The Secret of Marx


Dear Dr. Hayward,

Your book, “The Secret of Herbart,” must impress everyone who reads it with the feeling that you are earnestly endeavouring to do something beyond what you are primarily expected to do by your employers, viz., apply the screw to the “captains and guides of the democracy” in order that they shall the better grind out of the school mill more efficient wage-slaves as exploitation material for the class which laughs up its sleeve at your misdirected efforts to bring about the millenium by Dickens-readings and the generous administration of chunks of “apperception” stuff. But at the same time we feel impelled to point out to you that your book is


The “secret” which you set out to discover to a grateful public, and the knowledge of which shall add stature to those who are wallowing in your “professional gutter,” is so “portentous” that, at the finish, it whittles down to what looks uncommonly like an 80 pp. puff of books advertised on the cover. Where the “priceless biographies of the Bible,” let alone the lives of Curtius and Livingstone have failed, can your pinchbeck “hero of the situation” with his “Book of Moral Lessons” effect the desired alteration ?

But let us come to close grips. You aim at a better state of Society. Good. “Education” so far has failed. Granted, — from your point of view, and from ours too. But it has succeeded admirably in serving the purpose for which it was intended, and is intended, by the framers of “codes,” past and present. Have you read a soul-inspiring work, “German Schools,” by one of your late colleagues ? In that mass of pseudo-scientific collation of facts, and of inane inconsequentialities, two observations stand out which typify the trend of thought of the average “educationist” who is hired by the capitalist class to help to bolster up a system which it is beginning to feel, in spite of its Caliban-like mental outlook, has already taken a decided cant in a direction which inspires him with deep misgivings.

The writer of the work in question notes with deep satisfaction that arithmetic is most successfully taught in Hamburg, and has no doubt that this is owing to the stress laid on the subject by the merchants of that city. What kind of a “circle of ideas” does the mind of


run in? This man had “charge” of L.C.C. schools once, Doctor. He derived immense satisfaction on one occasion from the fact that poor little mites of seven to nine years old were somewhat hazy as to which was “subject” and which was “predicate” in the sentence “I saw a man running round a rock.” It evinced such high scholarship, such acuteness to discover that the infantile mind is unable to grapple with the niceties of a subject which may be safely ignored by the cultured man, and is the sheerest futility to “teach” to children.

The other observation is that with regard to the massing of children, and their devout rendering of a German national song. This picker-up of peddling trifles, whose whole vision seems obsessed by “average sums right,” “average mistakes,” waxes as eloquent as his very “practica ” mind will allow him. He says :

“The commemorative gathering (Sedan-Day) was held in the large hall of the school. A long address was read, after which recitations alternated with songs of a patriotic kind. . . The impression made upon me was profound—a pious assembly met in a God-fearing way to celebrate their great triumph. With such a people it would be much to be friends, it would be disquieting to have them for enemies.”

You see the point ? Good arithmetic—better clerks ; patriotic ritual—obedient wage-slaves, quiet, docile animals who would not, could not, be guilty of lèse majesté, under no conditions whatever would read Marx and Engels, but who should thank God that they were only pelted with hard speeches instead of harder bullets, and should join their English fellow-workers in striving to order themselves lowly and reverently to all their betters.

This view, judging from your work “The Secret of Herbart,” is not satisfactory to you. I hope it is not too personal to observe that, in your official capacity, you must feel like the proverbial fish out of water. You are seeking to penetrate, not only the “impenetrable carapace” of the Blatchfordian gin-drinking wastrel, but incidentally the equally “impenetrable carapace” which officialdom invariably assumes. Has it ever struck you that possibibly


born of the same hideous mother—foul, unholy capitalism. Has it ever occurred to you that the “circle of ideas” can only revolve in a


You occasionally glimpse the position. You say “Lust and brutality are generated as certainly as scrophula or typhus.” They are. Typhus and scrofula are the outcome of certain conditions. The merry typhus germ may career around for all time, as far as we know, without doing any damage until it finds suitable soil. Unhealthy surrounding are an absolute necessity for the fell work of the typhus germ,—the foetid atmosphere generated by capitalist society is peculiarly adapted for the growth of “lust and brutality.” Social relations determine the prevalence of typhus and scrofula,—no less do social relations determine the prevalence of “lust and brutality.” And here we come full on the


beside which the alleged “Secret of Herbart” stands abashed. That secret is

“In every historical epoch, the prevailing mode of production and exchange, and the social organisation necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch.”

The highest philanthropic and missionary work, you say, is that which seeks to “implant wholesome interests.” Allow me, my dear Doctor, to introduce you to the


which is seeking to implant the most wholesome interest a worker can have, namely, interest in himself as a unit of a slave class, interest in seeking to learn the genesis of that class, interest in seeking methods to remove the cause of his slavery. Can you ask higher ? What greater service can you render to a slave than to make him feel his position keenly (to be “class-conscious”), to point out the origin of his enslavement, and to show him the only road to his salvation? If “apperception” be “the process of interpreting some new fact or experience by means of our previous knowledge” then the Socialist Party of Great Britain may lay claim to be the only true disciples of Herbart to-day. The “new fact” of wage-slavery we interpret in the light of the “previous knowledge” appertaining to the growth of private property in the means of life ; sin, morality, and a thousand other abstractions we insistently seek in material causes. While your “educationists” are piffling about “faculty doctrines,” etc., while your sociologist is “tabulating the causes of poverty,” the Socialist Party of Great Britain is proclaiming aloud the one cause of poverty— capitalism—and is educating the worker in the only “doctrine” which will “implant wholesome interests,” the doctrine that the emancipation of the working class must be the


“Realising that, as in the order of social evolution, the working class is the last class to be emancipated, the emancipation of the working class will involve abolition of all class distinctions and class privileges and free humanity from oppression of every kind, the Socialist Party of Great Britain enters the political arena, in full faith that the members of our class will work out


hurls defiance at all forces of reaction. Generated by capitalist society, heir to the slavery of ages, outcast of civilisation, the working class will prove a fitting instrument of the movement of history, and by the brain and sinew of Labour will arise the Socialist Commonwealth, a society wherein poverty, privilege and oppression will find no place, and wherein all may lead a full, free, and joyous existence.”

Will you come and help ? Does our position demand attention ? What do you think of the “Secret of Marx”? “Recondite?” Maybe. “Portentous ?” Aye, verily.


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