Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880) by Friedrich Engels

August 2020 Forums Reading groups Suggest a text Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880) by Friedrich Engels

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 70 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #83279
    jondwhite
    Member

    I think Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880) by Friedrich Engels would be a good text to discuss as it is often used by critics, particularly Bolsheviks to try and put the SPGB out of the Marxist tradition.

    #105261
    ALB
    Participant

    Agree that this would be a good book to go through (except nothing in this section has worked) as it is the founding text of "Marxism" but I can't see how the Bolsheviks could use it against us. I would have thought it was more the other way round. But what were you referring to?

    #105262
    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    Agree that this would be a good book to go through (except nothing in this section has worked) as it is the founding text of "Marxism" but I can't see how the Bolsheviks could use it against us. I would have thought it was more the other way round. But what were you referring to?

    [my bold]It would be interesting to discuss this book, but this would also include its so-called status as  'the founding text of "Marxism"'. I presume that ALB put 'Marxism' in quotes precisely because of this issue, of which he is aware.Many have argued (and, after a fair amount of reading and discussion, I agree with them) that it is actually at least 'a' 'founding text of Engelsism", which has been masqueraded as 'Marxism' since the Second International.In this sense, since I think that the 'Bolsheviks', because of Lenin, were 'Engelsist', and not 'Marxist', it wouldn't surprise me that Bolsheviks, past and present, could use it as a source to argue against the SPGB (no matter that I think that the SPGB itself is confused on this issue; because in terms of political strategy the SPGB seems to me to be closer to Marx's ideas than Engels').

    #105263
    jondwhite
    Member
    ALB wrote:
    Agree that this would be a good book to go through (except nothing in this section has worked) as it is the founding text of "Marxism" but I can't see how the Bolsheviks could use it against us. I would have thought it was more the other way round. But what were you referring to?

    I could be wrong on this being used as a Bolshevik criticism, as googling for it comes up with nothing.

    #105264
    LBird
    Participant
    jondwhite wrote:
    I think Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880) by Friedrich Engels would be a good text to discuss…

    Shall we get started?Right, no need for any comrades, who haven't already done so, to read the book just yet.First issue: the title. Why did Engels think it sufficient to name only two 'types' of socialism?Was this just a reflection of his existing ideological belief that philosophy could be divided into two, idealism and materialism, and he thought that these two categories were reflected in all human thought, including socialist thinking?To me, it's clear that for Engels' 'Utopian' was synonymous with 'Idealist' and his 'Scientific' was identified with 'Materialist'.So, the very title of this book reflects an outdated view of philosophy (and thus potential 'socialisms' for us).I don't think that it's too farfetched to think that Marx's Theses on Feuerbach blended the 'Utopian' with the 'Scientific', and that Engels either wasn't aware of the subtleties of the Theses, or by the 1870s had forgotten them. Given my wider reading on this particular issue, I think the former is correct: Engels' never understood the Theses.Anyway, we'd have been far better off confronted now with a text entitled:Socialism: Utopian, Scientific and Utopio-Scientific.And we'd have been concerned with the third, Marx's unity, not the second, Engels' positivism.I recommend that those comrades who now propose to read the actual text, bear these criticisms in mind whilst doing so.

    #105265
    ALB
    Participant

    Let's start from the correct premise. It wasn't Engels who chose the title but Paul Lafargue, as Engels explained in the Preface to the 1892 English edition::

    Quote:
    At the request of my friend, Paul Lafargue, now representative of Lille in the French Chamber of Deputies, I arranged three chapters of this book as a pamphlet, which he translated and published in 1880, under the title: Socialisme utopique et Socialisme scientifique.

    The book Engels refers to is Anti-Dühring or, to give it the title Engels gave it, Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science. I'm not sure what a post-modernist deconstruction of this title would reveal.

    #105266
    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    Let's start from the correct premise. It wasn't Engels who chose the title but Paul Lafargue, as Engels explained in the Preface to the 1892 English edition::

    Quote:
    At the request of my friend, Paul Lafargue, now representative of Lille in the French Chamber of Deputies, I arranged three chapters of this book as a pamphlet, which he translated and published in 1880, under the title: Socialisme utopique et Socialisme scientifique.

    Well, we have to presume that Fred didn't object to his friend's suggestion for the title.Or, your quote from Fred above, would perhaps have read:

    Fred Engels, would have wrote:
    At the request of my friend, Paul Lafargue, now representative of Lille in the French Chamber of Deputies, I arranged three chapters of this book as a pamphlet, which he translated and published in 1880, under the title: Socialisme utopique et Socialisme scientifique. Of course, I went ballistic at Lafargue's title, and shouted at him, 'Haven't you learnt anything from Charlie at all?'

    But, he didn't.Still, we're here, now, 122 years later, since that preface was written, and we've learnt a thing or two about Marx's real intentions, haven't we?After all, socialism's not a religion, where we just read the texts uncritically, and marvel at the intelligence of the founders of our sect, who gave us a 'Truth' that cannot be questioned by us mere mortals. We must constantly re-assess our heritage and our current position, mustn't we?My position on this is that the title is a return to pre-Theses thinking, and that if Marx did exclaim 'I'm not a Marxist!' after reading works by French 'socialists', perhaps like Lafargue, it shows that we heretics are following in Charlie's footsteps, not Fred and Paul's.Or, indeed, Vlad and Joe's.

    #105267
    DJP
    Participant

    I don't have any enthusiasm for reading group. But it may be worth reading this article that I reproduced on my website quite a few years ago now…http://theoryandpractice.org.uk/library/legend-marx-or-%E2%80%9Cengels-founder%E2%80%9D-maximilien-rubel-1970

    #105268
    LBird
    Participant
    DJP wrote:
    I don't have any enthusiasm for reading group. But it may be worth reading this article that I reproduced on my website quite a few years ago now…http://theoryandpractice.org.uk/library/legend-marx-or-%E2%80%9Cengels-founder%E2%80%9D-maximilien-rubel-1970

    Thanks for the link, DJP.And that was 1970, 44 years ago…

    #105269
    DJP
    Participant

    Rubel was actually a subscriber to the Socialist Standard. His obitury is in the June 1996 edition…http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1990s/1996/no-1102-june-1996/maximilien-rubel-anti-bolshevik-marxist

    #105270
    LBird
    Participant
    DJP wrote:
    Rubel was actually a subscriber to the Socialist Standard. His obitury is in the June 1996 edition…http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1990s/1996/no-1102-june-1996/maximilien-rubel-anti-bolshevik-marxist

    Thanks again for that link, DJP.

    Socialist Standard wrote:
    …had been amongst those Social Democrats who sought to supplement Marx’s critique of capitalism with an ethical element based on Kant’s “categorical imperative”: socialism was something the workers ought to establish for moral reasons rather than something they were inevitably going to establish for economic reasons. It was a controversial position but Rubel embraced it and expressed it in his own writings.

    [my bold]How anyone can separate out 'morality' from 'political economy' beats me.The fact that this was argued about, and that it was felt 'necessary' to import Kant (when Kant was already one of the 'idealists' that Marx praised in his Theses on Feuerbach) shows that the rot had already set in.The reason that there is no need 'to supplement Marx's critique of capitalism' with Kant, is that morality already is part of Marx, which is clear to anyone who reads Capital.The fact that anyone believed otherwise is due to the 'materialists' who returned to pre-Theses 'materialism', encouraged by Engels.I suppose this prompts the thought that, whoever wrote the Socialist Standard obituary, was still under this benightedness, and couldn't account for why the late 19th century saw a reaction against this 'materialism', which 'materialists' just can't fathom, and have to damn it as 'seeking Kant'.They might as well write 'the bogeyman Kant', considering the role that 'idealists' play in the 'black-and-white', 'good-versus-evil' childlike imagination of the 'materialists'.Anyone who thinks that 'it is written in the stars' (or 'matter') that "workers' socialism is inevitable" really are the 'idealists'. As has been pointed out many times: 'materialism is a form of idealism', and Marx transcended the ancient categories with his reconciliation of  humans and their world with 'theory and practice'. How 'theory can't be moral' is a mystery to me.Of course, for the 'materialists' there is always 'amoral matter', which deals with the problem of those pesky 'moral humans'.

    #105271
    LBird
    Participant
    Karl Marx, Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, 1844, wrote:
    The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest being for man, hence with the categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, forsaken, despicable being …

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/rubel/1982/marx-ethics.htmNo need for the bogeyman Kant, for his 'categorical imperatives', and their insertion into Marx, as the 'materialists' complain.They're already there.

    #105272
    DJP
    Participant

    So, what is Kant's catergorical imperative?

    #105273
    LBird
    Participant

    Once again, to try to help comrades get a handle on the differences between Marx and Engels, I'll try to point out how they differ fundamentally on the use of the term 'material'.Marx was involved in developing a 'materialist theory of production'.Engels was involved in developing a 'materialist theory of nature'.Marx's emphasis falls on the term 'production', which is a human critical and creative act.Engels' emphasis falls on the term 'nature', which is external to human thought.So, whereas, given Marx's preoccupation with humans and their creative changing of their environment, which obviously involved ideas, it is entirely acceptable to clarify Marx as 'developing an idealist-materialist theory of production', this can't be done with Engels, whose focus upon nature (not humanity and its ideas) allows the 'material' aspect to be exclusive: thus Engels as simply 'developing a materialist theory of nature'.I already know that these explanations will have no affect whatsoever upon the 'religious materialists' amongst us, but perhaps they will help some other, more critically aware, comrades to begin to uncover the differences between Marx and Engels, and to begin to recognise the philosophical problems with Engels' 'materialism'.Put simply, 'materialism' is necessarily uncritical. It can't provide a philosophical basis for 'criticism of what exists', which is clearly required by the revolutionary proletariat.'Materialism' claims to know 'what exists'. This means it is fixed; once 'knowledge' is produced, it is final. 'Materialism' becomes the accumulation of 'facts', whether of nature or of society, and those who adhere to this method can claim to 'know the Truth'. Hence, this leads to Leninism over the proletariat, whose class task is, on the contrary, to become 'critical of the Truth', not to become accepting of someone else's Truth, whether bourgeois or party, physical or social, material or ideal.

    #105274
    DJP
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    Once again, to try to help comrades get a handle on the differences between Marx and Engels,

    What was it about the educator must be educated…

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 70 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.