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Hardie, James Keir (1856 - 1915). Born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, the son of a ship’s carpenter. Self-educated, Hardie worked in the pits from the age of 10 and became a miners’ leader before he was 20. He was the founding Chairman of the Scottish Labour Party in 1888, and was elected as an Independent Labour MP for West Ham in 1892. Hardie formed the Independent Labour Party (independent, that is, from the Liberal Party and the ‘Lib-Lab’ MPs) in 1893, and played a leading part in the creation of the Labour Representation Committee in 1900, which became the Labour Party in 1906. He lost his seat at West Ham in 1895 but became an MP for Merthyr Tydfil from 1900 until his death in 1915. Hardie became the first Chairman and Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party in 1906. Hardie mouthed socialist phrases but in practice pursued the interests of capital, and this included support for capitalism’s wars. After initially opposing the Great War of 1914-1918 he changed his mind. Hardie told his electorate in Merthyr:

May I once again revert for the moment to the ILP pamphlets? None of them clamour for immediately stopping the war. That would be foolish in the extreme, until at least the Germans have been driven back across their own frontier, a consummation which, I fear, carries us forward through a long and dismal vista… I have never said or written anything to dissuade our young men from enlisting; I know too well all there is at stake… If I can get the recruiting figures for Merthyr week by week, which I find a very difficult job, I hope by another week to be able to prove that whereas our Rink meeting gave a stimulus to recruiting, those meetings at the Drill Hall at which the Liberal member or the Liberal candidate spoke, had the exactly opposite effect.’ (Merthyr Pioneer, 28th November, 1914.)

(See also LABOUR PARTY.)


Caroline Benn, Keir Hardie, 1992


Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770-1831). Born in Stuttgart, the son of a revenue officer. From 1818 until his death Hegel was Professor of Philosophy at Berlin University. Hegel was a liberal who approved of constitutional monarchy and was not the state-worshipper he is often accused of being, though some of his followers did interpret his philosophy as a justification for the autocratic Prussian monarchy. His written works, such as his main work on politics, Philosophy of Right (1821), are notoriously obscure. Hegel’s philosophy is a form of idealism, according to which all that really exists are ideas. He interpreted politics, history, law, morality, religion and so on, in terms of the development of ideas; he sought the original idea of a particular subject and then examined how it had developed logically (that is, dialectically) throughout history.

As a student at Berlin after Hegel’s death, Marx had come under his influence, especially when Marx was briefly involved with the Young Hegelians, a group of left wing philosophers who used a modified version of Hegel’s philosophy as a radical critique of politics and religion. Marx publicly made his break with Hegelian philosophy in his Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, published in 1844. Marx then went on to argue that the explanation of social development lay not in the development of ideas but in the development of the material conditions of life. In 1845 Marx and Engels collaborated to produce The German Ideology, which sets out the basic principles of this materialist conception of history.

But despite Marx’s criticisms of Hegelian philosophy many commentators insist on emphasising his intellectual debt to Hegel, to the extent of claiming that Hegel’s philosophy stood ‘right side up’ is a necessary condition for explaining Marx’s method. Lenin even went as far as to claim that you cannot properly understand Marx’s Capital unless you have first fully grasped the arguments of Hegel’s Science of Logic. There is also the controversial issue of the dialectic that is associated with Hegel and Marx. Of course Hegel had some influence on Marx, and a modified version of the dialectic did play a part in Marx’s method for investigating social development (see 1873 Afterword to Capital). Seen in the context of the whole body of Marx’s writings, however, this can be seen in proper perspective with all the other influences on Marx. (A case can be made out for Aristotle having at least as much influence on Marx, because Aristotle's legacy dominated so much philosophy at that time – including Hegel). Marx’s work can be understood and assessed in its own right. (See also DIALECTIC; MARX; MARXISM.)


Hegel online:

Stephen Houlgate, An Introduction to Hegel, 2005


History. The history of societies since the break up of primitive communism has been one of class struggles. These struggles between the exploiting class and the exploited class have been over the distribution of the social product, the organisation of work, working conditions and the results of production. Socialists view these struggles in the context of the development of the forces and relations of production, and analyse social development with a view to taking informed political action.

Karl Marx's Preface to his A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) contains a summary of Marx and Engels' materialist conception of history. Marx comments that during the course of his studies he reached the conclusion that the explanation of social development was not to be found merely in the realm of ideas but rather in the material conditions of life, and that a proper understanding of capitalism is to be found in economics. Marx then gives a condensed account of his key concepts and their likely relationships which provided the guiding thread for his historical research:

The general result at which I arrived and which, once won, served as a guiding thread for my studies, can be briefly formulated as follows: in the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their social being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or – what is but a legal expression for the same thing – with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundations the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so we cannot judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production. No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the task itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation. In broad outlines Asiatic, ancient, feudal, and modern bourgeois modes of production can be designated as progressive epochs in the economic formation of society. The bourgeois relations of production are the last antagonistic form of the social process of production – antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism, but of one arising from the social conditions of life of the individual; at the same time the productive forces developing in the womb of bourgeois society create the material conditions for the solution of that antagonism. This social formation brings, therefore, the prehistory of human society to a close.’

Discussions of this passage usually omit the first sentence above where Marx says the following ‘general result’ served as a ‘guiding thread’ for his research. This makes it clear that his theory of history is not a substitute for actual research. The materialist conception of history is a method of investigation, not merely a philosophy of history. Marx and Engels emphasised this point in their first explanation of their materialist (in the practical sense of the word, not in its acquisitive sense) outlook:

Viewed apart from real history, these abstractions have in themselves no value whatsoever. They can only serve to facilitate the arrangement of historical material, to indicate the sequence of its separate strata. But they by no means afford a recipe or schema, as does philosophy, for neatly trimming the epochs of history. On the contrary, our difficulties begin only when we set about the observation and the arrangement – the real depiction – of our historical material, whether of a past epoch or of the present’ (The German Ideology, 1846).

As Engels wrote: ‘...the materialist method is converted into its direct opposite if instead of being used as a guiding thread in historical research it is made to serve as a ready-cut pattern on which to tailor historical facts’ (Letter to Paul Ernst, June 1890). And Marx emphatically rejected ‘general historico-philosophical theory, the supreme virtue of which consists in being super-historical’. He poured scorn on a critic who:

... insists on transforming my historical sketch of the genesis of capitalism in western Europe into an historico-philosophical theory of the general path prescribed by fate to all nations whatever the historical circumstances in which they find themselves in order that they may ultimately arrive at the economic system which ensures, together with the greatest expansion of the productive power of social labour, the most complete development of man. But I beg his pardon. He is doing me too much honour and at the same time slandering me too much’ (Letter to the editorial board of Otechestvennive Zapiski, November 1877).

Despite the numerous warnings, many commentators have concluded that Marx's theory of history, as set out in the 1859 Preface, is a form of productive forces (or technological) determinism. For instance, in his influential book GA Cohen claims that ‘high technology was not only necessary but also sufficient for socialism’ (Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence, 1978). But socialism is not inevitable; the fatalism of determinism is fatal for the socialist movement which requires a politically active class conscious working class to achieve our self-emancipation as a class.

The 1859 Preface assumes the development of human productive forces throughout history, but this is not automatic or inevitable. In Marx's The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852) social and political development did not occur exactly as outlined in the 1859 Preface, but that was not the point. Marx's hypothesis showed the key concepts and where to look in researching the past and present. That study reaffirmed the importance of understanding the specific contexts of material circumstances and humans as agents of historical change:

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given, and transmitted from the past.’

If this looks like stating the obvious (apart from the sexist assumption), to some extent it is because of Marx’s influence on public thinking about history. In his day prominence in historical writing was given to the role of ideas – for example, nationalism, freedom, religion – in explaining social development. This is still not unknown today and there are many who, explicitly or implicitly, reject the materialist theory of history for its revolutionary conclusions.

The 1859 Preface identifies certain well-documented ‘modes of productionfound in history, whose constituents are forces of production (productive technology) and relations of production (economic classes). Present-day capitalist production relations involve minority class ownership of the means of life, which means the majority must sell their labour power for a wage, while production is geared to profit for the few. In feudalism, where aristocrats owned most of the land and peasants were tied down to that land by a host of restrictions, including the requirement that they did unpaid labour for their liege lords. There was slavery, where the bodies of the producers were the property of slave owners and were bought and sold like land or goods. The Asiatic mode of production (sometimes called ‘oriental despotism’ or ‘hydraulic society’) was a system where peasants were engaged under military pressure to raise water for the irrigation of crops. There were various types of primitive society, the key one being the primitive communistic tribal form, where localised common ownership was practised.

The actual correspondence between forces of production and relations of production takes place through the mediation of the class struggle and the balance of class forces – what Marx called ‘the respective power of the combatants’ (Value, Price and Profit, 1865). For example, China's rise as a capitalist super-power has taken place mainly through the Chinese state’s ruthless use of cheap and plentiful labour power rather than advances in its productive technology. (See also CLASS STRUGGLE; FORCES OF PRODUCTION; RELATIONS OF PRODUCTION.)


Keith Graham, Karl Marx, Our Contemporary, 1992.

S.H. Rigby, Marxism and History, 1998


Human nature. Socialists make a distinction between human nature and human behaviour. That people are able to think and act is a fact of biological and social development (human nature), but how they think and act is the result of historically specific social conditions (human behaviour). Human nature changes, if at all, over vast periods of time; human behaviour changes according to changed social conditions. Capitalism being essentially competitive and predatory, produces vicious, competitive ways of thinking and acting. But we humans are able to change our society and adapt our behaviour, and there is no reason why our rational desire for human well being and happiness should not allow us to establish and run a society based on co-operation. (See also ALIENATION; NEEDS.)


Norman Geras, Marx and Human Nature, 1983


Hyndman, Henry Mayers (1842-1921). An Eton educated capitalist. Hyndman played a leading role in the setting up of the Democratic Federation in 1881, which was an association of radical-liberal clubs. Later that same year he claimed to be converted to Marxism after reading Capital. Afterwards he wrote and published his own interpretation of Marxism, England for All, without mentioning Marx by name. Hyndman’s biographer, Tsuzuki, suggests that this work is ‘a text-book of English “Tory Democracy” rather than of continental Social Democracy’.

It was Hyndman’s hostility towards liberalism rather than his supposed Marxism that led the Democratic Federation to become the Social Democratic Federation in 1884. Nevertheless, this organisation did much to popularise Marxism in Britain, and included in its membership Eleanor Marx, Belfort Bax, Tom Mann, John Burns and William Morris.

By December 1884 a group including William Morris and Eleanor Marx, fed up with Hyndman’s arrogance, seceded from the SDF to form the Socialist League. A second revolt led to the formation in 1903 of the Socialist Labour Party. Another revolt against Hyndman’s opportunism led to the creation of the Socialist Party of Great Britain in 1904.

In 1911 Hyndman established the British Socialist Party when the SDF combined with parts of the Independent Labour Party. However, Hyndman split the British Socialist Party by supporting the British side in the First World War. Hyndman then formed the National Socialist Party, of which he was leader until his death. (See also IMPOSSIBILISM; SOCIALIST LABOUR PARTY; SOCIALIST PARTY.)


Obituary in the January 1922 Socialist Standard:

Chushichi Tsuzuki, H.M. Hyndman and British Socialism, 1961