where Owen lived.
In his work "The Revolution in Mind and Practice" (1849) Owen wrote he was unhappy with New Lanark because "The people were slaves at my mercy." He pointed out that New Lanark's 2500 workers, with steam power, created as much social wealth as it it took 600,000 workers to create a couple of generations earlier. Those 600,000 had to be paid living wages just as the 2500-- so what happened to all the surplus wealth saved in wages that would have gone to 597,500 extra workers? It was pocketed by the capitalists.
This new wealth was being generated all over England. It was being used to wage the wars of the Empire and to maintain an oppressive aristocratic and bourgeois order at home. "And yet this new power was the creation of the working class." Owen wanted this vast new wealth to go to the working class that created it for the building of a new society in which it would be, as Engels says "the common property of all, to be worked for the common good of all."
In his day, because of his reforms at New Lanark, Owen was considered a great philanthropist. He was lionized and respected and welcome at the tables of the rich and powerful. But as soon as he started talking about the working class creating all the wealth and how it ought to build a new society based on "common property" he was dropped like a hot potato, became persona non gratia, and shunned by official society. He therefore went to the working class and became a union leader and, Engels says, "Every social movement, every real advance in England on behalf of the workers links itself on to the name of Robert Owen."
Owen called for the overthrow of three great impediments to the advance of the working class and the reform of society along communist lines-- private property, religion, and "the present form of marriage (Engels)." Marriage is going through some radical changes nowadays and it is certainly very different from the forms of marriage Owen would have seen in the early 19th century. But private property and religion (i.e., supernaturalism and superstition) are still major impediments that hold back social progress for workers.
The last few pages of this chapter Engels devotes to vituperative attacks against Dühring and his negative views of the three utopians compared to whom Dühring is a pipsqueak. Engels says Dühring displays "a really frightful ignorance of the works of the three utopians." Their works are still worth reading (Dühring's are not) and whatever limitations they have were the result of the undeveloped conditions of early industrial capitalism.
But, since the time of the utopians and today (the 1870s) "modern industry has developed the contradictions laying dormant in the capitalist mode of production into such crying antagonisms that the approaching collapse of this mode of production is, so to speak, palpable."
Well they may have been "palpable" to Engels, but capitalism is still around, sad to say. And once again the palpability of capitalist collapse is in the air. From the looming default of Greece, to the threat of defaults spreading to Spain, Portugal and Italy which will bring down the Euro-zone and mobilize millions of workers to take to the streets of Europe, to the failure of the recovery in the United States and the desperate turn to the Tea Party by big capital to nurture home grown fascism to attack the workers and their unions, the smell of capitalist decay is everywhere. Let us hope this generation of workers will pay due to the long ago optimism of Frederick Engels.
XIX. The Theoretical Development of Modern Socialism
Engels discusses the theories of modern socialism in chapter two of part three of his book Anti-Dühring: Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science. We are informed that socialism is a politico-economic theory based on the materialist conception of history. Unlike idealist conceptions that history is based on the great ideas and actions of famous individuals (the view of Bertrand Russell for one), or guided by spiritual forces, or the expression of a grand plan set up by some deity or other (there are several choices as to which deity came up with the plan) materialists believe that the existence of the various institutions and social structures that have developed overtime, and by which various groups of humans arrange their social institutions, belief patterns, and social relations are to be understood, in the last analysis, by a study of how they interact to make their daily bread (production) and how they come to distribute what they made to each other (distribution). Thus the causes of the different phases of human development , Engels says, "are to be sought, not in the philosophy but in the economics of each particular epoch."
Today, Engels says (he means the 1870s in Europe but his comments are still as true now as then) there is a growing sense that something is basically wrong and unfair in how our national and international economic system operates. It can't employ all who wish to work, millions of people are living in poverty, famines droughts brought about by human activity engulf large sections of the globe and hunger stalks the streets of many of our largest cities, families are homeless and uprooted, and our schools and colleges fail to properly educate the youth to understand the world they live in. Yet a very small group of wealthy people grow richer and richer while the vast majority of humanity suffers and wastes away.
This shows, according to Engels, that new ways of production and distribution have evolved and that the social order we live in has not kept up with these developments. In fact our social order has become dysfunctional and is holding back all the possible potential improvements in human welfare that the new productive and distributive powers could provide. It is the task of socialists to discover and point out the current impediments which prevent the productive system from reaching its full potential and to discover the means of benefiting all humanity rather than just a small portion. And, he says: "These means are not to be invented, spun out of the head, but discovered with the aid of the head in the existing material facts of production."
Our present society is the creation of a class of people consisting of merchants, shopkeepers, owners of small manufacturing concerns, all those who made their living either by buying, selling, and trading commodities, small farmers who trucked their product to market and those who ministered to them (doctors, lawyers, teachers and preachers). Underneath this class was a class of laborers who made the commodities, or helped in their storage and distribution, upon which the former relied for their income. This latter class became the working class of today and the former the class of people living off of the surplus value created by the working class. Marx and others referred to them as the bourgeoisie or capitalists.
This mode of production, the creation of commodities for a market, has come to be called capitalism. The first capitalists found themselves subservient to a powerful ruling class of nobles consisting of feudal lords and (mostly) hereditary monarchs who lived by means of agricultural exploitation of serfs and taxation of the income of the developing bourgeoise. This ruling class stifled the productive capacity of the bourgeoise and prevented it from reaching its true potential. In other words, the bounds within which the feudal system restricted the capitalists were incompatible with that class's growing mode of production and so, Engels says, the "bourgeoisie broke up the feudal system and built upon its ruins the capitalist order of society."
Once the feudal bonds were broken (the French Revolution was one of the most dramatic instances) the capitalist mode of production flourished and developed the productive forces of society to unprecedented heights, only in its turn to find that its own associated method of distribution contradicted its mode of production. The social product is a collective creation of working people in all the branches of production but it is appropriated by a small number of capitalists who own and control the means by which this social product is created. The social product is then distributed in a way that increases the social wealth of the capitalist class at the expense of the well being of the working people, ultimately leading to their impoverishment. The only way the working people can free themselves from the exploitation of the capitalist class is by uniting together and abolishing it.
This conflict is waged daily in every work place, factory, field, and mine where the capitalist mode of production holds sway. This very active and real class warfare is a feature, 24/7, of daily life in almost every country on the face of the earth, and just like high blood pressure (the silent killer) it is going on and even intensifying whether the people involved are aware of it or not.
Engels says, "Modern socialism is nothing but the reflex in thought , of this conflict in fact; its ideal reflection in the minds, first, of the class directly suffering under it, the working class." The fact that in many countries many, and even most, working people are lacking this "reflex in thought" is testament to the power of the capitalist class, through its mass media and control of the education system, means of entertainment, and professional sports, to fill the heads of working people with illusions and a false sense of reality.
How did this class warfare between workers and capitalists begin? It was not to be found in the Middle Ages because the peasant farmers and handicraft men, or their families, made their own necessities by and large, and the products of their labor belonged to them. They could use them themselves or take them to market as commodities or pay their taxes and feudal dues in kind or exchange them with one another.
With the progress of invention it was possible for a person to set up shop with, say, many looms, and put many hands to work side by side with the peasant with his own loom in his hut making products for himself. Now the product of the man with many looms belonged to him and loom workers were given wages.
Engels says the old division of labor of the peasant village with products being exchanged in kind began to break up as this primitive factory system began to evolve. "In the midst of the old division of labour, grown up spontaneously and upon no definite plan, which had governed the whole of society, now arose division of labor upon a definite plan, as organized in the factory; side by side with individual production appeared social production." Planning locally, and eventually central planning, was a major feature of the success of capitalism. Whatever the problems of 20th century socialism were, they did not result from the use of central planning per se.
As the capitalist system evolved it eventually replaced individual production with social production but kept in place individual appropriation of the products that were produced-- thus creating a new class of exploited human beings that became known as the proletariat who soon began to stand outcast and starving amid the wonders they had made, which wonders were now the property of the bourgeoisie.
As production for a market became more and more wide spread it was soon discovered, Engels points out, that: "Anarchy reigns in socialized production." This is because no one can really tell what the fate of the the commodities they are making will be, will there be a demand for them, will they be sold at a profit or loss. Even with the planning involved in setting up the factory system there always remains this risk factor under capitalism.
Capitalism thus finds itself subject to the laws of EXCHANGE ("the only persistent form of social interrelations") which manifest themselves in competition. The anarchy became exacerbated since capitalism destroys competing modes of production and will not co-exist with them; thus handicrafts were replaced by the system of manufacture and manufacture by steam powered machinery.
This all happened under pressure of the age of discovery, starting roughly with the voyages of Columbus, and planting of colonies which vastly increased the number of markets and sealed the fate of the handicraft system which could not keep up with demand. It also led to the outbreaks of wars between nations fighting for market share-- a form of anarchistic behavior that still marks the world capitalist system.
It is at this point that Engels turns to Darwinian images to describe the relations of capitalists to one another. Both Marx and Engels were very impressed with The Origin of Species but neither were so-called "social Darwinists." Nevertheless today's globalization is simply an extension of the world market of the nineteenth century that Engels described as a universal struggle of existence between different capitalist elites and whole nations and those who fail are "remorselessly cast aside"-- unless, of course they get government stimulus money and bailouts.
"It is," Engels says, "the Darwinian struggle of the individual for existence transferred from nature to society with intensified violence." Capitalism reduces humanity back to its natural animal form of existence. This is the result of the intensification of the contradiction between socialized mode of production and the private capitalist appropriation of the social product.
One of the results of the unfettered competition between capitalists is that they lose control of their own economic system, as we see going on at present, and as it crashes the anarchy of production (which also reigns in the financial sector) forces "the great majority" of the people into becoming "proletarians." The current Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWSM) reflects the fact the "middle class" (actually a better paid strata of the working class mixed with small business people and professionals) is being forced into lower paid jobs, unemployment, bankruptcy, and debt and sees no way out for itself in this economy. They are becoming part of the surplus population (from the point of view of the capitalists) and don't like it. They have yet to fully realize that this is the natural outcome of capitalism and their only hope for a better life is to support socialist economic measures.
The OWSM is a natural response to what is the latest breakdown in the capitalist system. Engels dates the first general breakdown to the Crisis of 1825-- caused by over speculation by the banks (esp. the Bank of England) in unsound investments in Latin America (esp. Peru). Just as our current crisis, investors were given misinformation about the soundness of their investments and when the market collapsed were left holding bag. The banks use the term "asymmetric information" to note that what they know about the investment and what you know is different. The term "fraud" would be more to the point. In 1825 France bailed out England, in our current crisis the US taxpayers bailed out the banks.
These panics used to occur about every ten years but there was some stabilization after World War II and we had about 60 years of minor panics and recessions before this current world wide on going economic crash of the capitalist system-- with no end in sight. However, for Engels, what looks like a financial crisis is really a crisis in production. Socialized production has made too many goodies for the markets so factories laid off working people who then could not pay their bills-- esp. the fraudulent mortgages. Since the financial sector had cooked up so many mortgages based on "asymmetric information" the whole economy began to fall apart.
So many factories remain closed or under utilized that unemployment balloons, and the great productive forces available to our economy are dormant until the capitalists can figure how to get them going again in such a way that they, not the American people, can once again appropriate the wealth that will be created by the workers. The added twist of our day is that capitalists, their industries having become unproductive during the down turn, add to their profits by getting out of paying taxes, by adding fees and surcharges to service products, and by hiking interest rates to private borrowers (credit cards for example) even while commercial interest rates are held low by government intervention via the Federal Reserve.
As the corporate world flounders, as the auto industry recently did, it relies on "its official representative"-- namely the state-- to come to its aid. It should be obvious to all that the state which Lincoln called "of the people, for the people, by the people" is now "of, for, and by the corporations"-- it is their referee.
Engels says that the state will eventually be forced to take over the commanding heights of the economy simply because the capitalists can no longer control them due to the growing contradiction between the socialized productive forces (masses of workers united with or without unions in the creation of the social product in factories and industries and subject to increasing unemployment and poverty) and the private appropriation of the social product by the 1 to 10% of the ruling class and its top functionaries. The tipping point has not yet been reached, but it is coming-- if not in this crisis, then the next it will present itself.
This state takeover under capitalism is not yet socialism, Engels tells us, even though the commanding heights will have been converted into state property. However, the takeover reveals that all the functions of running the economy can be taken over by state "salaried employees." Since the "modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine" as it is forced to nationalize failing industries "it actually becomes the national capitalist." The state directly exploits the working people having done away with individual, and incompetent, private capitalists (done in by their own creation).
This is not a stable situation and in a democracy it cannot last. The contradiction between the state and the people brings "to a head" the capitalist relation between people and their government and this must "topple over." State capitalism is not, therefore, the answer to the class conflict, "but concealed within it are the technical conditions that form the elements" leading to that answer.
Once the people understand the source of their problems is the private appropriation of the social product, then the 99% can really set an agenda to put the 1% in their place. Here is what Engels thinks should happen. The people should set about " the harmonizing of the modes of production, appropriation, and exchange." Hopefully they can do this through political action and the regulation of the three modes. Engels says "it depends only upon ourselves to subject them to our own will" and if we don't do so these forces will continue to work against us and to master us. State capitalism will be transformed in the direction of socialism.
The greatest challenge is to become conscious of the need for what is to be done especially when that need is the take over of the economy by the people because "this understanding goes against the grain of the capitalist mode of production and its defenders"--i.e., the capitalists, the major political parties, the mass media, the mainstream churches, and the public and private education systems as well as the leadership of most unions and mass organizations as presently constituted.
Nevertheless, according to Engels, as the crisis deepens this consciousness will begin to develop in all of the above institutions except for the capitalist class itself and those completely dependent upon it. The working people and its allies and friends, the 99%, will have to take political power out of the hands of the corporations and their flunkies, if they have not already been nationalized, and turn the current privately held means of production into state property.
A by product of this action, the abolition of private property, is that the 1% will no longer have the means to dominate the 99%-- all people will be equally working for their own and the common good. This is what Engels means when speaking of the ending of classes and class exploitation.
An even more startling consequence, to both his own time and ours, is Engels' (and Marx's) belief that the state will disappear. Even the most jaded Libertarian or demented tea bagger could never hope to get government reduced to zero. But Engels points out that throughout history the role of the state has been to control the 99% in the interests of the 1%-- be they slave owners, feudal lords, or capitalists. This role will no longer exist in a society where everything (economically speaking) is owned and managed by the people collectively at the points of production and distribution. There will still be planning commissions and civic associations, but the state, as we know it, will be superfluous.
This doesn't mean that the state will be formally abolished by some sort of declaration or proclamation. It will just slowly wither away over time as its functions become moribund. At least this is the ideal that Engels has in mind for it; perhaps like "liberty and justice for all" it will remain an ideal that every generation comes closer to but never 100% attains, then again maybe Engels will be right.
We must be mindful that all of this speculation about the coming to power of the working people, the disappearance of the 1%, the transition to socialism, etc., is dependent on the development of the productive forces of society to such a high degree of perfection that they can eliminate scarcity and there will be the possibility of abundance of food and other necessities and luxuries for all and that the only reason for poverty and suffering is the control of society by the 1% in its own selfish interests.
In the language of philosophy this means that Sartre's proposition in the Critique of Dialectical Reason : "Scarcity is a fundamental relation of our History and a contingent determination of our univocal relation to materiality" leading to his assertion "There is not enough for everybody" does not hold, it has been overcome and negated, for our world. Indeed, Engels thought it did not hold even in the nineteenth century. We have the productive capacity but we cannot use it due to the capitalist framework within which it exists. It is as the sick person-- the medicine exists to cure him but he hasn't the money to buy it, so he dies.
If this is ever done, and it is a big IF, the world humanity will find itself in after the passing of the capitalist mode of production will be very different from the world of today. Commodity production will cease as there will be no market and no anarchy of production. Objects with use values will be made according to a central plan and they will be made to satisfy human needs not to be sold for profit. There will be no more struggle for existence as all humans will be provided for and, Engels says, for the first time humanity will live as humans should and not be subject to an animal existence. For the first time humanity will control the laws of its own social existence and economy and not be subjected to them. The pre-history of humanity will be over and the true history of humanity will begin. It will be the beginning not the end of history. It will be the leap of humanity "from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom."
Well, as the Chinese say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, I hope we have made that step on September 17, 2011 a few blocks from Wall Street in Liberty Square. But even if we haven't and Engels was at heart an utopian and his vision of the future a dream, still a dream, if that is all it is, can, as Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us, inspire people to fight for a better world.
In the antepenultimate chapter of his book Anti-Dühring Engels explains the differences between the "socialism" espoused by Professor Eugen Dühring and the socialism of Karl Marx and himself. Dühring thinks the ideas of Marx are "bastards of historical and logical fantasy" and he seeks to replace them with his own views which are, naturally, the true historical and logical ideas which socialists should adopt.[Anti-Dühring Part III Chapter III "Production"]
Engels will compare his and Marx's "bastard" progeny with the "legitimate" progeny of Herr Dühring with respect to economic production in this chapter. Dühring rejects any notion of the capitalist production system which claims that economic crises are due to the very nature of the structure of capitalism itself. That is a Marxian fantasy.
For Dühring, Engels says, "crises are only occasional deviations from 'normalcy' and at most only serve to promote 'the development of a more regulated order.'" The Marxists maintain, au contraire, that crises are caused by over-production and this is a structural fault within the capitalist system itself. But Dühring rejects this and writes that the real reason for crises is, in his words,"the lagging behind of popular consumption … artificially produced under-consumption … with the natural growth of the NEEDS OF THE PEOPLE (!), which ultimately make the gulf between supply and demand so critically wide."
To this Engels replies that the masses have been forced to under-consume throughout history and in every economic system based on class exploitation, therefore under-consumption is not some artificially produced phenomenon but something all class societies share-- i.e., that the exploited class never has the value of its yearly production returned to it at the end of the year. The crises of industrial capitalism, however, only date from the the first quarter of the nineteenth century.
Thus, Engels concludes, it is under capitalism that periodic economic crises come into the world and while under-consumption of the masses is a PREREQUISITE it is not the CAUSE of crises. And knowing this, he says, "tells us just as little why crises exist today as why they did not exist before."
Dühring, in fact, does not think mass markets are all that important anyway. He himself says that capitalist production happens to "depend for its market mainly on THE CIRCLES OF THE POSSESSING CLASSES THEMSELVES." His confusion becomes only more apparent when he follows up on this by claiming that the most important industries (this is the 1870s remember) are cotton and iron production. But, Engels points out, the production of these two is entirely dependent on a mass market and the possessing class make up only an "infinitesimally small degree" of its market.
Engels then points out that capitalism, by it very need to grow and expand, brings about crises. He says, for example, in England there is just one small town (Oldham) that from 1872 to 1875 doubled its production of spun cotton [the number of its spindles went from 2.5 to 5 million] and this is just one of a dozen small towns around Manchester. Oldham, by the way, produced as much spun cotton as ALL of Germany (including Alsace). This was happening in towns all over Great Britain.
It thus shows "deep-rooted effrontery" on the part of Herr Dühring to blame the English masses for under-consumption rather than the capitalists for over-production when it comes to "the present complete stagnation in the yarn and cloth markets." [Engels is referring to an economic crises of the 1870s.]
Engels ends his critique of Herr Dühring's views on crises but gives a few quotes that demonstrate that Dühring has no idea about capitalism as an economic system but sees everything in terms of the behavior of individuals. If over-speculation and the unplanned building of private factories are responsible for crises we must see that as simply "the ordinary interplay of overstrain and relaxation" of the system and look closely at "the rashness of individual entrepreneurs and the lack of private circumspection" as one of the causes.
The only "rashness" here, Engels maintains, is the habit of turning the facts of economics into "moral reprobation." This is a problem of our times as well, not just the time of Engels. How often do we hear talk about our current crisis as a product of "greed" on the part of Wall Street bankers and that they should pay their "fair share" of taxes and such rubbish as if the decay of capitalism is a moral disorder on the part of the ruling class instead of a structural disorder that requires the replacement of the system rather than remedial Sunday school classes for the capitalists.
But all this has been treated of in the previous chapter of Anti-Dühring and Engels wants to move on (Cf. "Frederick Engels on the Theoretical Development of Modern Capitalism" in the November 2011 Political Affairs). Engels will now turn his attention to Dühring's new system of viewing socialism which is called "the natural system of society."
Dühring bases his system of socialism on what he calls the "universal principle of justice" which applies everywhere and is independent of historical and economic facts. This is enough to disqualify it as idealistic nonsense but Engels wants to philosophically pepper spay Dühring for having the gall to attack Marx for being unclear and fuzzy as to what type of socialism he believes in. It appears that the demands made in the name of the workers in the Communist Manifesto are "erroneous half measures" far inferior to Dühring's ideas which represent "a comprehensive schematism of great import in human history."
Marx, according to Dühring, thinks of socialism as "nothing more than the corporative ownership by groups of workers … an ownership that is both individual and social." Engels is upset because this is far from anything Marx has suggested and in truth actually applies to the system that Dühring has concocted.
Dühring advocates a federation of independent economic communes which compete with one another and which have absolute freedom of movement from one commune to another. In this crazy system the wealthy successful communes will out compete the poorly run communes which will become defunct as the people will all end up moving to the well run ones.
Production within the communes stays the same as production in the past--i.e., the communes are still capitalist in nature even though controlled by the workers. So the greatly touted natural system of justice and the new socialism amounts to the fact, Engels says, that "the commune takes the place of the capitalists."
What are Dühring's views on the most basic form of all hitherto existing methods of production-- i.e., the division of labor? With respect to the primary division, that between TOWN and COUNTRY (or industry and agriculture) he has little to say beyond some common place remarks about its "inevitable" nature and the possibility of overcoming it in the future. Thin gruel from Engels' point of view.
When it comes to the modern division of labor in trade and industry Dühring is very vague and only says that we have an "erroneous division of labor" and that all will be remedied in the future "as soon as account is taken of the various natural conditions and personal capabilities [of the workers]." Engels doesn't say so, but Dühring's views here are suspiciously similar to those of Plato in the Republic and very far from the socialist analysis of Marx to which Engels now turns.
Marx tells us that in all societies where production springs up "spontaneously" (including capitalism) we discover the means of production dominate the people not the other way around. The first great division of labour saw the development of towns and cities surrounded by peasant agriculturalists. This division has doomed rural people for thousands of years, Marx says, to "mental torpidity" and enslaved the town dwellers to their own specialized trade. This "stunting" of humanity increases with the increase of the division of labor.
Under capitalism the workers become tied to their machines and to one specific function and one tool. Capitalism, Marx says in Das Kapital "converts the laborer into a crippled monstrosity. by forcing his detail dexterity at the expense of a world of productive capabilities and instincts…. The individual himself is made the automatic motor of a fractional operation." How much this has been alleviated by the modern day union movement varies from country to country and in proportion to the percentage of workers who are unionized. The large number of working people in the US for example, that vote Republican shows that "mental torpidity" is not confined to the rural populations of Texas, Iowa or Alaska (to name a few).
It is not just the workers who suffer under the present day division of labor but also, Engels says, the "empty-minded bourgeois" chasing after profits (Donald Trump comes to mind), the lawyers dominated by "fossilized legal conceptions" and so-called "educated classes" of society plagued by "local narrow-mindedness" and "mental short-sightedness"-- just think of the tribe of Sunday morning news pundits paraded before the public by all the major TV networks, or the platoons of professors giving advice about everything under the sun and hardly agreeing on anything other than that capitalism is still the best of all possible economic formations.
But how are we to overcome this division of labor and the consequent alienation of humanity from its potentials and possibilities? One way only says Engels: "in making itself the master of all the means of production to use them in accordance with a social plan, society puts an end to the former subjection of men to their own means of production." In other words, socialism based on central planning and most importantly-- a feature historically absent in 20th century socialist societies due to their premature appearance in economically backward conditions-- planning democratically controlled and carried out by the working people themselves. The former alienating division of labor will be done away with as "society cannot free itself unless every individual is freed."
Engels says that this is not just a "fantasy" or a "pious wish." He maintains that the state of industrial development in the 1870s is so advanced that society could "reduce the time required for labour to a point which measured by our present conceptions, will be small indeed." This figure needs to be actually quantified-- but the point is all the goodies needed to live and thrive could be created with people just working a few hours a week and with no one being chained to any one boring and unsatisfying job. The growth in productivity since Engels' day must make this even more true today.
Engels quotes Das Kapital: "The employment of machinery does away with the necessity of crystallizing this distribution [of labor-tr] after the manner of Manufacture, by the constant annexation of a particular man to a particular function. Since the motion of the whole system does not proceed from the workman, but from the machinery, a change of persons can take place at any time without an interruption of the work…."
Modern capitalism with its constant crises and dislocations of industrial centers and working people and financial catastrophes makes, Marx says, it necessary that we posit as a "fundamental law of production, variation of work" so that modern workers have to be ready to change jobs and learn new skills or leave the labor market. This disrupts lives and threatens widespread social disorder. Only socialist planning and a system that puts people before profits can prevent society from self destructing under the contradictions generated by the present capitalist world market which, in the name of profits first and people last, fragments both human individuals and their social relations with others which inevitably results from the private appropriation of socially created wealth.
Engels also says that the abolition of capitalism and the development "one single vast plan" which harmoniously "dovetails" industry and the means of production so that the differences between town and country are overcome is a prerequisite to overcoming environmental degradation and "present poisoning the air water and land." To this must be added the current disaster of human induced global warming which simply cannot be dealt with as long as capitalism remains the dominant economic system. This problem was not seen in Engels' day and now, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence of impending doom, the various capitalist powers are unwilling to take the drastic regulatory measures needed to deal with the problem.
Engels maintains that none of these claims he is making is "utopian" but that they are logical conclusions of scientific central planning and the abolition of the difference between town and country. It looks as if the towns, or rather the great cities (such as New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, etc., etc., will have be abolished as well! Engels says that it "is true that in the huge towns civilization has bequeathed us a heritage which it will take much time and trouble to get rid of." But, "the great towns will perish."
No, this is not Pol Pot, it is Frederick Engels and he is saying this because he envisions a complete redistribution of the population under socialism in order to get the "most equal distribution possible of modern industry." So the abolition of the separation of town and country means the abolition of the cities. They must and will be eliminated "however protracted a process it may be." This might just be a little too "utopian" and perhaps with the progress of science and communications since the 1870s, especially the growth of the internet, the contradictions between town and country can be resolved without offing the Big Apple.
In any event, leaving the abolition of cities aside, the point Engels wants to make is that Dühring's view of socialism leaves out of account that building socialism will necessitate "revolutionizing from top to bottom the old method of production and first of all putting an end to the old division of labour." Dühring thinks that the state can just take over production as is and harmonize it to people's "natural appetites and personal capabilities." He also thinks the division between town and country is natural and inevitable and has no plan for putting an end to the alienation and crippling of human capabilities that result from this division.
So much for Engels' critique of Dühringian socialism's handling of production. In the penultimate chapter of Anti-Dühring Engels will discuss the problems of distribution.
In this penultimate chapter of Anti-Dühring Engels takes on Dühring's notions of how the social product will be distributed under his "socialitarian" system: Anti-Dühring, Part Three, Chapter IV. The first thing to recall from the previous discussion on "production" is that Dühring finds nothing wrong with the mode of production under capitalism and the system of communes under which he organizes society will keep this mode of operation. The real evil to be overcome is in the mode of distribution. Little did Engels foresee that future "socialists" from the Marxist tradition would be playing around with such concepts for years to come (which he called "social alchemizing") under the rubric of "market socialism."
Dühring treats distribution independently of production. Once the social product has been produced, and this is accomplished by the necessary operative laws of capitalist production, the product can be distributed by an act of will so that "universal justice" is done. This can be done because in the commune everyone must labor and consume based on all forms of labor being considered as of equal value. This system will obtain both within the commune and between the communes. Furthermore, exchange value will be linked to the value of the precious metals. This system will be an improvement over the "foggy notions" of thinkers such as Marx.
Let's see just how this "universal justice" actually is brought about. Following Engels, lets take a model commune of 100 workers working an eight hour day and making $100 worth of commodities each or a total of $10,000 worth of goodies. Say they work 250 days a year for a yearly product of $2,500,000. According to Dühring's system "universal justice" requires that each worker get paid the exact value of his labor which would be 250 times $100 or $25,000 a year. The commune pays out the entire value that it creates so, as Engels says, at the end of a year, or a hundred years, "the commune is no richer than at the beginning." There is no accumulation possible in this system. Individuals can accumulate wealth for a worker can always deprive himself and not spend all of his money in a given time period, but society cannot accumulate wealth for any economic expansion or to carry out any kind of social programs.
This is not the only problem with Dühring's commune. The fact that workers are all paid the same means a single worker will actually have more income for savings than a worker with a large family to take care of. Rich and poor will gradually reappear and eventually all the problems of a capitalist society. This tendency cannot be stopped by rules and regulations as Dühring's "universal justice" demands that the workers can dispose of their wages as they wish. And as money is the "social incarnation" of human labor and operates by the laws of capitalist economics in the commune as well as the surrounding world, all of Dühring's regulations to control it "are just as powerless against it as they are against the multiplication table or the chemical composition of water."
Dühring's system breaks down because he, not Marx and other socialists, is under the control of "foggy notions." Dühring just doesn't understand the basic operating conditions of the capitalist system. He wasn't the only one in Engel's day who claimed to be able to explain economics without really understanding what was going on-- the phenomenon is just as rampant today in the 21st century as it was in the 19th. Therefore at this point in his polemic against Dühring, Engels takes a timeout to give his readers a brief summary of Economics 101.
The capitalist economy is based on commodity production and the only value recognized by capitalism is the value of commodities, according to Engels. To say that any given commodity has a value is to say four things about it. 1. That it has a use value-- it serves some socially useful function. 2. That it has been privately produced [this is a simple model of capitalism, not a mixed economy or state capitalism]. 3. It is a product of individual labor but "unconsciously and involuntarily" it also is a social product containing human labor in general which is measured through exchange. 4. The value of the social labor contained in it is measured by some other commodity. Engels gives the example a clock having the same value as a certain quantity of cloth-- say "fifty shillings."
This only means that it took the same amount of socially necessary labor time to make the clock as to make the cloth. Since we don't live in a barter society a special commodity has developed which is used to measure the relative values of all the other commodities to each other-- this is money.
The term "relative" value is important. We cannot determine the "absolute value" of every commodity-- i.e., calculate the exact value of the labor power used to create it. This is because of the complexity of the capitalist system and the variations of the cost of labor and labor time from factory to factory and location to location. All these different factors average out over time and commodities begin to reflect their relative values, the relative rate of socially necessary labor time needed to create them, by having their worth expressed in terms of money. Prices are reflections of relative value not absolute value and can fluctuate wildly around the actual value of commodities-- but over time they come to reflect the actual values that underlie them but in a relative manner.
Engels gives an analogy from the chemistry of his day. He says that the absolute atomic weights of the elements were unknown so scientists used hydrogen as 1 and expressed the relative atomic weights of the other elements as multiples of hydrogen. This is analogous to elevating "gold [or whatever is used as money] to the level of the absolute commodity, the general equivalent of all other commodities" and using it to measure the relative value of human (social) labor contained in them.
The term "social labor" is important to understand. It is not raw individual labor that determines the value of a commodity. It is rather the amount of labor that in a given society is necessary to produce different commodities that gives them their values-- the socially necessary labor time. At least this is "value" as expressed in a capitalist society. In a communist society "value" will not be so expressed. A communist society will have a planned economy and workers will know the value of the labor power they will devote to the production of the products needed by society. "Money" will not be necessary to measure this value. Engels notes that "all that would be left, in a communist society, of the politico-economic concept of value" is the knowledge by the workers/planners "of the useful effects and expenditure of labour on making decisions concerning production."
The notion of "value" is the hallmark of a commodity based economy and, Engels says, it "contains the germ, not only of money, but also of all the more developed forms of the production and exchange of commodities." The fact that this exchange takes place by means of money, and considering the complexity of production (i.e., that in some fields more or less of the socially necessary labor may be involved) "admits of the possibility that the exchange may never take place altogether, or at least may not realize the correct value." This is especially true of the commodity labor-power which, as with all commodities, has its value determined by the socially necessary labor time it takes to produce it and can also be forced into service for longer periods of time than is socially necessary for its reproduction.
Once money has been invented within a primarily commodity producing society we will see its "first and most essential effect" which is the commodification of all aspects of society in which soon all social relations begin to be converted into money relations based on individual private interests. Engels mentions the dissolution of the common tillage system among Indian peasants and the same amongst the Russian peasants and their village communes. Inspired by Marx we might say "Privatize, Privatize, that is the Gospel and the Church!"
Now back to Dühring and his ilk. We cannot meaningfully talk about the "value of labor" and how to see that the worker gets his "full value" as Dühring does in discussing his system of communes. When you measure the value of commodities by the labor they contain you cannot then talk about the value of labor in the same way. Engels says it is the same with weight. We can measure the heaviness of commodities by their weight but we cannot talk about the heaviness of weight. What Dühring and others do is try to measure the "value" of labor by the products it makes (it should actually be measured by time) and then they think the function of socialism is to see to it that "the full proceeds of labour" are given to the workman. But this means the whole value of what the working class creates is returned to the workers in terms of each individual getting back all the value he has created.
This will of course leave nothing for the capitalists. What it overlooks is that "the most progressive function of society" is accumulation. This is why Marxists, by the way, tout the General Consumption Fund (GCF). The individual workers do not get back 100% of the value they have created. The "state" or whatever social arrangement that replaces it, takes a portion of the created value and puts into the GCF which then disperses it to society as a whole (rent and food subsidies, medical care, education, maintenance and replacement of machinery, etc.) The working class does get back the value it creates but collectively as well as individually. The Dühringean system would stagnate and fall apart-- it is economic nonsense.
Finally, Engels points out that the law of value is "the fundamental law" of commodity production and so of capitalism "the highest form" of commodity production. The law of value dictates that commodities created by equal social labor are equal to each other-- i.e., mutually exchangeable. In our day, as in Engels', the only way this law can operate under capitalism is "as a blindly operating law of nature inherent in things and relations and independent of the will or actions of the producers."
It is just this law that Dühring is appealing to when he dreams of creating communes where equal labor is exchanged for equal labor based on his "universal principle of justice." He thinks it possible to keep capitalist economic relations but to abolish the abuses that such relations lead to. In this he completely resembles Proudhon who also wanted to "abolish the real consequences of the law of value by means of fantastic ones."
Engels ends his chapter by comparing Dühring's search for a new society based on his notions of just distributions to Don Quixote's search for Mambrino's helmet which turns up only the old barber's basin.
XXII. The State, Family, Education and Sex
In the last chapter of his book Anti-Dühring, Engels treats of the state, family,education and sex by critiquing the views of the German "socialist" and professor Eugen Dühring's on these subjects. Dühring had created, on paper, a complete system of socialist governing thru means of collectives which, Engels has pointed out in his analysis in earlier parts of this book, is completely unworkable and perpetuates the capitalist relations of production and distribution which socialism is supposed to abolish.
Having set up his system Dühring undertakes to discuss the nature of the "state of the future." His ideas are, Engels maintains, watered down simplifications of notions he has gleaned from Rousseau and Hegel. In his own words, Dühring bases his state on the "sovereignty of the people." He explains what he means in the following passage of essentially meaningless mumbo jumbo: "If one presupposes agreements between each individual and every other individual in all directions, and if the object of these agreements is mutual aid against unjust offenses-- the the power required for the maintenance of right is only strengthened, and right is not deduced from the more superior strength of the many against the individual or of the majority against the minority."
Don't worry if that passage doesn't make any sense, as Dühring adds the following to explicate it. He says, "THE SLIGHTEST ERROR in the conception of the role of the collective will would DESTROY the sovereignty of the individual, and this sovereignty is the only thing conducive to the deduction of real rights." Engels thinks this pretty "thick" even by the standards of Dühring's so called "philosophy of reality."
This is especially so since the "sovereignty of the individual" consists in the fact that he or she is, Dühring says, "SUBJECT TO ABSOLUTE COMPULSION by the state." This is because the state "serves natural justice" and that is the best guarantee of individual sovereignty. There will be a police force for internal security and an army as well-- to enforce the will of the state-- which is the same as that of the community of sovereign individuals and to ensure people don't use their sovereignty in an incorrect and unsovereign manner. And just in case the state makes an error, well, the citizens will still be better off than they would have been if left in the state of nature! Anyway, they will get free lawyers too boot.
Since Dühring says his new state is based on "sober and critical thought", he announces that religion will be banished from the commune."In the free society," he says, "there can be no religious worship; FOR every member of it has got beyond the primitive childish superstition that there are beings, behind nature or above it, who can be influenced by sacrifices or prayers. [A] socialitarian system, rightly conceived, HAS therefore … TO ABOLISH all the paraphernalia of religious magic, and therewith all the essential elements of religious worship."
It is important to note, since in the real history of socialism in the twentieth century some socialist and communist states tried to eliminate religion and religious practices by forceable means, that this idea ["the state HAS to…"] comes from Dühring, an enemy of the Marxist outlook, and not from anything Marx or Engels had to say. Engels explicitly criticizes this view.
This is not to say Marx and Engels were in anyway "soft" on religion ["opium of the masses" and all that] but they respected "individual sovereignty" enough not to dream of using the "state' [which they wanted to abolish in any case] to trample on people's rights of conscience in religious affairs.
At this point Engels adds a succinct account of the Marxist view of the origin, social function, and future of religion. It is more or less as follows. Religion is just a reflection in the brains of people of the forces in the external world that are out of their control which affect their lives and that they imagine as supernatural beings which they need to fear and placate. Originally these were the powers of nature that took on the guise of gods and goddess, but as human society progressed and evolved social forces also came to assume these roles. Over time, in the West at least) the many gods and goddess representing these alien powers were distilled down to one god [monotheism e.g., Jews and Moslems, or three gods posing as one as in the Jewish-pagan synthesis called Christianity- tr] and in this form religion will have a lease on life as long as humans are dominated by natural and social powers they neither understand nor control.
In contemporary capitalist society people are dominated and controlled by an economic system that they have themselves made yet rules over them as if it were an independently existing power beyond their control. The Market-- made by humans, rules humans. This is essentially the same reification as is found in religion and it reinforces religious attitudes and beliefs already historically present in modern society. Engels thinks of this development as the First Act of human development. It is now time for the Second Act.
In the Second Act humans will take control of the means of production and distribution which they have created over the long ages [thereby hangs a tale] and by means of scientific understanding and advance be able to control them rather than being controlled by them. Science will also explain the origins of life, the workings of nature, and the role of humans, leading to advances in medicine, agriculture, education, etc., so that humans will seek to understand the world instead of bowing down before it in stupefaction.
Engels says "only then will the last alien force which is still reflected in religion vanish: and with it will also vanish the religious reflection itself, for the simple reason that then there will be nothing left to reflect." Dühring can't wait and wants to administratively abolish religion before humanity has reached the intellectual and social level where it will of its own accord fade away. This will only inflame resistance, antagonize the masses, and strengthen the hold of superstition over the brains of people by giving it "a prolonged lease of life." I might add, if some of the socialists and communists of the past century, let alone this one, would have taken Engels to heart many mistakes and tragedies could have been avoided.
After Herr Dühring has disposed of religion he tells us that "man, made to rely solely on himself and nature and matured in the knowledge of his collective powers, can intrepidly enter on all the roads which the course of events and his own being open to him." Fine. Let us see how "man" travels down these roads. First he is born. Then he, or she as the case may be, is under the control of his mother the "natural tutor of children" until puberty (about 14 years) when the role of the father kicks in, as long as "real and uncontested paternity" can be demonstrated. If not a guardian is appointed. Ancient Roman law serves Dühring as a model for these ideas.
This shows, Engels says, that Dühring has no sense of history. The family, for him, is immutable, basically the same in Ancient Rome as in modern capitalism with no allowance for the changes in economic conditions and social relations between the ancient world and contemporary world. Engels then quotes the following passage from volume one of Das Kapital to show the superiority of Marx's outlook to Dühring's. Marx wrote that "modern industry, by assigning as it does an important part in the process of production, outside the domestic sphere, to women, to young persons, and to children of both sexes [due to the rise of the working class movement capitalism's urge to exploit children in the productive process has been somewhat curtailed-- tr] creates a new economic foundation for a higher form of the family and the relations between the sexes."
This new form is still in the process of creation, but there is no going back to the Ancient Roman family, nor even, as our Republican politicians are learning to their chagrin, to the patriarchal family of the Christian Middle Ages-- so beloved by the reactionary classes in our country.
Dühring next informs us that "Every dreamer of social reforms naturally has ready a pedagogy corresponding to his new social life." He may think he is putting others down and himself coming up with a truly scientific plan for the educational needs of society, for the "foreseeable future", but he is actually a worse dreamer than those he opposes, according to Engels.
In the schools of Dühring's future cooperative society the children will, Dühring writes, learn "everything which by itself and in principle can have any attraction for man" and so will include "the foundations and main conclusions of all sciences touching on the understanding of the world and of life." Dühring also tells us he sees in outline all the textbooks of the future but he is personally unable to actually see their contents and just what the children will be learning as that "can only really be expected from the free and enhanced forces of the new social order." But they will concentrate on physics, math, astronomy and mechanics while biology, botany, and zoology and such will be "topics for light conversation" [!]. He completely forgets to say anything about chemistry. Engels says his knowledge of the sciences seems to be confined to "Natural History for Children"-- a popular book of the 18th Century by Georg Christian Raff (1748-1788).
When it comes to the humanities, Dühring sounds like a second rate Plato. He wants to ban, for example, the great artistic creations of the past because too many of them have religious themes. As Plato banned Homer for portraying the Gods with human flaws, so Goethe is banned by Dühring for "poetic mysticism" and others for any religious content at all-- since religion is banned completely in the future state.
American monoglot educators will appreciate Herr Dühring's attitude to foreign languages. Latin and Greek will be junked entirely, who needs dead languages. Living foreign languages "will remain of secondary importance" and the students will really concentrate on their own native tongue. Engels thinks this a way to perpetuate the dulling national narrow mindedness of people who are basically ignorant of the world and of the Other. Latin and Greek actually open up people's minds to a broader perspective of the world and history, at least if they have a classical education, and learning foreign modern languages also allows peoples to have greater understanding of others and their cultures. Dühring's views are those of the narrow minded Prussian Philistine and similar to the "English only" bigotry found on the right in this country.
Engels gives Dühring credit for at least being aware of the fact there will be a difference between educational policies under socialism and those currently employed in bourgeois society, but since he keeps capitalist relations of production in place in his future communal society he can't quite figure out what those policies will be. Thus he is reduced to coming up with such ideas as "young and old will work in the serious sense of the word" which, along with other empty phrases, Engels calls "spineless and meaningless ranting."
Engels counterpoises a brief comment on socialist education from volume one of Das Kapital where Marx says that "from the Factory system budded, as Robert Owen has shown in detail, the germ of the education of the future, an education that will, in the case of every child over a given age, combine productive labour with instruction and gymnastics, not only as one of the methods of adding to the efficiency of production, but as the only method of producing fully developed human beings." Our own educational system, which produces drop outs and graduates functional illiterates, is American capitalism's answer to what education will be in the future.
Finally, after we find out how children will be educated in Dühring's future society, we find out how they are to come into the world. Dühring, no doubt inspired by Plato's Republic, tells us that future humans must be "sought in sexual union and selection, and furthermore in the care taken for or against the ensuring of certain results." We are here on the road to Dühringean eugenics. The most important thing to keep in mind about the future births is not the number but "whether nature or human circumspection succeeded or failed in regard to their quality." This leads Dühring to conclude that "It is obviously an advantage to prevent the birth of a human being who would only be a defective creature."
Modern scientific sentiment would not reject this conclusion out of hand, regardless of the feelings of those blinded by religious prejudices or logically challenged. It all depends on the kinds of defects that are presented. Dühring is thinking, however, along lines made popular by Nietzsche, of some sort of super human race compared to the run of the mill humans that unaided Nature tends to produce.
Dühring believes in a human right which may be important, but is not generally appealed to these days, for the purposes of eugenics, i.e., "the right of the unborn world to the best possible composition" [biologically-- tr]. "Conception," he says, "and, if need be, also birth [infanticide- tr] offer the opportunity , or in exceptional cases selective, care in this connection." Dühring is not just talking about medical defects-- but also "aesthetic" defects.
He thinks. in fact, that people should be bred to look like the ancient Greeks! "Grecian art -- the idealization of man in marble [not "European" man but "man"]-- will not be able to retain its historical importance when the less artistic, and therefore from the standpoint of the fate of the millions, far more important task of perfecting the human form in flesh and blood is taken in hand." OK, so we won't all look like Antinous or the Venus de Milo but that goal will be a work in progress for the future Dühringean society.
How does Dühring bring about the this perfection of the human [ancient Greeks-- Dühring had no use for modern Greeks] form? Well, he says force would be harmful but it will come about as a natural result of the mating of beautiful people-- sort of by an "invisible hand" (but in this case a different anatomical feature will be at work). Here is Dühring's quote: [From the] "higher, genuinely human motives of wholesome sexual unions … the humanly ennobled form of sexual excitement , which in its intense manifestations is PASSIONATE LOVE, when reciprocated is the best guarantee of a union which will be acceptable also in its result…. It is only an effect of the second order that from a relation which in itself is harmonious a symphoniously composed product should result."
Engels thinks Dühring's views on sex are "twaddle." This is because force would have to be used to make sure all unions were "wholesome" by Dühring's standards. In the real world it is not just the beautiful people who fall in love and have children (symphoniously composed products) but all kinds of people so "the second order" effects of love making would be the same in the future communal state of Herr Dühring as they are now. [He could however try for a rigged lottery a la Plato's Republic to match up the "best" people and only allow those with baby licenses to reproduce. This would lead to more problems than the Chinese have had with the one child policy-- which was successful in limiting population numbers but a failure from the point of view of creating balanced population growth.]
Engels also critiques Dühring's "noble ideas about the female sex in general"[prostitution is a normal activity due to the constraints of bourgeois marriage]-- but both Dühring's ideas and Engel's response are too shaped by nineteenth century conditions to be applicable to twenty-first century advanced industrial societies so I will pass this topic by and come to the conclusion of Anti-Dühring.
After having gone over all the major views that Dühring had presented in a series of writings over the years, and refuting them by giving a proper Marxist response to his mixed up theoretical constructions, Engels sums up Dühring's oeuvre as being the product of MENTAL INCOMPETENCE DUE TO MEGALOMANIA.
Postscript: Eugen Dühring survived Engel's critique and wrote more books and articles. In the 1880's he began turning out anti-Semitic writings some of which led Theodor Hertzel to conclude that the Jews needed their own state. Frederick Nietzsche's rantings against socialism were the result of his having read Dühring's works not those of Marx and Engels (although I doubt it would have made any difference). Of his many books only one has been translated into English-- his anti-Semitic tract on the Jewish question was published in 1997 as "Eugen Dühring on the Jews" by 1984 Press. Dühring died in 1921 thus being deprived of seeing the fruits of his anti-Semitic labors. These and other interesting facts about Dühring are to be found in the Wikipedia article "Eugen Dühring." These articles on Engels' book Anti-Dühring have been published serially over the past two years in Political Affairs (and some have also appeared in Counter Currents, Dissident Voice, NYC indymedia and other internet venues) and the complete set can be found published together on my blog (Thomas Riggins Blog) as well as at the blog Philosophy and Marxism Today as "Engels' Anti-Dühring: A Twenty-First Century Commentary."