“National differences and contrasts are already tending to disappear more and more as the bourgeoisie develops, as free trade becomes more general, as the world market grows in sire and importance, as manufacturing conditions and the resulting conditions of life become more uniform.”
— Karl Marx and F. Engels, “The Communist Manifesto”
Category Archives: Karl Marx
“By counting the most meagre form of life (existence) as the standard, indeed, as the general standard – general because it is applicable to the mass of men. He turns the worker into an insensible being lacking all needs, just as he changes his activity into a pure abstraction from all activity. To him, therefore, every luxury of the worker seems to be reprehensible, and everything that goes beyond the most abstract need – be it in the realm of passive enjoyment, or a manifestation of activity – seems to him a luxury. Political economy, this science of wealth, is therefore simultaneously the science of renunciation, of want, of saving and it actually reaches the point where it spares man the need of either fresh air or physical exercise. This science of marvellous industry is simultaneously the science of asceticism, and its true ideal is the ascetic but extortionate miser and the ascetic but productive slave. Its moral ideal is the worker who takes part of his wages to the savings-bank, and it has even found ready-made a servile art which embodies this pet idea: it has been presented, bathed in sentimentality, on the stage. Thus political economy – despite its worldly and voluptuous appearance – is a true moral science, the most moral of all the sciences. Self-renunciation, the renunciation of life and of all human needs, is its principal thesis. The less you eat, drink and buy books; the less you go to the theatre, the dance hall, the public house; the less you think, love, theorise, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save – the greater becomes your treasure which neither moths nor rust will devour – your capital. The less you are, the less you express your own life, the more you have, i.e., the greater is your alienated life, the greater is the store of your estranged being.”
– Karl Marx, “Human Requirements and Division of Labour Under the Rule of Private Property,“ The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.
This article was posted in 2008 by Rowland Keshena on a blog which is no longer active. Though there are some very pronounced ideological problems with this essay (particularly its references to “Stalinism,” as well as the “anthropocentrism” of Marxism and the idea that the concept of domination of nature by man is somehow “Judeo-Christian,” it remains a thorough criticism of the anti-communism of leading figures of the Native community. Thus, I have posted it here to aid in struggling against this anti-Marxist line put forward by several Native scholars and figures.
I have come out and stated a couple of times that I feel that the critiques of Marxism offered by many in the Indian radical movement seem to come across as either having been born from extreme ignorance and/or extreme sect baiting. It has also been my tendency not to really address the claims of people like Russell Means, as I find him a hypocrite and a not so closeted libertarian (despite claims to being anti-capitalist), Vine Deloria Jr., given his absurd beliefs that equate to American Indian creationism, complete with white people being made by aliens and dinosaurs surviving until the 19th century, or Frank Black Elk as they tend to demonstrate an utter lack knowledge about Marxism. The one who I have reserved space for criticism though is Ward Churchill, given my otherwise great respect for him and his scholarship on American history, his place of greater acceptance (relative to the other I mentioned) in leftist circles and his somewhat more intellectual, but still hallow I find, criticisms of Marxism.
His single greatest attempt to present an Indian/Indigenist critique of Marxism was the book of essays he edited in 1983 called Marxism and Native Americans (on a side note, I have often wondered why the term Native Americans here, given his later use of American Indian, and the wider rejection by that time of Native American by the Indian radicals, and Indian country in general). I will admit that the book does make some good criticisms of Stalinism, particularly its anthropocentrism and its continuation of the Judeo-Christian notion of the domination of the earth by man, leading to a continuation of the ecocidal capitalist notion of “grow or die.” However the book also contained a number of problems for me, one being the gross misrepresentation of Marxism contained within, in that both the criticisms given by Churchill, Means, Black Elk, Deloria Jr and Larson and the arguments for Marxism are largely geared towards and presented from the Soviet Marxist-Leninist (read. Stalinist) model of savagely mutilated and intellectually robbed Marxism.
However the goal of this essay is not to attack this book as many good critiques of it already exist, in particular there is one by Canadian Indian nationalist and dedicated Marxist Howard Adams (which for the life of me I cannot find online), which I find of particular interest as it comes from an Indigenous person instead of a white. With that said, my goal here is take a specific look at an essay from Churchill called False Promises: An Indigenist Examination of Marxist Theory and Practice. In this essay Churchill lays out his primary issues with Marxist theory, in particular the Marxist positions on dialectics, nature, Dialectical and Historical Materialism and the labour theory of value. I will not address his problems with Marxism on the national question as I have already given my thoughts on it many times in the past, including on the problems with Marx and Engels’ original formulation of it. In order to try and have an ordered approach to this critique, I have attempted to keep the are sections of my critique the same as his.
Dialectics and Nature:
To open up the essay Churchill begins with a description of dialectical, or relational, thinking, in particular as he finds it in the European traditions and the American Indian ones, which he sums up in the Lakota phrase Metakuyeayasi (my relatives/relations). He also traces the history of dialectical thinking in Europe, having come into Europe via the the Greeks, who Churchill identifies as having gotten it in turn from the Egyptian civilization, who also apparently in turn borrowed it from the Ethiopians. Next he jumps to Hegel, who he states revived the tradition of dialectical thinking in Europe, and from whom the idea was introduced to Marx and the other Young Hegelians.
He also at this point correctly states that the Hegelian/Marxist concept of thinking in terms of relationships stands solidly opposed to the history of European thought, exemplified in linear rationality. It is here that Churchill’s critique of Marxist dialectics begins, as he sees the primary problem with Marx being that he has a presumption of the supremacy of human agency in determining historical reality. This of course, for Churchill, is a supremely Eurocentric presumption. Churchill sums it up in his essay by saying:
“His (Marx) impetus in this regard appears to have been his desire to see his theoretical endeavors used, not simply as a tool of understanding, but as a proactive agent for societal transformation, a matter bound up in his famous dictum that “the purpose of philosophy is not merely to understand history, but to change it.” (sic) Thus Marx, a priori and with no apparent questioning in the doing, proceeded to anchor the totality of his elaboration in the presumed primacy of a given relation—that sole entity which can be said to hold the capability of active and conscious pursuit of change, i.e.: humanity—over any and all relations, the Marxian “dialectic” was thus unbalanced from the outset, skewed as a matter of faith in favor of humans. Such disequilibrium is, of course, not dialectical at all. It is, however, quite specifically Eurocentric in its attributes, springing as it does from the late-Roman interpretation of the Judeo-Christian assertion of “man’s” supposed responsibility to “exercise dominion over nature,” a tradition which Marx (ironically) claimed oft and loudly to have “voided” in his rush to materialism.”
As Marx quite truly stated in his Theses on Feuerbach, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” Indeed this has come to form the core of much of Marxist theory and practice, however for Churchill to take a quotation like this and make a jump into presuming that Marx was ascribing some kind of transcendental and transhistorical superpower to human agency is inaccurate at best. I also find this critique a little strange in that it comes a completely different direction than many other critics of Marx who felt that he was far to deterministic and actually tended towards undermining the power of human agency.
Marx was quite clear though that what he was looking at was the conditions in which humans can act, and he is clear that these conditions are independent of the will of the actors, a position that is best summed up in these two quotes:
“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” – “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon.”
“In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” – “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.”
We must also take into account that these conditions that Marx speaks of are eminently historical. In other words they had come from somewhere, and they will go somewhere. It also follows on from this that they are eminently social. To sum it up, when Marx speaks on the range of action and the range of inaction available to humans in a particular place and time, he is talking about the constrictions of the social reality; this involves the economics, the politics, the religious, the cultural, so on, so forth. All of these factors for Marx are social.
The next contention by Churchill is that Marx failed to see the human existence as being one relation among several, with Marx most conspicuously leaving out the relation of nature. However for Marx even the concept of nature itself is social. This is because Marx feels that nature is not a given, but rather something that exists only in relation to human being. However, if we take the idea that nature is a relation, and not a deified and transhistorical category, it exists because some humans define it as such, it does not mean that we feel natural events like hurricanes or blizzards will bend to the will of humans, rather we see that the categories we as humans use to define and describe the world around us are also historical and relational, which is to say that they are dialectical.
We also must realize that humanity exists within geography and territory, and hence is effected by the various effects that nature has, such as temperature and landscape. However we must also recognize that we have managed to alter these effects, namely temperature and landscape. In other words, we have been able to alter nature. It’s still relational, still dialectical. Even if we describe nature as being something separate from humanity, Engels is right to point out that whatever we define as nature is going to be historical, continuously coming into being and changing.
Churchill is also quite correct to state that Marx is a humanist and anthropocentric, however I feel his incorrect to conflate this with a continuation of the Judeo-Christian drive to dominate nature. Again I feel this is misleading on Churchill’s part, because while it certainly does very well sum up the history of Stalinism, it conflates this with all of Marxism, and certainly ignores the development of ecosocialism. However, if we go back to Marx himself we can see that even his supposed anthropocentrism is dialectical and does not ignore the myriad relations in which humans exist, certainly not that of nature. Marx’s writings are also not speaking of a Judeo-Christian drive to dominate nature. An excellent rejonder to this often brought up criticism of Marx is the book Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature by John Bellamy Foster. In the book Foster shatters the notion that Marx cared only about industrial growth and the development of economic forces. By covering not just Marx, but also other thinkers like Epicurus, Charles Darwin, Thomas Malthus, Ludwig Feuerbach, P. J. Proudhon, and William Paley he is able to construct a materialist conception of nature and society, and thereby also challenge the mysticism and spiritualism prevalent in the modern Green movement, pointing toward a method that offers more lasting and sustainable solutions to the ecological crisis.
I could say more about that book and the other works of Foster, and indeed I highly suggest that anyone even thinking of calling themselves Marxist or radical read his works, however, summing up his work is not the point of this essay, so instead I will a quote from Engels’ The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man that find to be particularly devastating to Churchill’s argument:
“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. […] Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.”
The quote speaks for itself, the simple fact is that Marx and Engels were in no way ignorant of humanity’s position as being one relation existing dialectically among many, most certainly not separate from nature, but in nature. This also means that nature is eminently social. To that we can add that Marx and Engels were also both concerned with what we now often refer to as “sustainable development.” Simply, they didn’t think humans fucking up the environment was a good idea. They were actually highly critical of ecological destruction and degradation. As for Churchill’s assertion of Marx continuing the Judeo-Christian of human dominion over nature goes, let us consider Marx’s own words:
“Even a whole society, a nation, or even all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the globe. They are only its possessors, its usufructuaries, and, like boni patres familias, they must hand it down to succeeding generations in an improved condition.” – “Capital Vol. III Part VI: Transformation of Surplus-Profit into Ground-Rent.”
The simple fact is that Churchill’s assertion that Marx and Engels support the domination of nature of man is just plain wrong. It goes to show that Churchill, like many other critics of Marx, whether Marxist, non-Marxist, Indigenist, religious or whatever has failed to actually read Marx in anyway but a superficial manner before attempting to present a coherent argument against Marxism.
Historical and Dialectical Materialism:
After attacking Marx’s notions of dialectics and nature Churchill moves on to attempting to examine the heart of Marxist theory, historical materialism. To begin Churchill makes the assertion that historical materialism examining human society as a mass of contradictions rather than as a unified whole, that all of human history is simply the history of contradictions reconciling themselves to production. Churchill then tells us that “‘Productive relations,’ in [the Marxist] schema, determine all and everything.” The so-called orthodox Marxists, according to Albert and Hahnel (whom Churchill cites), assert that Marxism downgrades the “importance of the creative aspect of the human consciousness” and that consciousness rests primarily on objective production relations.
I will admit that there is a grain of truth in Churchill’s assertions here, however he launches into a full scale attack on historical and dialectical materialism before providing a coherent account of them, with his attacks relying on wildly out of context quotations from Althusser and Baudrillard. Because of this it is very difficult to actually provide a defence of them against Churchill’s assertions. Perhaps in this case the best way to present a critique of Churchill is to actually provide a brief summary of historical and dialectical materialism, and in this way hopefully provide an answer to some of his problems.
The primary concept behind Marx’s theory of historical materialism is that all of history is based on, and driven by, material realities rather than mysterious forces. Another way of putting this is that it is not so much the ideas we have that determine our existence as much as it is the factors of our material existence that determine our ideas. This does not mean that ideas have absolutely no effect on the course of history, rather just that they only have effect when put into material action.
The Marxist model of historical materialism looks for the various causes of developments and changes in human societies in the way in which humans collectively make the means to live, thus giving an emphasis, through economic analysis, to everything that co-exists with the economic base of society. But what is meant by economics in this context? We often hear the term “mode of production” get thrown around alot, e.g., capitalism is a mode of production. If we break down, humans need to eat, drink, sleep, etc and in order to do these things they have to produce things, in one fashion or another, and the “mode” is how the production is organized and carried out. Like all other factors, this organization to is intrinsically social and its impact and been seen and felt on all other aspects of society, including: culture, politics, the state, and law. To put it simply, our social relations of production play a major role in how our social relations are organized in general.
However, any given mode of production that a society utilizes does not appear out of thin air and and neither do things like culture and ideas. The fact is that these develop together, and develop because of the course of human actions and interactions. However, importantly, the behaviours and courses of action taken by people are determined by the possibilities, limits, and imperatives of historical conditions.
Additionally it must be noted that economics is not the sole factor in driving the course of human history, as other factors can, and do, play roles in this. The point here is that they can not be separated from one another, and one cannot ignore the foundational aspect of the material social realities. Also, different modes of production can and do exist at the same time, over the same spaces, but it also the case that there is one that is clearly more dominant and determining than others.
So now let us return to Churchill’s original critiques. By now I would hope that a few things have become apparent. Firstly, the mass of human society is a set of contradictions. However these contradictions are parts of a whole and they are determined by the logic of that whole. However the whole is not necessarily “unified,” however Churchill does not really explain what he means by that term anyway. Also, the contradictions do not actually have to reconcile themselves to production. Production is itself upheld by its own set of contradictions. The productive relations are fundamental, but they do not determine “all and everything.” Finally, it is true that human consciousness is determined by their material existence. Existence precedes essence, and not the other way around. However, the whole point of revolution is that the productive relations people enter into are independent of their wills doesn’t mean it has to remain that way.
Labour Theory of Value:
The final area of Churchill’s critique of Marxism that I will examine is Marx’s labour theory of value.
Churchill is partially correct in saying that the LTV forms the core of Marxist thought, as it actually forms the bedrock of the Marxist economic theory of capitalism as a mode of production. In the essay, Churchill describes the LTV as meaning that:
“value can be assigned to anything by virtue of the quantity and quality of human labor—i.e.: productive, transformative effort—put into it. This idea carries with it several interesting sub properties, most strikingly that the natural world holds no intrinsic value of its own.”
Again, this is partially true.
For us to really be able to understand the rationale behind Marx’s ideas on the LTV we examine what Marx is actually attempting to do with it. Marx’s drive behind formulating the LTV was to try and discover “the laws of motion” of the capitalist mode of production. What this means for us, and it is central in our attempt here to refute Churchill, is that Marx’s analysis is entirely specific to capitalism as an economic system.
So what is Marx speaking of when talks about value? Well, he is specifically speaking of the value of commodities. Now by this he means that a commodity is a thing that has some kind of use, though it does not matter how one defines that use. In Capital, Vol. 1 Marx states that the “utility of a thing makes it a use-value.” What he is saying is that things can and do have intrinsic value of their own, though only when they are viewed from the perspective of humans. We also need to be crystal clear about what Marx meant by “use.” If a person derives aesthetic, spiritual, or some kind of non-physical use from a thing it is still a use. It may be a different kind of use-value, but still a use-value none the less. This means that use-value is subjective. However Marx did not mean this when he spoke of “value”.
In order for a commodity to be one it has to have some sort of exchange-value. So how do two disparate use-values find themselves being equated for exchange? There is a medium, money in the case of capitalism, which facilitates this exchange. However, what determines the particular exchange-value of a thing? For Marx, exchange-value is created by the labour required to actually produce the thing. This means that exchange-value is determined by the labour required for its production in a capitalist economy. This is what Marx means when he is talking about the LTV. This means that in the capitalist market-economy value is expressed as, and through, exchange-value, and exchange-value has nothing to do with a given thing’s use-value.
It is also entirely possible for something to have a use-value while having no exchange-value, meaning that it is not a commodity. Marx put it like this:
“A thing can be a use value, without having value. This is the case whenever its utility to man is not due to labour. Such are air, virgin soil, natural meadows, &c. A thing can be useful, and the product of human labour, without being a commodity.” – “Capital, Vol. 1.”
With this in mind it is now possible for us to fully understand what Marx meant in Capital when he said, “nothing can have value, without being an object of utility. If the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it; the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value.” Here he is is quite specifically talking of exchange-value. If a thing is not useful to someone else, it will not be exchanged, and hence has no value in the capitalist economy.
What Churchill says is right on in terms of how a capitalist economy views value and Marx would have no problem in sharing Churchill’s critique, though it’s not actually the critique of Marx or Marxism the Churchill tries to present it as. Churchill says:
“A mountain is worth nothing as a mountain; it only accrues value by being ‘developed’ into its raw productive materials such as ores, or even gravel. It can hold a certain speculative value, and thus be bought and sold, but only with such developmental ends in view. Similarly, a forest holds value only in the sense that it can be converted into a product known as lumber; otherwise, it is mere an obstacle to valuable, productive use of land through agriculture or stock-raising, etc. (an interesting commentary on the Marxian view of the land itself). Again, other species hold value only in terms their utility to productive processes (e.g.: meat, fur, leather, various body oils, eggs, milk, transportation in some instances, even fertilizer); otherwise they may, indeed must be preempted and supplanted by the more productive use of the habitat by humans.”
As for what Churchill refers to as the “Marxian view of the land itself,” I would refer you back to the earlier quotes from Marx and Engels. I should also point out that Marx is very clear that nature is as much a source of wealth as labour, and was quite vociferous in his criticism of those who thought that labour alone was a source of wealth:
“Labor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labor, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labor power.” – “Critique of the Gotha Programme.”
Getting back to my earlier point about Churchill’s critique of Marxist ideas on dialectics and nature, it would seem that his critiques of the labour theory of value have little, if any, detailed analysis behind it. Again, it appears that Churchill has attempted nothing but the most superficial reading of Marx and Engels. Hence he comes off as little more than ignorant of what he trying to speak about.
However, the point behind this “anti-critique” of sorts is that what Churchill is presenting in his essay might go on to form the basis of further mistaken critiques of Marxism. I also feel that it is important the truth of Marxist thought is certainly not the kind of Soviet Marxism that Churchill and others repeatedly conflate with Marxism on the whole.
On a final note, I disagree with Churchill that Marxism and Indigenism are mutually exclusive. This perhaps because, rather than use his definition of Indigenism as being a mix of deep-ecology, soft-path technology and anarchism (more like minarchism), I prefer the definition given by Guillermo Bonfil Batalla. His definition of Indigenism boiled down to six basic demands:
* Right to ancestral lands including complete control of land and subsoil, the defence of land and recuperation of land lost.
* Recognition of the ethnic and cultural identity of indigenous people- all indigenous peoples and organizations reaffirm the right to be distinct in culture, language and institutions, and to increase the value of their own technological, social and ideological practices.
* Equal political rights in relation to the state.
* The end of repression and violence, particularly that against the leaders, activists and followers of indigenous political organizations.
* The end of family planning programmes which have brought widespread sterilization of indigenous women and men.
* The rejection of tourism and folklore, meaning the end of commercialization of Indian music, dance and other art forms as well as other forms of cultural appropriation. Instead, respect for true indigenous cultural expressions.
These original six demands, as well as many others such as the rejection of capitalism and neoliberalism, have framed many of the Indian liberation struggles in the Americas over the last century, from sections of the Red Power movement (especially in Canada), to the Zapatistas in Mexico, to the work of Hugo Blanco and others in the Andean region of South America, to the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia, to the current struggles in Canada. There is also absolutely no reason that this form of Indigenism cannot be compatible with Marxism and struggles for socialism, and I am proud to call myself both a Marxist and an Indigenist.
However, the indigenism that Ward Churchill propagates has become, in certain circles, a curse word on the left implying that someone seeks a return to a primitivist life-style, or at least a certain level of deindustrialization. This is also not far off of what Churchill, Means and others seek. However, the simple fact is that true Indigenism, not the vaguely disguised primitivism of Means and Churchill, it is not something people on the revolutionary left should be afraid of, indeed it should embraced alongside the struggles against capitalism, racial/national oppression of blacks and latinos, patriarchy and homophobia/heterosexism, only then can a truly emancipatory struggle be waged.
This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #30, “Marx, Lenin and Stalin on Zionism.”
There can be little doubt that the position of Germany Jewry was that of a discriminated section of the German people. This is attested to even in the biographies of the few that managed to climb out of the slums such as the Rothschilds (Elon A; “Rothschild”; London; 1993).
We will not need to itemize these discrimination in detail, as the texts and interpretation are easily available. In brief, the Jews suffered severe restrictions including curfews, limits on where they could live, special mandatory requirements in order to allow them to perform any work, no State employment allowed, and a host of petty problems including upon marriage rights. This does not even discuss the excluding the possibility of pogroms.
The views of Lenin and Stalin on the Jews, followed those of Karl Marx – himself a Jew. In turn, Marx’s views on the Jewish Question, were very similar to contemporary Jewish progressives, such as seen in the early views of Moses Hess, a Jewish social democrat. In essence they all urged Jews to fully embrace secular society in order to merge into it. But Hess then renounced a secular progressive stand to adopt Jewish mysticism. But Moses Hess turned to embraced mysticism. In doing so he ensured that later on, ‘progressive minded Zionists,’ would point to Hess rather than Marx, in order to argue that Socialism and Zionism are supposedly compatible!
In contrast to their support of Hess, Zionists loathe Marx, and charge him of racism. But the grounds for this Zionist charge, are transparently flimsy. The charges invoke a Marx – “alienated” from his Jewishness. The charges of anti-Jewish racism has to deal with the fact that Marx was a descendant of a long line of Rabbis in Germany and Italy. His father in Trier had converted to Christianity, in order obtain livelihood, although his mother never did convert. Marx, it is claimed hated ‘his Jewishness’ – Saul Padover uses the term:
“Selbsthass [self hatred] of Marx.”
(Padover S.K.; “Introduction” vol 5, “On Religion”; Karl Marx Library; New York; 1974, p. Xiii.).
As Padover puts it :
“As an understandable defense mechanism, young Marx deprived of a spiritual base of support in Judaism, imbibed the ancient hostility to his people and accepted all the ugly stereotypes of the brutally caricatured Jew then widely prevalent in Europe .. This was an expression of what the Germans call Selbsthass.”
(Padover Ibid; p. xiii)
The evidence for this is said to reside in his letters, and, especially in his early work. But when these are read, it is clear that what is objectionable to the Zionists, is simply the boldness of the following assertion: That to be free, and to truly and fully exercise civil rights, the Jew must renounce Jewishness, just as the Christian must renounce Christianity.
Even the most antagonistic Zionists, such as Saul Padover, are forced to acknowledge, that Marx’s first published work on the “Jewish Question” which appeared in the Cologne Rheinische Zeitung in the summer of 1842, was a forthright defence of the Jews. At that time, Heinrich Hermes of the Kolnische Zeitung, a Catholic paper, had attacked Jews. In this attack, Hermes denied that Jews had any rights to “Civil Equality.” Marx openly counter-attacked this in print. Following his defence of civil rights for the Jews, Marx told Arnold Ruge that he had been approached by local Jews, to put a petition on behalf of Jews to the Landtag (Diet):
“Just now the chief of the local Israelites came to see me and asked me to forward a petition for the Jews to the Landtag [Diet] and I want to do it. Revolting [Widerlich] though the Israelite religion is to me, nevertheless Bauer’s opinion [on the Jewish Question] seems to me to be too abstract.”
(Marx; Letter to Ruge A; March 13th 1843; Cited Padover Introduction Ibid; p. Xxi.)
The petition was successful, and marked the first time that a German parliament had granted “Complete equality of Jews in civil and political matters.” Padover is forced to take note of this, but he deals with it, by simply dismissing it as: a “political gesture taken by Marx” in spite of “his revulsion for Judaism.” But it is clear that Marx calls the “Israelite religion” revolting, not Jews themselves. In fact the whole of Marx’s work testifies to his determination to tear the veils that perpetuate slavery and enchainment. With Engels, Marx identified backward looking nationalisms and religion as narcotic-laden veils – Marx called a spade a spade. He is just as virulent about Christianity, about Islam, about Hinduism – and all religions. Indeed all these were means to disguise and veil the reality of the world. Hear Marx on the Hindus and the Brahmins:
“We must not forget that.. that they restrained the human mind within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies. We must not forget the barbarian egotism…the perpetuation of unspeakable cruelties, the massacre of the population of large towns…this passive sort of existence evoked…murder itself a religious rite in Hindostan…the little [Hindoo] communities were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery…they subjected man to external circumstances instead of elevating man to be the sovereign of circumstances…they transformed a self-developing social state into a never changing natural destiny, … brought about a brutalising worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that Man the sovereign of nature fell down on his knees in adoration of Hanuman the monkey, and Sabbala the cow.”
(Marx.,”British Rule in India”; “Marx & Engels on Britain.” Moscow; 1971; p.168. p171-172.)
“I share not the opinion of those who believe in a golden age of Hindostan…the mythological chronology of the Brahmin himself, places the commencement of Indian misery in an epoch even more remote than the Christian creation of the world.”
(Marx, “The British Rule In India,” Ibid. p.168)
Who denies that Marx fought the religious vapours of the Brahmins? Just so, he fought the religious and pseudo-nationalist Zionist vapours. Neither of these fights, made him an anti-Indian racist, or somehow ‘alienated’ from Indian problems, as Padover would have us believe!
What did Marx say on the Jewish Question?
Marx only wrote two main articles that explicitly dealt with the Jews as a central theme. They both took the same essential line.
That the Jews in general, had found a niche in capitalist society, by acting as money lenders. Stripping away sanctimony, Marx therefore proclaimed that something else, besides religion, defined the Jews. In his first article, Marx contrasted the “actual secular Jew” with the “Sabbath Jew.” Since the public role of he most prominent Jews was as money merchants, he concentrates on the “haggling” and usurious life of the Jewish trader:
“Let us consider the actual secular Jew, not the Sabbath Jew as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew. Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of religion in the actual Jew. What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the world cult of the Jew? Schacer [Bargaining, haggling, or huckstering-Ed]. What is his worldly god? Money! What actually was the foundation in and of itself, of the Jewish religion? Practical need, egoism. Hence the Jew’s monotheism, is in reality, the polytheism of many needs, a polytheism that makes even the toiler an object of divine law…The god of practical need and self-interest is money. Money is the jealous god of Israel before whom no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of mankind and converts them into commodities.. The god of the Jew has been secularized and has become the god of the world. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange… What is contained abstractly in the Jewish religion – contempt for theory, for art, for history, for man as an end in himself – is the actual conscious standpoint and virtue of the money man…The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the money-man in general.”
(On the Jewish Question – “Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher,” Vol 3 Marx Collected Works; pp 146-74).
Padover makes Marx into a mythical Christian loving and Jew hating person. But in reality Marx describes clearly, from where in his view, Christianity came from. It arose from Judaism:
“Christianity arose of Judaism. It has again dissolved itself into Judaism…Christianity overcame real Judaism only in appearance, It was too noble, too spiritual to alienate the crudeness of practical need except by elevating it into the heavens. Christianity is the sublime thought of Judaism, and Judaism is the common practical application of Christianity; but this application could become universal only after Christianity as the compete religion had theoretically competed the alienation of man from himself and from nature.”
(Marx; “On the Jewish Question”; p.191; in Padover Ibid).
For Marx, it was necessary to emphasize the need to dissolve the religious fetters upon the Jews, and by so doing allow them to enter into the rest of society. The article ends with the words:
“The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Jewishness.”
(Marx; “The Holy Family” (b) The Jewish Question No 1. The setting of the question. Volume 4; CW; Moscow; 1975; p. 87; also in Marx “On The Jewish Question”; p.192; in Padover Ibid.)
The second article was contained within a section of the “Holy Family,” which was a settling of accounts, by Marx and Engels, with the pre-Marxist ideologies in Germany as represented by Bruno Bauer, a member of a philosophical grouping known as Absolute Criticism.
Bauer argued to deny civil rights to Jews, because like everyone else, they had no inborn “Rights of Man,” no ‘dogmatic’ claim for this that over-rode everything else. The implication was that nothing was “owed” to the Jews. In an attack on the materialists, whom he names the “spokesmen of the masses,” Bruno Bauer repudiates any ‘Rights of Man’:
“How thoughtless the spokesmen of the Masses are; they have God knows what a great opinion of themselves for supporting emancipation and the dogma of the rights of man.”
(Karl Marx: “The Jewish Question No 1. The Setting of the Question.” Part of “The Holy Family.” (1844); In Collected Works; Volume 4; Moscow; 1975; p. 87).
Marx replies that the abstract “Rights of Man” are irrelevant as compared to the much more real, fundamental and practical assertions of the inborn rights of man to “fish, hunt etc,” as had been pointed out by Charles Fourier:
“As for the ‘rights of man,’ it has been proved to Herr Bruno (‘On the Jewish Question’ – Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher)- Vol 3 M CW- pp 146-74) that it is ‘he himself,’ not the spokesmen of the Mass, who has misunderstood and dogmatically mishandled the essence of those rights. Compared to his discovery that the rights of man are not inborn – a discovery which has been made innumerable times in England during the last 40-odd years – Fourier’s assertions that the right to fish, hunt, etc are inborn rights of men is one of genius.”
(Karl Marx: “The Jewish Question No 1.” Part of “The Holy Family”; Ibid; p.87-89).
One of Bruno Bauer’s assertions, had been that it was only to be expected, and indeed was quite natural, that a Christian state would not enshrine rights for Jews:
“The Christian state having as its vital principle a definite religion, cannot allow adherents of another particular religion … Complete equality with its own social estates.”
(Bauer cited in Marx, “The Holy Family” Ibid; p. 88.)
Marx in reply, points out that the Christian states render this whole question meaningless, since they do not even allow civil equality to their Christian their “own social estates”- to use Bauer’s phrase, to even non-Jews:
“The Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher [showed] that the state of social estates and of exclusive Christianity is not only an incomplete state but an incomplete Christian state… Absolute Criticism still regards the abolition of religion atheism, as the condition for civil equality… It has therefore not yet acquired any deeper insight into the essence of the state.”
(Karl Marx: “The Jewish Question No 1.” Part of “The Holy Family”; Ibid; p. 88).
For further detail, the interested reader can consult the Appendix [below] for a detailed annotation of Marx’s article. Although those two articles are the basic and longest exposition on the nature of the Jews by Marx, an isolated later description of the Jews by Marx is often quoted, as another example of Marx’s alleged “anti-Semitism.” Here Marx discussed the historical role of the Jews, and he was equally graphic as in his earlier remarks. Marx’s vivid phrasing – “Jews in the pores of society” – offends Zionists. It seems that this image of the Jews who were not fully visible in the middle of society, Marx painted by Marx, is somehow a ‘racist’ view of Marx. But in what context does Marx place this image? Marx is talking about trading for commodities in the ancient world, where the dominant relations of production are not commodity based. Marx asserts that Jewish trading is ancient in its history:
“In the modes of production of ancient Asia, of Antiquity etc; we find that the conversion of products into commodities, and hence the existence of men as mere producers of commodities plays a subordinate role, which however increases in importance as the ancient communities approach closer and closer to the stage of their decline. Trading nations proper exist in the ancient world only in its interstices, like the Gods of Epicurius in Intermundia, or like the Jew in the pores of Polish society. These ancient social organisms of production are extraordinarily more simple and transparent than the bourgeois ones, but they are based either on the immaturity of the individual man, who has not yet severed the umbilical cord that unites him naturally with his own species, or on direct master-servant relationships. They are conditioned by a lower stage of development of the productive forces of labour and the correspondingly encompassing relationships of men within their material generating processes, and hence to each other and to nature. This actual narrowness is realised ideally in the ancient worship of nature and in folk religions. The religious reflex of the real world can vanish altogether only when the relationships of practical everyday life offer men daily visible and reasonable relationships to each other and to nature.”
(Marx K; “Capital” Volume 1; Chapter 1; Section 4; Cited by Padover Ibid; p. 137.)
Well, is this unfair? Marx is simply pointing out that Jews were not given full civic right in then Poland. There is another dimension, relating to the Jewish concentration in trading. Perhaps Jews were not important traders in the ancient world, and perhaps commodity trading was a more main-stream and prominent feature in antiquity?
But, no evidence to contradict Marx, is shown by those such as Padover who critique Marx here.
The very useful function of providing loose monies for loan, had been the prerogative of the Jew, right up until the Reformation. Until then, loans were made only in the interstices of society. But the increasing need of capital, fueled a demand for the practice of charging interest, or usury. This became a root cause of the Reformation, the vast social movement that upturned traditional Catholicism, and is usually portrayed as the rise of the Protestant religion. But the underlying reasons for the Reformation are still often overlooked. The drawback of Catholicism, one the Protestant version of Christianity could overcome for society, was the lack of money trading. Under Catholicism but not under Protestantism, money trading by loans (known as usury) was forbidden as avarice:
“The historical background.. Consisted of the body of social theory stated & implicit, which was the legacy of the Middle Ages. The formal teaching was derived form the Bible, the works of the Fathers & Schoolmen, the canon law and its commentators, and have been popularized.”
(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 28)
The condemnation of usury supported a land owning feudal society. Pope Innocent IV argued:
“If usury were general, men would not give thought to the cultivation of their land except when they could do ought else, and so there would be so great a famine that all the poor would die of hunger.”
(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 56)
“Early Councils had forbidden usury to be taken by the clergy. The Councils of the 12th & 13th Centuries forbid it to be taken by clergy or laity, and laid down rules for dealing with offenders… The Legislation of the Councils of Lyons (1274) and of Viene (1312) … re-enacted the measures laid down by the third Lateran Council (1175) & supplemented them by rules which virtually made the money-lender an outlaw.”
(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 58.)
Luther‘s views largely echoed traditional Catholicism. But Calvinism, in contrast, was unlike Lutheranism – it was largely an urban movement that reflected the needs of the growing capitalist society. Calvin could write:
“What reason is there why the income from business should not be larger than that from landowning? Whence do the merchant’s profits come… except from his own indulgence & industry?”
(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 113)
There was an intense frustration, by all capitalists and traders, inside the developing capitalist Middle Ages society of developing nations. Even in Florence, the greatest mercantile centre in the Middle Ages, the patent nonsense of the old laws, was shown by the simultaneous hypocrisy of banning usury, whilst depending upon imported Jews to conduct it:
“Florence was the financial capital of medieval Europe; but even at Florence, the secular authorities fined bankers right and left for usury in the middle of the 14th Century, and fifty years later first prohibited credit transaction altogether, and then imported Jews to conduct a business forbidden to Christians.”
(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 49.)
So there was a societal need and drive, to adopt the mores of Calvinism.
Following this, the social utility of Judaism to a developing capitalist society diminished. Large scale pogroms would follow the rise of capitalism, which had now ensured its own secure form of usury. (This is a very truncated synopsis. Since Marx’s views on this question encompass the whole place of religion in civil society, we carry a more detailed view of this in Appendix 1).
In Conclusion: Marx stripped bare of camouflage, the vice in which modern workers of all colours and creed were held – capitalist relations. This meant the dissolution of religious faith. Naturally, religiously biased ideologues, like Zionists, will find this offensive. Too bad! We next examine how Marx’s views were echoed by Lenin and Stalin on this question.
Appendix: A More Detailed Synopsis – with our commentary – of Marx’s views on the Jewish Question
All the quotations from Marx’s articles below are drawn from the Marx-Engels Internet Archive and can be found at the following web site for the full index of works by Marx on one particular Internet Archive: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844-jq/index.htm
Please note that all emphases below in the quotes are from the Alliance editors.
Marx’s article contains more than simply an analysis not only of the attitude that revolutionaries should take to the Jewish Question. Because the Jewish Question is a complex mixture of political, civil and religious victimisation, Marx has to deal with the relation of religion to society. Marx also deals with Bauer’s misconceptions surrounding the Democratic Rights Of Man – as adopted by the French Revolution and the USA War of Independence.
Marx first summarises the position of Bruno Bauer.
Bauer starts out saying that no one in Germany, has the type of freedom that Jews want, ie “civic political emancipation.” He argues that it is therefore “egoist-ic” to want a “special emancipation” separate from other humans. He argues that emancipation cannot come from those who are themselves “not free”:
“Bruno Bauer: The German Jews desire emancipation. What kind of emancipation do they desire? Civic, political emancipation. Bruno Bauer replies to them: No one in Germany is politically emancipated. We ourselves are not free. How are we to free you? You Jews are ‘egoists’ if you demand a special emancipation for yourselves as Jews. As Germans, you ought to work for the political emancipation of Germany, and as human beings, for the emancipation of mankind, and you should feel the particular kind of your oppression and your shame not as an exception to the rule, but on the contrary as a confirmation of the rule.”
For Bauer the roots of the “Jewish Question” lie in a religious opposition. This opposition can only be resolved by rendering the opposition impossible. Christianity and Judaism are simply different stages “in the development of the human mind.” But there is only one way to render opposition “impossible” – by abolishing religion. The Jew must follow Bauer’s dictum of self-emancipation, the Jew must renounce religion:
“How, then, does Bauer solve the Jewish question?…
‘We must emancipate ourselves before we can emancipate others.’
The most rigid form of the opposition between the Jew and the Christian is the religious opposition. How is an opposition resolved? By making it impossible. How is religious opposition made impossible? By ‘abolishing religion.’ As soon as Jew and Christian recognize that their respective religions are no more than ‘different stages in the development of the human mind,’ different snake skins cast off by ‘history,’ and that man is the snake who sloughed them, the relation of Jew and Christian is no longer religious but is only a critical, ‘scientific,’ and human relation. Science, then, constitutes their unity. But, contradictions in science are resolved by science itself.”
For Bauer this renunciation and self-emancipation is necessary for Christians as well as Jews. It has a “universal significance.” The question embraces more than the individual, being also a “question of the relation of religion to the state”:
“The ‘German Jew,’ in particular, is confronted by the general absence of political emancipation and the strongly marked Christian character of the state. In Bauer’s conception, however, the Jewish question has a universal significance, independent of specifically German conditions. It is the question of the relation of religion to the state, of the contradiction between religious constraint and political emancipation. Emancipation from religion is laid down as a condition, both to the Jew who wants to be emancipated politically, and to the state which is to effect emancipation and is itself to be emancipated.”
In any case, argues Bauer, even if the State itself took the actions demanded by Jews, the State’s formal actions will not achieve the desired results. Bauer cites the French State as an example. Here the formal declaration of equality for all was not matched in practice. He then stresses that the responsibility for emancipation lies with the victim, the Jew – who should renounce religion and the Sabbath allowing him/her to attend the Chamber of Deputies and vote down the “privileged religion.” With the ending of a “privileged religion” (ie Christianity) the freedom of worship as an individual act will follow. Marx concludes:
“Bauer, therefore, demands, on the one hand, that the Jew should renounce Judaism, and that mankind in general should renounce religion, in order to achieve ‘civic’ emancipation. On the other hand, he quite consistently regards the ‘political’ abolition of religion as the abolition of religion as such. The state which presupposes religion is not yet a true, real state.”
Marx now begins his demolition of Bauer. In essence, Marx shows that Bauer:
(i) Confuses civil and political emancipation;
(ii) Does not understand the distinction between full human freedoms and state granted political freedom;
(iii) That he does not understand the concrete manifestations of the Jewish Question in the different States;
(iv) That he does not understand the Declaration of Rights Of Man.
Marx outlines the limitations and the questions left unanswered by the mechanistic Bauer. Especially asks Marx, What is the nature of the emancipation being demanded that Bauer has not addressed?
“At this point, the one-sided formulation of the Jewish question becomes evident. It was by no means sufficient to investigate: Who is to emancipate? Who is to be emancipated? Criticism had to investigate a third point. It had to inquire: What kind of emancipation is in question? [Editor’s emphasis]. What conditions follow from the very nature of the emancipation that is demanded? Only the criticism of political emancipation itself would have been the conclusive criticism of the Jewish question and its real merging in the general question of time. Because Bauer does not raise the question to this level, he becomes entangled in contradictions. He puts forward conditions which are not based on the nature of political emancipation itself. He raises questions which are not part of his problem, and he solves problems which leave this question unanswered.”
Bauer excuses the bigots who opposed Jewish emancipation, seeing them as only committing only one error- they assume a Christian state to be the only true one, and they do not criticise it as they do Judaism. For Marx the relevant criticism is the state itself, and the relationship of political emancipation to human emancipation:
“We find that his error lies in the fact that he subjects to criticism only the ‘Christian state,’ not the ‘state as such,’ that he does not investigate the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation and, therefore, puts forward conditions which can be explained only by uncritical confusion of political emancipation with general human emancipation.”
Thus Marx turns Bauer’s question to the Jews around. Marx defends in effect the right of a private choice to religion and Judaism in particular. This right is not dependent upon, nor subordinate to a superior political emancipation:
“If Bauer asks the Jews: Have you, from your standpoint, the right to want political emancipation? We ask the converse question: Does the standpoint of political emancipation give the right to demand from the Jew the abolition of Judaism and from man the abolition of religion?”
Marx also points out that freedoms necessitate understanding concrete realities. There are particular aspects that the Jewish question takes in different societies. Thus in Germany, a state not yet undergone the bourgeois revolution, a theological State is encountered by the Jew:
“In Germany, where there is no political state, no state as such, the Jewish question is a purely theological one. The Jew finds himself in religious opposition to the state, which recognizes Christianity as its basis. This state is a theologian ex professo. Criticism here is criticism of theology, a double-edged criticism — criticism of Christian theology and of Jewish theology. Hence, we continue to operate in the sphere of theology, however much we may operate critically within it.”
Whereas since France is a constitutional state with differing effects on Jews, there it was a question of a incompleteness of political emancipation:
“In France, a constitutional state, the Jewish question is a question of constitutionalism, the question of the incompleteness of political emancipation. Since the semblance of a state religion is retained here, although in a meaningless and self-contradictory formula, that of a religion of the majority, the relation of the Jew to the state retains the semblance of a religious, theological opposition.”
Only one state, the USA, has an apparently fully secular relationship with its peoples, allowing religious freedoms. Although Marx made it clear that he obviously understood that hypocrisies abounded, saying that although the USA Constitution was clear on the freedom of worship, North America is pre-eminently the country of religiosity. Nonetheless:
“Only in the North American states — at least, in some of them — does the Jewish question lose its theological significance and become a really secular question. Only where the political state exists in its completely developed form can the relation of the Jew, and of the religious man in general, to the political state, and therefore the relation of religion to the state, show itself in its specific character, in its purity. The criticism of this relation ceases to be theological criticism as soon as the state ceases to adopt a theological attitude toward religion, as soon as it behaves towards religion as a state — i.e., politically. Criticism, then, becomes criticism of the political state. At this point, where the question ceases to be theological, Bauer’s criticism ceases to be critical.”
In any case, the fundamental question is the relation of political emancipation to religion. Marx argues that if religious motivations still remain, despite “political emancipation” in countries like the USA, it is because of an incomplete secular freedom, a defect of a secular narrowness. Religion itself is not the cause of the defect. Religion can only be overcome not by overcoming religious narrowness but by getting rid of secular restrictions – Not by abolishing religion as Bauer proclaims:
“The question is: What is the relation of complete political emancipation to religion? If we find that even in the country of complete political emancipation, religion not only exists, but displays a fresh and vigorous vitality, that is proof that the existence of religion is not in contradiction to the perfection of the state. Since, however, the existence of religion is the existence of defect, the source of this defect can only be sought in the nature of the state itself. We no longer regard religion as the cause, but only as the manifestation of secular narrowness. Therefore, we explain the religious limitations of the free citizen by their secular limitations. We do not assert that they must overcome their religious narrowness in order to get rid of their secular restrictions, we assert that they will overcome their religious narrowness once they get rid of their secular restrictions. We do not turn secular questions into theological ones… The question of the relation of political emancipation to religion becomes for us the question of the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation. We criticize the religious weakness of the political state by criticizing the political state in its secular form, apart from its weaknesses as regards religion.”
Marx agrees with Bauer, that for both Jews and Christians, full liberty means shedding religious superstitions. But for a fuller human liberation, the first and immediate need is for separation of state and religion, for the emancipation of the state from any particular secular elements and from state religion. This is a political emancipation & not a religious emancipation which requires human emancipation:
“The contradiction between the state and a particular religion, for instance Judaism, is given by us a human form as the contradiction between the state and particular secular elements; the contradiction between the state and religion in general as the contradiction between the state and its presuppositions in general. The political emancipation of the Jew, the Christian, and, in general, of religious man, is the emancipation of the state from Judaism, from Christianity, from religion in general… the state as a state emancipates itself from religion by emancipating itself from the state religion — that is to say, by the state as a state not professing any religion, but, on the contrary, asserting itself as a state. The political emancipation from religion is not a religious emancipation that has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction, because political emancipation is not a form of human emancipation which has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction.”
It is irrelevant if even the majority of the people remain religious. For religious sentiments remain, until the people undergo a more profound freedom. The problem is the limits of a political emancipation by itself:
“The limits of political emancipation are evident at once from the fact that the state can free itself from a restriction without man being really free from this restriction, that the state can be a free state without man being a free man.”
Marx means by this, the need for a further and profound liberation of the human. To drive his point home, Marx draws an analogy to private property relations. As the USA state had abolished requirements of property for the right to vote, he argues that it had effectively abolished private property. But Marx says this is ridiculous since clearly, private property not only exists in the USA, but that it forms the presupposed basis for the state:
“Nevertheless, the political annulment of private property not only fails to abolish private property but even presupposes it. The state abolishes, in its own way, distinctions of birth, social rank, education, occupation, when it declares that birth, social rank, education, occupation, are non-political distinctions, when it proclaims, without regard to these distinction, that every member of the nation is an equal participant in national sovereignty, when it treats all elements of the real life of the nation from the standpoint of the state. Nevertheless, the state allows private property, education, occupation, to act in their way – i.e., as private property, as education, as occupation, and to exert the influence of their special nature. Far from abolishing these real distinctions, the state only exists on the presupposition of their existence; it feels itself to be a political state and asserts its universality only in opposition to these elements of its being.”
Consistent with this type of hypocrisy of the tenets of the bourgeois Constitution, religious conflicts will exist in politically bourgeois states. But these are no different in kind from contradictions even the bourgeoisie find themselves in with respect to their status as supposed free citizens. Marx locates Jew’s problems in civil society, in the same conflicts of the citizen whose political powers are merely a sophistry and not a real one:
“Man, as the adherent of a particular religion, finds himself in conflict with his citizenship and with other men as members of the community. This conflict reduces itself to the secular division between the political state and civil society. For man as a bourgeois [ here, meaning, member of civil society, private life], life in the state is only a semblance or a temporary exception to the essential and the rule. Of course, the bourgeois, like the Jew, remains only sophistically in the sphere of political life, just as the citoyen only sophistically remains a Jew or a bourgeois. But, this sophistry is not personal. It is the sophistry of the political state itself. The difference between the merchant and the citizen, between the day-labourer and the citizen, between the landowner and the citizen, between the merchant and the citizen, between the living individual and the citizen. The contradiction in which the religious man finds himself with the political man is the same contradiction in which the bourgeois finds himself with the citoyen, and the member of civil society with his political lion’s skin.”
For Marx, Bauer ignores the Jew’s secular problems, confining himself to the purely religious conflicts:
“This secular conflict, to which the Jewish question ultimately reduces itself, the relation between the political state and its preconditions, whether these are material elements, such as private property, etc., or spiritual elements, such as culture or religion, the conflict between the general interest and private interest, the schism between the political state and civil society — these secular antitheses Bauer allows to persist, whereas he conducts a polemic against their religious expression.”
As explained, Marx distinguishes political emancipation from the full human emancipation that tackles the religious sentiment. It is not surprising then, that Marx says that political emancipation of itself, often leaves religion intact. A thorough liberation, including from religion, requires special periods when new political states arise out of civil society, where a permanent non-stop revolution does not baulk at hurdles:
“Of course, in periods when the political state as such is born violently out of civil society, when political liberation is the form in which men strive to achieve their liberation, the state can and must go as far as the abolition of religion, the destruction of religion. But, it can do so only in the same way that it proceeds to the abolition of private property, to the maximum, to confiscation, to progressive taxation, just as it goes as far as the abolition of life, the guillotine. At times of special self-confidence, political life seeks to suppress its prerequisite, civil society and the elements composing this society, and to constitute itself as the real species-life of man, devoid of contradictions. But, it can achieve this only by coming into violent contradiction with its own conditions of life, only by declaring the revolution to be permanent, and, therefore, the political drama necessarily ends with the re-establishment of religion, private property, and all elements of civil society, just as war ends with peace.”
So Marx differentiates between the more limited liberation in political emancipation of the secular state of bourgeois society (that which in words denies religious persecution and property rights, but in fact endorses them) and a fuller human liberation. Where does all this leave the Jew? Bauer had denied the Jew civil rights till renunciation of Judaism. Marx denies that. But he adds, for full liberation, the Jew must strive for a human liberation from religion itself – as well as striving for political emancipation. The latter can be achieved without renouncing Judaism, but human liberation requires leaving religion. The Jew however, in confronting the Christian state, in demanding civic rights is acting politically:
“Therefore, we do not say to the Jews, as Bauer does: You cannot be emancipated politically without emancipating yourselves radically from Judaism. On the contrary, we tell them: Because you can be emancipated politically without renouncing Judaism completely and incontrovertibly, political emancipation itself is not human emancipation. If you Jews want to be emancipated politically, without emancipating yourselves humanly, the half-hearted approach and contradiction is not in you alone, it is inherent in the nature and category of political emancipation. If you find yourself within the confines of this category, you share in a general confinement. Just as the state evangelizes when, although it is a state, it adopts a Christian attitude towards the Jews, so the Jew acts politically when, although a Jew, he demands civic rights.”
Bauer had a somewhat mystical idea of how Democratic Rights were obtained. According to Bauer, the rights of man were not a gift of nature but were obtained by struggle against historical tradition:
“But, if a man, although a Jew, can be emancipated politically and receive civic rights, can he lay claim to the so-called rights of man and receive them? Bauer denies it. [Says Bauer]:
‘The question is whether the Jew as such, that is, the Jew who himself admits that he is compelled by his true nature to live permanently in separation from other men, is capable of receiving the universal rights of man and of conceding them to others. For the Christian world, the idea of the rights of man was only discovered in the last century. It is not innate in men; on the contrary, it is gained only in a struggle against the historical traditions in which hitherto man was brought up. Thus the rights of man are not a gift of nature, not a legacy from past history, but the reward of the struggle against the accident of birth and against the privileges which up to now have been handed down by history from generation to generation. These rights are the result of culture, and only one who has earned and deserved them can possess them.
Can the Jew really take possession of them? As long as he is a Jew, the restricted nature which makes him a Jew is bound to triumph over the human nature which should link him as a man with other men, and will separate him from non-Jews. He declares by this separation that the particular nature which makes him a Jew is his true, highest nature, before which human nature has to give way. Similarly, the Christian as a Christian cannot grant the rights of man.'”
In countering this naive mystic view, Marx shows that Bauer had not even understood the notion of the universal rights of man. For Bauer, man has to sacrifice the privilege of faith to obtain universal rights of man. But Marx points out that these rights were never seen, by either the French and the USA framers of the Declaration of Rights, as being contingent upon abolition of religion:
“Let us examine, for a moment, the so-called rights of man — to be precise, the rights of man in their authentic form, in the form which they have among those who discovered them, the North Americans and the French. These rights of man are, in part, political rights, rights which can only be exercised in community with others. Their content is participation in the community, and specifically in the political community, in the life of the state. They come within the category of political freedom, the category of civic rights, which, as we have seen, in no way presuppose the incontrovertible and positive abolition of religion — nor, therefore, of Judaism.”
Marx now examines the possible differences between the rights of man and the rights of the citizen:
“There remains to be examined the other part of the rights of man — the rights of man, insofar as these differ from the rights of the citizen. Included among them is freedom of conscience, the right to practice any religion one chooses. The privilege of faith is expressly recognized either as a right of man or as the consequence of a right of man, that of liberty. Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1791, Article 10:
‘The freedom of every man to practice the religion of which he is an adherent.'”
Marx quotes the Declaration, showing that the Right of freedom of conscience is drawn from Nature:
“All men have received from nature the imprescriptible right to worship the Almighty according to the dictates of their conscience, and no one can be legally compelled to follow, establish, or support against his will any religion or religious ministry. No human authority can, in any circumstances, intervene in a matter of conscience or control the forces of the soul.”
Marx now distinguishes between man and citizen. Man – as in rights of man – is the person who makes up civil society. Man, separated atomically from other men. He goes on to quote directly from the most radical Constitution that of 1793, that was used to define liberty, what is it that constitutes liberty?
“The rights of man, are, as such, distinct from… the rights of the citizen. Who is man as distinct from citizen? None other than the member of civil society. Why is the member of civil society called man; why are his rights called the rights of man? How is this fact to be explained? From the relationship between the political state and civil society, from the nature of political emancipation…
…Above all, we note the fact that the so-called rights of man.. as distinct from the rights of citizens, are nothing but the rights of a member of civil society — i.e., the rights of egoistic man, of man separated from other men and from the community. Let us hear what the most radical Constitution, the Constitution of 1793, has to say: Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Article 2. These rights, etc., (the natural and imprescriptible rights) are: equality, liberty, security, property.
What constitutes liberty?
‘Article 6. Liberty is the power which man has to do everything that does not harm the rights of others, or, according to the Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1791: Liberty consists in being able to do everything which does not harm others.’
Liberty, therefore, is the right to do everything that harms no one else. The limits within which anyone can act without harming someone else are defined by law, just as the boundary between two fields is determined by a boundary post. It is a question of the liberty of man as an isolated monad, withdrawn into himself.”
Marx returns to contrast Bauer‘s position with that of the 1793 Constitution. Bauer’s position in demanding of the Jew to renounce Judaism before granting human rights – Liberty in the words of the Declaration of Rights Of Man – is that unless the Jew does renounce Judaism he will remain separate from non-Jews:
“Why is the Jew, according to Bauer, incapable of acquiring the rights of man? As long as he is a Jew, the restricted nature which makes him a Jew is bound to triumph over the human nature which should link him as a man with other men, and will separate him from non-Jews.”
And Marx replies to him saying that the very notion of liberty under the bourgeois Declaration of Rights is of a separation of man from man, on an isolated individual. This is easily illustrated with respect to another aspect of the Declaration of Rights of Man, that concerning private property:
“But, the right of man to liberty is based not on the association of man with man, but on the separation of man from man. It is the right of this separation, the right of the restricted individual, withdrawn into himself. The practical application of man’s right to liberty is man’s right to private property.
What constitutes man’s right to private property?
Article 16. (Constitution of 1793):
‘The right of property is that which every citizen has of enjoying and of disposing at his discretion of his goods and income, of the fruits of his labor and industry.’
The right of man to private property is, therefore, the right to enjoy one’s property and to dispose of it at one’s discretion (a son gre), without regard to other men, independently of society, the right of self-interest. This individual liberty and its application form the basis of civil society. It makes every man see in other men not the realization of his own freedom, but the barrier to it. But, above all, it proclaims the right of man of enjoying and of disposing at his discretion of his goods and income, of the fruits of his labor and industry.”
Of the other rights of man: There remains the other rights of man: equality and security. Marx goes on to show that these also consist of a guarantee of individual rights as a self-sufficient nomad:
“Equality, used here in its non-political sense, is nothing but the equality of the liberty described above — namely: each man is to the same extent regarded as such a self-sufficient monad. The Constitution of 1795 defines the concept of this equality, in..
Article 3 (Constitution of 1795):
Equality consists in the law being the same for all, whether it protects or punishes.
And Security? Article 8 (Constitution of 1793):
Security consists in the protection afforded by society to each of its members for the preservation of his person, his rights, and his property.
Security is the highest social concept of civil society, the concept of police, expressing the fact that the whole of society exists only in order to guarantee to each of its members the preservation of his person, his rights, and his property. It is in this sense that Hegel calls civil society the state of need and reason.”
Marx concludes that egoism is enshrined in the Democratic Rights of Man:
“None of the so-called rights of man, therefore, go beyond egoistic man, beyond man as a member of civil society — that is, an individual withdrawn into himself, into the confines of his private interests and private caprice, and separated from the community. In the rights of man, he is far from being conceived as a species-being; on the contrary, species-like itself, society, appears as a framework external to the individuals, as a restriction of their original independence. The sole bound holding them together it natural necessity, need and private interest, the preservation of their property and their egoistic selves.”
As the Democratic Rights of Man signalled the victory of the bourgeois production over feudal production, Marx finds it consistent that an egoistic man should result:
“Feudal society was resolved into its basic element — man, but man as he really formed its basis — egoistic man. This man, the member of civil society, is thus the basis, the precondition, of the political state. He is recognized as such by this state in the rights of man.”
Again Marx stresses the incompleteness of the emancipation achieved under bourgeois rule, that there is freedom of religious opinion, but not freedom from religion:
“Hence, man was not freed from religion, he received religious freedom. He was not freed from property, he received freedom to own property. He was not freed from the egoism of business, he received freedom to engage in business. Man as a member of civil society, unpolitical man, inevitably appears, however, as the natural man. The rights of man appears as natural rights, because conscious activity is concentrated on the political act. “
Full emancipation has still to come, when the abstract citizen is re-absorbed into the individual man, – that is when recognises and exerts his conscious social powers:
“All emancipation is a reduction of the human world and relationships to man himself. Political emancipation is the reduction of man, on the one hand, to a member of civil society, to an egoistic, independent individual, and, on the other hand, to a citizen, a juridical person. Only when the real, individual man re-absorbs in himself the abstract citizen, and as an individual human being has become a species-being in his everyday life, in his particular work, and in his particular situation, only when man has recognized and organized his ‘own powers’ as social powers, and, consequently, no longer separates social power from himself in the shape of political power, only then will human emancipation have been accomplished.”
For Bauer, the Christian is closer to freedom than the Jew, since the Christian only needs to give up religion. But the Jew not only has to give up religion but also has to give up struggle to perfecting his religion. Marx realises that Bauer has simply re-dressed in civic clothes, the old religious conflict between Judaism and Christianity. Marx condemns the transformation of Jewish emancipation into a purely religious question:
“For Bauer: The Christian has to surmount only one stage, namely, that of his religion, in order to give up religion altogether, and therefore become free. The Jew, on the other hand, has to break not only with his Jewish nature, but also with the development towards perfecting his religion, a development which has remained alien to him. Thus, Bauer here transforms the question of Jewish emancipation into a purely religious question. The theological problem as to whether the Jew or the Christian has the better prospect of salvation is repeated here in the enlightened form: which of them is more capable of emancipation. No longer is the question asked: Is it Judaism or Christianity that makes a man free? On the contrary, the question is now: Which makes man freer, the negation of Judaism or the negation of Christianity?”
Bauer uses a complex theological argument to portray the Jews need to overcome not only Judaism itself, but also Judaism’s link with Christianity. Jews must not only come to terms with Judaism, but also with Christianity by carrying out the Critique of the Evangelical History of the Synoptics and the Life of Jesus, etc. Since Bauer conceives of Judaism as a Acrude religious criticism of Christianity, and of Judaism merely of religious significance, he transforms the emancipation of the Jews, also into a philosophical-theological act. Finally Bauer notes & excuses that Christians find Jews offensive. In contrast to this religious hocus-pocus, Marx emphasises the secular realities. This means an unsentimental analysis of the position of the Jew in society:
“We are trying to break with the theological formulation of the question. For us, the question of the Jew’s capacity for emancipation becomes the question: What particular social element has to be overcome in order to abolish Judaism? For the present-day Jew’s capacity for emancipation is the relation of Judaism to the emancipation of the modern world. This relation necessarily results from the special position of Judaism in the contemporary enslaved world. Let us consider the actual, worldly Jew — not the Sabbath Jew, as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew. Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew.”
So saying Marx locates the Jewish reality in money trading, in sacher – or huckstering:
“What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time.”
This being so, only a societal change of society to abolish those preconditions of huckstering – can make the Jew impossible:
“An organization of society which would abolish the preconditions for huckstering, and therefore the possibility of huckstering, would make the Jew impossible. His religious consciousness would be dissipated like a thin haze in the real, vital air of society. On the other hand, if the Jew recognizes that this practical nature of his is futile and works to abolish it, he extricates himself from his previous development and works for human emancipation as such and turns against the supreme practical expression of human self-estrangement. We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time, an element which through historical development — to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed — has been brought to its present high level, at which it must necessarily begin to disintegrate. In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.”
Bauer argues that the Jews have financial power, and goes so far as to state that it is fiction to say that the Jew is deprived of political rights, given the Jew has so much money power:
“According to Bauer, it is a fictitious state of affairs when in theory the Jew is deprived of political rights, whereas in practice he has immense power and exerts his political influence en gros, although it is curtailed en detail.”
Marx replies that money power is not always consonant with political power:
“The contradiction that exists between the practical political power of the Jew and his political rights is the contradiction between politics and the power of money in general. Although theoretically the former is superior to the latter, in actual fact politics has become the serf of financial power.”
The peculiar power of the Jews arises from the need for money free of restraints:
“Judaism has held its own alongside Christianity, not only as religious criticism of Christianity… but equally because the practical Jewish spirit, Judaism, has maintained itself and even attained its highest development in Christian society. The Jew, who exists as a distinct member of civil society, is only a particular manifestation of the Judaism of civil society… The Jew is perpetually created by civil society from its own entrails. What, in itself, was the basis of the Jewish religion? Practical need, egoism. … Practical need, egoism, is the principle of civil society, and as such appears in pure form as soon as civil society has fully given birth to the political state. The god of practical need and self-interest is money. Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man — and turns them into commodities. Money is the universal self-established value of all things. It has, therefore, robbed the whole world — both the world of men and nature — of its specific value. Money is the estranged essence of man’s work and man’s existence, and this alien essence dominates him, and he worships it. The god of the Jews has become secularized and has become the god of the world. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange. The view of nature attained under the domination of private property and money is a real contempt for, and practical debasement of, nature; in the Jewish religion, nature exists, it is true, but it exists only in imagination.”
Indeed Judaism reaches its peak in Christian society, since its social function of money loaning is unique, and very much needed by Christians:
“Judaism reaches its highest point with the perfection of civil society, but it is only in the Christian world that civil society attains perfection. Only under the dominance of Christianity, which makes all national, natural, moral, and theoretical conditions extrinsic to man, could civil society separate itself completely from the life of the state, sever all the species-ties of man, put egoism and selfish need in the place of these species-ties, and dissolve the human world into a world of atomistic individuals who are inimically opposed to one another.”
“Christianity sprang from Judaism. It has merged again in Judaism. From the outset, the Christian was the theorizing Jew, the Jew is, therefore, the practical Christian, and the practical Christian has become a Jew again. Christianity had only in semblance overcome real Judaism. It was too noble-minded, too spiritualistic to eliminate the crudity of practical need in any other way than by elevation to the skies. Christianity is the sublime thought of Judaism, Judaism is the common practical application of Christianity, but this application could only become general after Christianity as a developed religion had completed theoretically the estrangement of man from himself and from nature. Only then could Judaism achieve universal dominance and make alienated man and alienated nature into alienable, vendible objects subjected to the slavery of egoistic need and to trading. Selling [verausserung] is the practical aspect of alienation [Entausserung]. Just as man, as long as he is in the grip of religion, is able to objectify his essential nature only by turning it into something alien, something fantastic, so under the domination of egoistic need he can be active practically, and produce objects in practice, only by putting his products, and his activity, under the domination of an alien being, and bestowing the significance of an alien entity — money — on them. In its perfected practice, Christian egoism of heavenly bliss is necessarily transformed into the corporal egoism of the Jew, heavenly need is turned into world need, subjectivism into self-interest. We explain the tenacity of the Jew not by his religion, but, on the contrary, by the human basis of his religion — practical need, egoism.”
Is there a Jewish nation? Marx thinks this is a chimera:
“The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general. The groundless law of the Jew is only a religious caricature of groundless morality and right in general, of the purely formal rites with which the world of self-interest surrounds itself. Here, too, man’s supreme relation is the legal one, his relation to laws that are valid for him not because they are laws of his own will and nature, but because they are the dominant laws and because departure from them is avenged.”
Again the social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism ie the emancipation of society from money and mercantile bonds of trading:
“Once society has succeeded in abolishing the empirical essence of Judaism — huckstering and its preconditions — the Jew will have become impossible, because his consciousness no longer has an object, because the subjective basis of Judaism, practical need, has been humanized, and because the conflict between man’s individual-sensuous existence and his species-existence has been abolished.”
The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.
This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #51, “Pan-Arabic or Pan-Islamic ‘Socialism.’”
Both Marx and Engels wrote only in passing on Islam. However they provide some insights. Their view can be summarised briefly, in three main points:
(i) That the relationship between Jews and the Arabs (Bedouin) was historically, extremely close, and that the Jews had become separated away from the Arabs over time:
“The supposed genealogy of Noah, Abraham, etc., to be found in Genesis is a fairly accurate enumeration of the Bedouin tribes of the time, according to the degree of their dialectal relationships, etc. As we all know, Bedouin tribes continue to this day to call themselves Beni Saled, Beni Yusuf, etc., i.e. sons of so and so. This nomenclature, which owes its origins to the early patriarchal mode of existence, ultimately leads up to this type of genealogy. The enumeration in Genesis is plus ou moins confirmed by ancient geographers, while more recent travellers have shown that most of the old names still exist, though in dialectally altered form. But from this it emerges that the Jews themselves were no more than a small Bedouin tribe like the others, which was brought into conflict with the other Bedouins by local conditions, agriculture, etc. “
Engels Letter Volume 39: written 1853 (see below for full text).
“It is now quite clear to me that the Jews’ so-called Holy Writ is nothing more than a record of ancient Arab religious and tribal traditions, modified by the Jews’ early separation from their tribally related but nomadic neighbours. The circumstance of Palestine’s being surrounded on the Arabian side by nothing but desert, i.e. the land of the Bedouins, explains its separate development. But the ancient Arabian inscriptions and traditions and the Koran, as well as the ease with which all genealogies, etc., can now be unravelled, show that the main content was Arab, or rather, generally Semitic, as in our case the Edda and the German heroic saga.”
Engels To Marx In London Source: Collected Works Volume 39, p. 325. (see below for full text).
(ii) That Judaism was an early form of Christianity, and it was as an “intermediary,” “covering” Greek world views – that allowed it to become a world religion:
“It was only by the intermediary of the monotheistic Jewish religion that – the cultured monotheism of later Greek vulgar philosophy could clothe itself in the religious form in which alone it could grip the masses. But once this intermediary found, it could become a universal religion only in the Greco-Roman world, and that by further development in and merging with the thought material that world had achieved.”
On the History of Early Christianity”; written 1894; Find at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894/early-christianity/index.htm
(iii) That when looked at superficially, the history of “the East” did appear as one of “religions.”
“So far as religion is concerned, the question may be reduced to a general and hence easily answerable one: Why does the history of the East appear as a history of religions?”
Marx to Engels, Volume 39: 1853. (see below for full text).
These texts also cover the ground of Oriental Despotism.
Engels To Marx In London Source: Collected Works; Moscow 1983; Volume 39, p. 325-328.
Written Manchester, before 28 May 1853
So the bomb is at long last about to go off, as you will see from the enclosed scrappy proof and Weydemeyer’s letter. Willich’s manner of extricating himself is strange, at any rate; you will undoubtedly be much amused by these lame circumlocutions and the awkward and embarrassed style. The fellow’s been hard hit. But papa Schramm [i.e. Conrad Schramm-original notes by publisher] would seem to have gravely insulted him in Cincinnati; all grist to the mill. One thing we may be sure of is that the only effect of this statement will be to compromise the chivalrous one even more.
So just because the New-Yorker-Criminal Zeitung!!!!! has published attacks upon him, the gallant Willich feels compelled to break his heroic silence.
‘Putting the case at its highest!,’ In Willich’s case bodies do not fall downwards but upwards! Good-bye to gravity! The fellow’s quite mad. The same old tale of assassination too! We shall now see the aforesaid Schramm leap promptly into the lists, statement in hand [Willich slanderously represented his duel with Schramm in Spetember 1850, as an attempt by Marx and Engels to get rid of him by having him killed].
To put your mind at rest, I can inform you that the Neu-England-Ztg. today advised me of the dispatch of 420 copies of Revelations [Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne by Marx] to my address, so they may be here tomorrow or, if the parcel didn’t go off by the last steamer, in a week at the most.
The fellows have the effrontery to send me a letter signed semi-anonymously ‘Office of the N.-E.-Z.’ inviting me to contribute. That’s the last straw!
At all events, it’s a good thing that we now possess in the Reform [Die reform was the organ of the American Workers Association consisting mostly of German emigrant workers. Though officially its editor was the petty-bourgeois democrat Kellner, the newspaper’s tendency was determined to a great extent by Wedemeyer, who became the actual editor in the summer of 1853. Under his influence the paper retained its commitment of the working class for some time. It often reprinted Marx’s and Engel’s articles form the New York Daily Tribune. Marx persuaded his associated (Eccarious, Piper and Dronke) to cooperate with Die Reform, which regularly published articles and reports by Cluss and Wedermeyer, some based on materials from Marx’s letters. Towards the end of its existence, the petty-bourgeois influence of its editor-in-chief, Kellner, became dominant]. an organ in which, if the worst comes to the worst, we can still make ourselves heard in the polemic against Willich and Co. As a result of the rumpus, Kellner is becoming more and more embroiled.
Weydemeyer’s misprint shouldn’t surprise you. After all, you must know that when Weydemeyer does something, it is always ‘similar’ rather than ‘glorious’.
The little fellow is coming here next Sunday. I am curious to see how he is shaping as a clerk in Bradford. At all events the good Buckup seems to be working him very hard.
Yesterday I read the book on Arabian inscriptions which I told you about. The thing is not without interest, repulsive though it is to find the parson and biblical apologist forever peeping through. His greatest triumph is to show that Gibbon made some mistakes in the field of ancient geography, from which he also concludes that Gibbon’s theology was deplorable. The thing is called The Historical Geography of Arabia, by the Reverend Charles Forster. The best things to emerge from it are:
1. The supposed genealogy of Noah, Abraham, etc., to be found in Genesis is a fairly accurate enumeration of the Bedouin tribes of the time, according to the degree of their dialectal relationships, etc. As we all know, Bedouin tribes continue to this day to call themselves Beni Saled, Beni Yusuf, etc., i.e. sons of so and so. This nomenclature, which owes its origins to the early patriarchal mode of existence, ultimately leads up to this type of genealogy. The enumeration in Genesis is plus ou moins [more or less] confirmed by ancient geographers, while more recent travellers have shown that most of the old names still exist, though in dialectally altered form. But from this it emerges that the Jews themselves were no more than a small Bedouin tribe like the others, which was brought into conflict with the other Bedouins by local conditions, agriculture, etc.
2. As for the great Arab invasion, you will remember our discussion when we concluded that, like the Mongols, the Bedouins carried out periodic invasions and that the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires were founded by Bedouin tribes on the very same spot as, later, the Caliphate of Baghdad. The founders of the Babylonian Empire, the Chaldeans, still exist under the same name, Beni Chaled, and in the same locality. The rapid construction of large cities, such as Nineveh and Babylon, happened in just the same way as the creation in India only 300 years ago of similar giant cities, Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Muttan, by the Afghan and/or Tartar invasions. In this way the Mohammedan invasion loses much of its distinctive character.
3. In the South-West, where the Arabs settled, they appear to have been a civilised people like the Egyptians, Assyrians, etc., as is evident from their buildings. This also explains many things about the Mohammedan invasion. So far as the religious fraud is concerned, the ancient inscriptions in the South, in which the ancient Arab national tradition of monotheism (as with the American Indians) still predominates, a tradition of which the Hebrew is only a small part would seem to indicate that Mohammed’s religious revolution, like every religious movement, was formally a reaction, a would-be return to what was old and simple.
It is now quite clear to me that the Jews’ so-called Holy Writ is nothing more than a record of ancient Arab religious and tribal traditions, modified by the Jews’ early separation from their tribally related but nomadic neighbours. The circumstance of Palestine’s being surrounded on the Arabian side by nothing but desert, i.e. the land of the Bedouins, explains its separate development. But the ancient Arabian inscriptions and traditions and the Koran, as well as the ease with which all genealogies, etc., can now be unravelled, show that the main content was Arab, or rather, generally Semitic, as in our case the Edda [A collection of Scandinavian mythological and heroic saga and lay: two versions dating back to the 13th Cnetury are still extant] and the German heroic saga.
Marx To Engels. 2 June 1853; Collected Works; Moscow 1983; Volume 39, p. 330-334.
Written 28 Dean Street, Soho.
The first half of the £20 note has turned up. I am writing this before going to the Museum, i.e. at a very early hour.
I would have sent you long ago the enclosed great Willich’s statement to the Neu-England-Zeitung had I not assumed that you’d had the thing from Weydemeyer. In conception this second statement is pure, genuine Willich. Others write ‘essays’, he writes ‘facts,’ and only if one has been on a ‘personal footing’ with him does the calumny lose its sting. It is the manoeuvre of your petty partisan. He does not answer for his own Hirsch. Rather, he explains to the public Marx’s ‘motives’ for not refuting his Hirsch. And now he has discovered a terrain where he can operate with a measure of virtuosity. And it is with ‘reluctance’ that the noble man reveals the facts to the ‘public.’ Needless to say, he has preferred to whisper them to the philistines in the privacy of the beer-parlour and, for the past three years, to peddle them ‘contraband-wise’ throughout two hemispheres, juvante Kinkelio. Then his manoeuvring to keep the public on tenterhooks. They forget the facts among which he twists and turns and eagerly await the facts which are to demolish the ‘critical authors.’ And the noble man is ‘distinguished’ withal, as befits a ‘public figure.’ When he does reply, it will not be to Marx’s uncouth ‘agents’ but to the ‘ingenious’ quill-pushers themselves. Finally, he gives the public to understand that what makes his opponents so cocksure is their belief in his ‘decision’ to retire and, with a roll of drums, this important personage proceeds to announce that he has ‘changed’ his mind.
Tout ça nest pas trop mal pour un vieux sous-lieutenant. [Not too bad for an old second lieutenant] But as for the style of statement No. 2 — bad as it is, it is nevertheless apocryphal. Other hands have been at work on it, probably those of Madame Anneke. At all events, the necessary supplement to Tellering’s pamphlet will now be published by Mr Willich and, the dirty business having been once placed before the public, il faut aller jusqu’au bout [It must be taken to its conclusion]. If Weydemeyer, Cluss and Co. operate with skill, they should now be able to put a spoke in Willich’s wheel and ruin the impact and novelty of the surprises he is holding in store for the public. Nous verrons [we shall see].
The praise you accord to my ‘budding’ English, I find most encouraging. What I chiefly lack is first, assurance as to grammar and secondly, skill in using various secondary idioms which alone enable one to write with any pungency. Mr Tribune has given special prominence to a note about my 2nd article on Gladstone’s Budget, drawing the attention of readers to my ‘masterly exposition’ and going on to say that nowhere have they seen ‘a more able criticism,’ and do ‘not expect to see one.’ Well, that is all right. But in the following article it proceeds to make an ass of me by printing under my name a heading of mine which is quite trifling and intentionally so, whereas it appropriates your ‘Swiss’ thing. I shall write and tell Dana that, ‘flattering’ though it may be if they occasionally use my things for a leader, they would oblige me by not putting my name to trifles. I have now sent the jackasses, amongst other things, 2 articles on ‘China’ with reference to England. If you have the time and happen to feel like writing about something — Switzerland, the East, France, England or cotton, or Denmark, say — you should do so on occasion, for I am now slogging away with an eye to the fellow’s money-bags in order to make good the 3 weeks I have lost. If you send me something from time to time — de omnibus rebus [anything under the sun]— I shall always be able to place it, for as you know, I am the fellows’ ‘maid of all work’, and it’s always easy to relate one thing to another and to every day. All in all.
As regards the Hebrews and Arabs, I found your letter most interesting. It can, by the by, be shown that 1. in the case of all eastern tribes there has been, since the dawn of history, a general relationship between the settlement of one section and the continued nomadism of the others. 2. In Mohammed’s time the trade route from Europe to Asia underwent considerable modification, and the cities of Arabia, which had had a large share of the trade with India, etc., suffered a commercial decline — a fact which at all events contributed to the process. 3. So far as religion is concerned, the question may be reduced to a general and hence easily answerable one: Why does the history of the East appear as a history of religions?
On the subject of the growth of eastern cities one could hardly find anything more brilliant, comprehensive or striking than Voyages contenant la description des états du Grand Mogol, etc. by old Franoçois Bernier (for 9 years Aurangzeb’s physician). He provides in addition a very nice account of military organisation and the manner in which these large armies fed themselves, etc. Concerning both these, he remarks inter alia [Original is in French- translated by publishers]:
“The main body consists of cavalry, the infantry not being so numerous as is commonly supposed unless all those serving-people and bazaar or market folk who follow the army are taken for true warriors; for, if such were the case, there would, I think, be good reason to put at 2 to 300,000 men the strength of that army alone that is with the king, and sometimes even more, as, for example, when it is known that he will be long absent from the capital city; which would not, indeed, seem so very surprising to anyone familiar with all the strange impedimenta of tents, kitchen, clothing, furniture, and even women quite often, and, consequently, elephants, camels, oxen, horses, porters, foragers, sutlers, merchants of all kinds and servants who follow in the wake of these armies, nor to anyone familiar with the conditions and government peculiar to the country, namely that the king is the sole and unique proprietor of all the lands in the kingdom, whence it necessarily follows that every capital city, such as Delhi or Agra, fixes almost wholly on the militia and is therefore obliged to follow the king whenever he goes campaigning for a time, these cities neither being, nor indeed able to be, in any respect a Paris, but being really nothing but an army encampment rather better and more commodiously situated than if it were in the open country.” [in French, with Marx’s italics]
In reference to the Grand Mogul’s march on Kashmir, with an army 400,000 strong, he writes:
“How and upon what so great an army can subsist in the field, or so large a concourse of men and animals, is difficult to conceive. To that end one can only surmise, and such is indeed the case, that the Indians are very sober and very simple in what they eat and that, of this great number of horsemen, not one tenth, nay, not even one twentieth, eats meat during the march; provided they have their khichri, or mess of rice and other vegetables, whereon they pour brown butter when cooked, they are content. It should also be known that camels are extremely resistant to work, hunger and thirst, live on very little and eat anything and that, as soon as the army reaches camp, the camel-drivers lead them out to graze in the countryside, where they eat everything that comes their way; further, that the same merchants that keep the bazaars in Delhi are obliged to keep them in the field also, likewise the lesser merchants, etc. … finally, concerning forage, all these poor people go roving in every direction to the villages to buy the same and to earn something there, and that their chief and habitual recourse is to scratch up whole stretches of country with a kind of trowel, pounding and washing the little herbs thus scratched up, and taking them to the army for sale…”
Bernier rightly sees all the manifestations of the East — he mentions Turkey, Persia and Hindustan — as having a common basis, namely the absence of private landed property. This is the real clef, even to the eastern heaven.
It would seem to be no go with Borchardt; nevertheless I think the fellow might be prepared to try and obtain recommendations for Lupus from Steinthal, etc., to London merchants. So much, at least, you could compel him to do, and it would mean a great deal to Lupus.
What do you think about the failure of the hudibrastic Rodolpho [An allusion to Ralpho – a charactar in Samuel Butler’s satirical peom Hudibras] Gladstone’s ‘Financial Scheme for reducing the national Debt’?
The day before yesterday the Journal des Débats revealed the true secret of Russia’s impudence. The Continent, it says, must either expose its independence to danger from Russia, or it must expose itself to war, and that is ‘la revolution sociale’. What the wretched Débats forgets, however, is that Russia is no less afraid of revolution than Mr Bertin, and that the whole question now is who can most convincingly simulate ‘non-fear’. But England and France — the official ones — are so abject that Nicholas, if he sticks to his guns, will be able to do what he likes.
Vale faveque [Good-bye & farewell].
Have written to Lassalle, who will probably be ready to take receipt of a few 100 copies of the pamphlet and distribute them in Germany. The question now is how are we to get them across? When I was in Manchester Charles suggested it might be done by including them in a consignment of merchandise. You might ask him about this again.
P.S. There’s been a delay over the posting of this letter and so I can include an acknowledgment of the parcel of books and the other half of the note.
Engels to Marx. Collected Works; Moscow 1983; Volume 39, p. 335-342.
Written 6 June 1853; Manchester.
I had intended to write to you by the first post today, but was detained at the office until 8 o’clock. You will have received both Weydemeyer’s and Cluss’ anti-Willich statements in the Criminal Zeitung, i.e. direct from America. If not, write to me at once. As usual, papa Weydemeyer is too long-winded, very seldom makes a point, then promptly blunts it with his style, and unfolds his well-known lack of verve with rare composure. Nevertheless, the man has done his best, the story about Hentze, the ‘comrade-in-arms’, and the influence of others on Hirsch’s pen is nicely fashioned; his incredible style and his composure, regarded over there as impassibility, will appeal to the philistines, and his performance can, on the whole, be regarded as satisfactory. Cluss’ statement, on the other hand, pleases me enormously. In every line we hear the chuckle of l’homme suprieur who, through ‘personal contact’ with Willich, has, as it were, become physically conscious of his superiority. For lightness of style, this surpasses everything that Cluss has ever written. Never a clumsy turn of phrase, not a trace of gêne [constraint] or embarrassment. How well it becomes him thus to ape the worthy citizen of benevolent mien who nevertheless betrays the cloven hoof at every turn. How splendid, the sentence about ‘revolutionary agencies’ being ‘a swindle’ off which, according to Willich, he lives. The chivalrous one will have been surprised to find among the uncouth agents, a fellow who is so dashing, so adroit, so aggressive by nature and yet so unassumingly noble in his bearing, and who returns thrust for thrust a tempo. So subtly — far more subtly and deftly than himself. If only Willich had the discernment to discover this! But irritation and due reflection will, I trust, give him a little more insight.
It is obvious that we shall have to see this dirty business through to the bitter end. The more resolutely we tackle it the better. You’ll find, by the way, that it won’t be so bad after all. The chivalrous one has promised vastly more than he can fulfill. We shall hear of assassination attempts, etc., the Schramm affair will be glamorously tricked out, and such chimeras will be evoked as will cause us to stare at one another in amazement, not having the faintest idea what the man is actually talking about; at worst he will tell the story about Marx and Engels arriving drunk one evening at Great Windmill Street (vide Kinkel in Cincinnati, coram Huzelio) [In Huzels presence]. If he goes as far as that, I shall tell the scandal-loving American public what the Besançon Company used to talk about when Willich and the formosus [comely] pastor Corydon Rauf [Office Rau is compared to shepherd Corydon, a character in pastoral poems who suffers from unrequited love] were not present. Au bout du compte, [come, to that] what can a brute of this kind find to tax us with? Mark my word, it will be just as pauvre [poor] as Tellering’s smear.
I shall be seeing Borchardt within the next few days. If any recommendations are to be had, you can trust me to get them. But I hardly imagine that Steinthal, etc., have connections of the sort in London. It’s almost wholly outside their line of business. Besides, if only for fear of making a fool of himself, the fellow will attempt to put off doing anything about it up here. If it were not for Lupus, I’d consign the chap, etc. I can’t abide him, with his smooth, self-important, vainglorious, deceitful charlatan’s physiognomy.
If Lassalle has given you a good, neutral address in Dsseldorf, you can send me 100 copies. We shall arrange for them to be packed in bales of twist by firms up here; but they should not be addressed to Lassalle himself, since the packages will go to Gladbach, Elberfeld and so on, where they will have to be stamped and sent by post to Dsseldorf. However, we cannot entrust a package for Lassalle or the Hatzfeldt woman to any local firm, because, 1. they all employ at least one Rhinelander who knows all the gossip, or 2. if that goes off all right, the recipients of the bales will get to know about it, or 3. at the very best the postal authorities will take a look at the things before delivering them. We have a good address in Cologne, but are not, alas, very well acquainted with the people who are the principal buyers here for the firm in Cologne, and hence cannot expect them to do any smuggling. Indeed, what we shall tell the people here is that the packages contain presents for the fair sex.
From all this you will gather that I am once again on passable terms with Charles. The affair was settled with great dispatch at the first suitable opportunity. Nevertheless you will realise that the fool derives a certain pleasure from having been given preference over myself in one rotten respect at least, because of Mr Gottfried Ermen’s envy of my old man. Habeat sibi [Let him have it]. He at any rate realises that, if I so choose, I can become matre de la situation [master of the situation] within 48 hours, and that’s sufficient.
The absence of landed property is indeed the key to the whole of the East. Therein lies its political and religious history. But how to explain the fact that orientals never reached the stage of landed property, not even the feudal kind? This is, I think, largely due to the climate, combined with the nature of the land, more especially the great stretches of desert extending from the Sahara right across Arabia, Persia, India and Tartary [Turkestan] to the highest of the Asiatic uplands. Here artificial irrigation is the first prerequisite for agriculture, and this is the responsibility either of the communes, the provinces or the central government. In the East, the government has always consisted of 3 departments only: Finance (pillage at home), War (pillage at home and abroad), and travaux publics [public works], provision for reproduction. The British government in India has put a somewhat narrower interpretation on nos. 1 and 2 while completely neglecting no. 3, so that Indian agriculture is going to wrack and ruin. Free competition is proving an absolute fiasco there. The fact that the land was made fertile by artificial means and immediately ceased to be so when the conduits fell into disrepair, explains the otherwise curious circumstance that vast expanses are now and wastes which once were magnificently cultivated (Palmyra, Petra, the ruins in the Yemen, any number of localities in Egypt, Persia, Hindustan); it explains the fact that one single war of devastation could depopulate and entirely strip a country of its civilisation for centuries to come. This, I believe, also accounts for the destruction of southern Arabian trade before Mohammed’s time, a circumstance very rightly regarded by you as one of the mainsprings of the Mohammedan revolution. I am not sufficiently well acquainted with the history of trade during the first six centuries A.D. to be able to judge to what extent general material conditions in the world made the trade route via Persia to the Black Sea and to Syria and Asia Minor via the Persian Gulf preferable to the Red Sea route. But one significant factor, at any rate, must have been the relative safety of the caravans in the well-ordered Persian Empire under the Sassanids, whereas between 200 and 600 A.D. the Yemen was almost continuously being subjugated, overrun and pillaged by the Abyssinians. By the seventh century the cities of southern Arabia, still flourishing in Roman times, had become a veritable wilderness of ruins; in the course of 500 years what were purely mythical, legendary traditions regarding their origin had been appropriated by the neighbouring Bedouins, (cf. the Koran and the Arab historian Novari), and the alphabet in which the local inscriptions had been written was almost wholly unknown although there was no other, so that de facto writing had fallen into oblivion. Things of this kind presuppose, not only a superseding, probably due to general trading conditions, but outright violent destruction such as could only be explained by the Ethiopian invasion. The expulsion of the Abyssinians did not take place until about 40 years before Mohammed, and was plainly the first act of the Arabs’ awakening national consciousness, which was further aroused by Persian invasions from the North penetrating almost as far as Mecca. I shall not be tackling the history of Mohammed himself for a few days yet; so far it seems to me to have the character of a Bedouin reaction against the settled, albeit decadent urban fellaheen whose religion by then was also much debased, combining as it did a degenerate form of nature worship with a degenerate form of Judaism and Christianity.
Old Bernier’s stuff is really very fine. It’s a real pleasure to get back to something written by a sensible, lucid old Frenchman who constantly hits the nail on the head sans avoir l’air de s’en apercevoir [without appearing to be aware of it].
Since I am in any case tied up with the eastern mummery for some weeks, I have made use of the opportunity to learn Persian. I am put off Arabic, partly by my inborn hatred of Semitic languages, partly by the impossibility of getting anywhere, without considerable expenditure of time, in so extensive a language — one which has 4,000 roots and goes back over 2,000-3,000 years. By comparison, Persian is absolute child’s play. Were it not for that damned Arabic alphabet in which every half dozen letters looks like every other half dozen and the vowels are not written, I would undertake to learn the entire grammar within 48 hours. This for the better encouragement of Pieper should he feel the urge to imitate me in this poor joke. I have set myself a maximum of three weeks for Persian, so if he stakes two months on it he’ll best me anyway. What a pity Weitling can’t speak Persian; he would then have his langue universelle toute trouvie [universal language ready-made] since it is, to my knowledge, the only language where ‘me’ and ‘to me’ are never at odds, the dative and accusative always being the same.
It is, by the way, rather pleasing to read dissolute old Hafiz in the original language, which sounds quite passable and, in his grammar, old Sir William Jones likes to cite as examples dubious Persian jokes, subsequently translated into Greek verse in his Commentariis poeseos asiaticae, because even in Latin they seem to him too obscene. These commentaries, Jones’ Works, Vol. II, De Poesi erotica, will amuse you. Persian prose, on the other hand, is deadly dull. E.g. the Rauzt-us-saf by the noble Mirkhond, who recounts the Persian epic in very flowery but vacuous language. Of Alexander the Great, he says that the name Iskander, in the Ionian language, is Akshid Rus (like Iskander, a corrupt version of Alexandros); it means much the same as filusuf, which derives from fila, love, and sufa, wisdom, ‘Iskander’ thus being synonymous with ‘friend of wisdom.’
Of a retired king he says: ‘He beat the drum of abdication with the drumsticks of retirement’, as will pre Willich, should he involve himself any more deeply in the literary fray. Willich will also suffer the same fate as King Afrasiab of Turan when deserted by his troops and of whom Mirkhond says: ‘He gnawed the nails of horror with the teeth of desperation until the blood of vanquished consciousness welled forth from the finger-tips of shame.’
Engels F: “Bruno Bauer and Early Christianity”; Collected Works Volume 24; Moscow; 1989; p.427-435.
Written May 4-11, 1882.
In Berlin, on April 13, a man died who once played a role as a philosopher and a theologian, but was hardly heard of for years, only attracting the attention of the public from time to time as a “literary eccentric”. Official theologians, including Renan, wrote him off and, therefore, maintained a silence of death about him. And yet he was worth more than them all and did more than all of them in a question which interests us Socialists, too: the question of the historical origin of Christianity.
On the occasion of his death, let us give a brief account of the present position on this question, and Bauer’s contribution to its solution.
The view that dominated from the free-thinkers of the Middle Ages to the Enlighteners of the 18th century, the latter included, that all religions, and therefore Christianity too, were the work of deceivers was no longer sufficient after Hegel had set philosophy the task of showing a rational evolution in world history.
It is clear that if spontaneously arising religions — like the fetish worship of the Negroes or the common primitive religion of the Aryans — come to being without deception playing any part, deception by the priests soon becomes inevitable in their further development. But, in spite of all sincere fanaticism, artificial religions cannot even, at their foundation, do without deception and falsification of history. Christianity, too, has pretty achievements to boast of in this respect from the very beginning, as Bauer shows in his criticism of the New Testament. But that only confirms a general phenomenon and does not explain the particular case in question.
A religion that brought the Roman world empire into subjection, and dominated by far the larger part of civilized humanity for 1,800 years, cannot be disposed of merely by declaring it to be nonsense gleaned together by frauds. One cannot dispose of it before one succeeds in explaining its origin and its development from the historical conditions under which it arose and reached its dominating position. This applies to Christianity. The question to be solved, then, is how it came about that the popular masses in the Roman Empire so far preferred this nonsense — which was preached, into the bargain, by slaves and oppressed — to all other religions, that the ambitious Constantine finally saw in the adoption of this religion of nonsense the best means of exalting himself to the position of autocrat of the Roman world. [Under the Christian tradition, the name of the Roman Emperor Flavius Valerius Constaninus Magnus, who in 330 transferred the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople, is associated with the radical turn form persecution of Christianity to the protection of the new religion, although this process had begun under his predecessors.]
Bruno Bauer has contributed far more to the solution of this question than anybody else. No matter how much the half-believing theologians of the period of reaction have struggled against him since 1849, he irrefutably proved the chronological order of the Gospels and their mutual interdependence, shown by Wilke from the purely linguistic standpoint, by the very contents of the Gospels themselves. He exposed the utter lack of scientific spirit of Strauss’ vague myth theory according to which anybody can hold for historical as much as he likes in the Gospel narrations. And, if almost nothing from the whole content of the Gospels turns out to be historically provable — so that even the historical existence of a Jesus Christ can be questioned — Bauer has, thereby, only cleared the ground for the solution of the question: what is the origin of the ideas and thoughts that have been woven together into a sort of system in Christianity, and how came they to dominate the world?
Bauer studied this question until his death. His research reached its culminating point in the conclusion that the Alexandrian Jew Philo, who was still living about A.D. 40 but was already very old, was the real father of Christianity, and that the Roman stoic Seneca was, so to speak, its uncle. The numerous writings attributed to Philo which have reached us originate indeed in a fusion of allegorically and rationalistically conceived Jewish traditions with Greek, particularly stoic, philosophy. This conciliation of western and eastern outlooks already contains all the essentially Christian ideas: the inborn sinfulness of man, the Logos, the Word, which is with God and is God and which becomes the mediator between God and man: atonement, not by sacrifices of animals, but by bringing one’s own heart of God, and finally the essential feature that the new religious philosophy reverses the previous world order, seeks its disciples among the poor, the miserable, the slaves, and the rejected, and despises the rich, the powerful, and the privileged, whence the precept to despise all worldly pleasure and to mortify the flesh.
One the other hand, Augustus himself saw to it that not only the God-man, but also the so-called immaculate conception became formulae imposed by the state. He not only had Caesar and himself worshipped as gods, he also spread the notion that he, Augustus Caesar Divus, the Divine, was not the son of a human father but that his mother had conceived him of the god Apollo. But was not that Apollo perhaps a relation of the one sung by Heinrich Heine? [Engels is referring to a charactar in Heine’s satirical poem ‘Der Apollgott’ (from Romanzero), a young blade, a cantor at the Amsterdam synagogue, who imitated Apollo.]
As we see, we need only the keystone and we have the whole of Christianity in its basic features: the incarnation of the Word become man in a definite person and his sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of sinful mankind.
Truly reliable sources leave us uncertain as to when this keystone was introduced into the stoic-philonic doctrines. But this much is sure: it was not introduced by philosophers, either Philo’s disciples or stoics. Religions are founded by people who feel a need for religion themselves and have a feeling for the religious needs of the masses. As a rule, this is not the case with the classical philosophers. On the other hand, we find that in times of general decay, now, for instance, philosophy and religious dogmatism are generally current in a vulgarized and shallow form. While classic Greek philosophy in its last forms — particularly in the Epicurean school [the Epicurean school of materialist philosophy was founded by Epicurius in the late 4th Century BC and existed until the mid-4th Century AD. In thier philosophical struggle against the Stoics, its members refused to recognise the gods’ interference into mundane matters and proceeded from the assumption that matter, which has an inner source of motion, is eternal] — led to atheistic materialism, Greek vulgar philosophy led to the doctrine of a one and only God and of the immortality of the human soul. Likewise, rationally vulgarized Judaism in mixture and intercourse with aliens and half-Jews ended by neglecting the ritual and transforming the formerly exclusively Jewish national god, Jahveh, [Note by Engels: As Ewald has already proved, the Jews used dotting script (containing vowels and reading signs) to write under the consonants in the name of Javeh, which it was forbidden to pronounce, the vowels of the word Adonai, which they read it its place. This was subsequently read as Jehovah. The word is therefore not the name of a god but only a vugar mistake in grammar: in Hebrew it is simply impossible] into the one true God, the creator of heaven and earth, and by adopting the idea of the immortality of the soul which was alien to early Judaism. Thus, monotheistic vulgar philosophy came into contact with vulgar religion, which presented it with the ready-made one and only God. Thus, the ground was prepared on which the elaboration among the Jews of the likewise vulgarized philonic notions and not Philo’s own works that Christianity proceeded from is proved by the New Testament’s almost complete disregard of most of these works, particularly the allegorical and philosophical interpretation of the narrations of the Old Testament. This is an aspect to which Bauer did not devote enough attention.
One can get an idea of what Christianity looked like in its early form by reading the so-called Book of Revelation of John. Wild, confused fanaticism, only the beginnings of dogmas, only the mortification of the flesh of the so-called Christian morals, but on the other hand a multitude of visions and prophesies. The development of the dogmas and moral doctrine belongs to a later period, in which the Gospels and the so-called Epistles of the Apostles were written. In this — at least as regards morals — the philosophy of the stoics, of Seneca in particular, was unceremoniously made us of. Bauer proved that the Epistles often copy the latter word-for-word; in fact, even the faithful noticed this, but they maintained that Seneca had copied from the New Testament, though it had not yet been written in his time. Dogma developed, on the one hand in connection with the legend of Jesus which was then taking shape, and, on the other hand, in the struggle between Christians of Jewish and of pagan origin.
Bauer also gives very valuable data on the causes which helped Christianity to triumph and attain world domination. But here the German philosopher is prevented by his idealism from seeing clearly and formulating precisely. Phrases often replace substance in decisive points. Instead, therefore, of going into details of Bauer’s views, we shall give our own conception of this point, based on Bauer’s works, and also on our personal study.
The Roman conquest dissolved in all subjugated countries, first, directly, the former political conditions, and then, indirectly, also the social conditions of life.
Firstly by substituting for the former organization according to estates (slavery apart) the simple distinction between Roman citizens and peregrines or subjects.
Secondly, and mainly, by exacting tribute in the name of the Roman state. If, under the empire, a limit was set as far as possible in the interest of the state to the governors’ thirst for wealth, that thirst was replaced by ever more effective and oppressive taxation for the benefit of the state treasury, the effect of which was terribly destructive.
Thirdly, Roman law was finally administered everywhere by Roman judges, while the native social system was declared invalid insofar as it was incompatible with the provisions of Roman law.
These three levers necessarily developed a tremendous levelling power, particularly when they were applied for several hundred years to populations — the most vigorous sections of which had been either suppressed or taken away into slavery in the battles preceding, accompanying, and often following, the conquest. Social relations in the provinces came nearer and nearer to those obtaining in the capital and in Italy. The population became more and more sharply divided into three classes, thrown together out of the most varying elements and nationalities: rich people, including not a few emancipated slaves (cf. Petronius), [Engels is referring to Petronius’ Satyricon, where he describes a feast in the house of an emancipated slave, Trimalchionis, who became rich] big landowners or usurers or both at once, like Seneca, the uncle of Christianity; propertyless free people, who in Rome were fed and amused by the state — in the provinces they got on as they could by themselves — and finally the great mass, the slaves. In the face of the state, i.e., the emperor, the first two classes had as few rights as the slaves in the face of their masters. From the time of Tiberius to that of Nero, in particular, it was a practice to sentence rich Roman citizens to death in order to confiscate their property. The support of the government was — materially, the army, which was more like an army of hired foreign soldiers than the old Roman peasant army, and morally, the general view that there was no way out of that condition; that not, indeed, this or that Caesar, but the empire based on military domination was an immutable necessity. This is not the place to examine what very material facts this view was based on.
The general rightlessness and despair of the possibility of a better condition gave rise to a corresponding general slackening and demoralization. The few surviving old Romans of the patrician type and views either were removed or died out; Tacitus was the last of them. The others were glad when they were able to keep away from public life; all they existed for was to collect and enjoy riches, and to indulge in private gossip and private intrigue. The propertyless free citizens were state pensioners in Rome, but in the provinces their condition was an unhappy one. They had to work, and to compete with slave-labor into the bargain. But they were confined to the towns. Besides them, there was also in the provinces peasants, free landowners (here and there probably still common ownership) or, as in Gaul, bondsmen for debts to the big landowners. This class was the least affected by the social upheaval; it was also the one to resist longest the religious upheaval. [Engels note: According to Fallmereyer, the peasants in Main, Peloponnesus, still offered sacrifices to Zeus in the 9th century.] Finally, there were the slaves, deprived of rights and of their own will and the possibility to free themselves, as the defeat of Spartacus [Engels refers to the slave uprising of 73-71 BC in Rome led by Spartacus] had already proved; most of them, however, were former free citizens, or sons of free-born citizens. It must, therefore, have been among them that hatred of their conditions of life was still generally vigorous, though externally powerless.
We shall find that the type of ideologists at the time corresponded to this state of affairs. The philosophers were either mere money-earning schoolmasters or buffoons in the pay of wealthy revellers. Some were even slaves. An example of what became of them under good conditions is supplied by Seneca. This stoic and preacher of virtue and abstinence was Nero’s first court intriguer, which he could not have been without servility; he secured from him presents in money, properties, gardens, and palaces — and while he preached the poor man Lazarus of the Gospel, he was, in reality, the rich man of the same parable. Not until Nero wanted to get at him did he request the emperor to take back all his presents, his philosophy being enough for him. Only completely isolated philosophers, like Persius, had the courage to brandish the lash of satire over their degenerated contemporaries. But, as for the second type of ideologists, the jurists, they were enthusiastic over the new conditions because the abolition of all differences between Estates allowed them broad scope in the elaboration of their favorite private right, in return for which they prepared for the emperor the vilest state system of right that ever existed.
With the political and social peculiarities of the various peoples, the Roman Empire also doomed to ruin their particular religions. All religions of antiquity were spontaneous tribal, and later national, religions, which arose from and merged with the social and political conditions of the respective peoples. Once these, their bases, were disrupted, and their traditional forms of society, their inherited political institutions and their national independence shattered, the religion corresponding to these also naturally collapsed. The national gods could suffer other gods beside them, as was the general rule of antiquity, but not above them. The transplanting of Oriental divinities to Rome was harmful only to the Roman religion, it could not check the decay of the Oriental religions. As soon as the national gods were unable to protect the independence of their nation, they met their own destruction. This was the case everywhere (except with peasants, especially in the mountains). What vulgar philosophical enlightenment — I almost said Voltairianism — did in Rome and Greece, was done in the provinces by Roman oppression and the replacing of men proud of their freedom by desperate subjects and self-seeking ragamuffins.
Such was the material and moral situation. The present was unbearable, the future still more menacing, if possible. There was no way out. Only despair or refuge in the commonest sensuous pleasure, for those who could afford it at least, and they were a tiny minority. Otherwise, nothing but surrender to the inevitable.
But, in all classes there was necessarily a number of people who, despairing of material salvation, sought in its stead a spiritual salvation, a consolation in their consciousness to save them from utter despair. This consolation could not be provided by the stoics any more than by the Epicurean school, for the very reason that these philosophers were not intended for common consciousness and, secondly, because the conduct of disciples of the schools cast discredit on their doctrines. The consolation was to be a substitute, not for the lost philosophy, but for the lost religion; it had to take on a religious form, the same as anything which had to grip the masses both then and as late as the 17th century.
We hardly need to note that the majority of those who were pining for such consolation of their consciousness, for this flight from the external world into the internal, were necessarily among the slaves.
It was in the midst of this general economic, political, intellectual, and moral decadence that Christianity appeared. It entered into a resolute antithesis to all previous religions.
In all previous religions, ritual had been the main thing. Only by taking part in the sacrifices and processions, and in the Orient by observing the most detailed diet and cleanliness precepts, could one show to what religion one belonged. While Rome and Greece were tolerant in the last respect, there was in the Orient a rage for religious prohibitions that contributed no little to the final downfall. People of two different religions (Egyptians, Persians, Jews, Chaldeans) could not eat or drink together, perform any every-day act together, or hardly speak to each other. It was largely due to this segregation of man from man that the Orient collapsed. Christianity knew no distinctive ceremonies, not even the sacrifices and processions of the classic world. By thus rejecting all national religions and their common ceremonies, and addressing itself to all peoples without distinction, it became the first possible world religion. Judaism, too, with its new universal god, had made a start on the way to becoming a universal religion; but the children of Israel always remained an aristocracy among the believers and the circumcised, and Christianity itself had to get rid of the notion of the superiority of the Jewish Christians (still dominant in the so-called Book of Revelation of John) before it could really become a universal religion. Islam, itself, on the other hand, by preserving its specifically Oriental ritual, limited the area of its propagation to the Orient and North Africa, conquered and populated anew by Arab Bedouins; here it could become the dominating religion, but not in the West.
Secondly, Christianity struck a chord that was bound to echo in countless hearts. To all complaints about the wickedness of the times and the general material and moral distress, Christian consciousness of sin answered: It is so and it cannot be otherwise; thou art in blame, ye are all to blame for the corruption of the world, thine and your own internal corruption! And where was the man who could deny it? Mea culpa! The admission of each one’s share in the responsibility for the general unhappiness was irrefutable and was made the precondition for the spiritual salvation which Christianity at the same time announced. And this spiritual salvation was so instituted that it could be easily understood by members of every old religious community. The idea of atonement to placate the offended deity was current in all the old religions; how could the idea of self-sacrifice of the mediator atoning once for all for the sins of humanity not easily find ground there? Christianity, therefore, clearly expressed the universal feeling that men themselves are guilty of the general corruption as the consciousness of sin of each one; at the same time, it provided, in the death-sacrifice of his judge, a form of the universally longed-for internal salvation from the corrupt world, the consolation of consciousness; it thus again proved its capacity to become a world religion and, indeed, a religion which suited the world as it then was.
So it happened that, among the thousands of prophets and preachers in the desert that filled that period of countless religious novations, the founders of Christianity alone met with success. Not only Palestine, but the entire Orient swarmed with such founders of religions, and between them there raged what can be called a Darwinian struggle for ideological existence. Thanks mainly to the elements mentioned above, Christianity won the day. How it gradually developed its character of world religion by natural selection in the struggle of sects against one another and against the pagan world is taught in detail by the history of the Church in the first three centuries.