1920s >> 1924 >> no-239-july-1924

Marx and his Work

The Scottish land reformer, Dr. G. B. Clark, has once again displayed his hatred for Marx by writing lies in the columns of Forward. Dr. Clark, who for a period was treasurer of the Federal Council of the Old International, thinks he can impress upon his readers that he knows all about the history of the International. Dr. Clark’s worthless charges may be illustrated from his oft-repeated charge that Marx was lazy ! This is good, considering that even the worst capitalist critics of Marx have paid tribute to the monumental research and long painstaking efforts of the writer of those thousands of pages of economic science and Socialist theory. Marx worked as Leibnecht and Engels have told us night and day to scrape a living as well as produce the works which brought him scant reward in his lifetime.

This is how Dr. Clark now makes his own history of the Old International :—

“Karl Marx had nothing to do with the inception of that association, and only joined it when he saw that it was going to be a success. The man who did the most to start it was Mazzini, and nearly all the preliminary work was done by his secretary, Wolff. When Karl Marx found that he could not control it, he did his best to kill it, and I regret to say that he was successful. It is now 52 years since its last Congress was held at The Hague, and two years later half-a-dozen people met in America and passed a resolution dissolving the association.”—(Forward, June 7th, 1921.)

No evidence is given by Dr. Clark for his statements. They recall very much the attacks made many years ago by the English Labour leader, George Howell, who was bitterly opposed by Marx because of Howell’s capitalist ideas. Marx’s answer to George Howell, the ex-member of the General Council of the International, is contained in The Secular Chronicle for August 4th, 1878. Marx’s reply is a complete answer to Dr. Clark’s point as to the founders of the International. Says Marx :—

“I believe it worth while to illustrate by a few notes the most recent contribution—see the ‘Nineteenth Century’ of July last—to the extensive spurious literature of the International’s history, because its last expounder, Mr. George Howell, an ex-workman and ex-member of the General Council of that association, may erroneously be supposed to have drawn his wisdom from sources not generally accessible.
“Mr. Howell sets about his ‘History’ by passing by the facts that, on September 28, 1864, I was present at the foundation meeting of the International, was there chosen a member of the provisional General Council, and soon after drew up the ‘Inaugural Address’ and the ‘General Statement’ of the association, first issued at London in 1864, then confirmed by the Geneva Congress of 1866.”

As to Mazzini every history of the International records the fact that the Constitution drawn up by Mazzini was rejected, and Marx was asked to write it, and did so. What success the International attained was so plainly the work of Marx and his supporters that whenever the International was attacked by the ruling class they denounced Marx as the moving spirit. See, for instance, the secret service agent, Onslow Yorke’s Secret History of the international. Did Marx try to kill it when he could not control it? Why was it dissolved? Gustav Jaeckh, in his “History of the International,” and Lessner in his “Sixty Years a Social Democrat,” also Susan Day in her history, all point out that the followers of Bakunin, the Anarchist, had made every effort to disrupt the International from within and make it adopt a policy fatal to working-class organisation. The tactics of these continental “force” advocates, and the general apathy which ensued amongst the workers after the fall of the Paris Commune, made it advisable to give up the International organisation for the time and leave it for economic development and ripening knowledge to make the workers more fitted to promote a worthy international body. The tactics of the Anarchists were an added factor to the opposition of servile labour leaders of the British unions who belonged to the International.

It was deemed advisable, therefore, at the time to hold the concluding congress far from the seat of the disruptive elements, and so the New York Congress passed the resolution of dissolution.

How farseeing Marx was in his opposition to the anarchist element was seen the year after the International disbanded. The followers of Bakunin, who formed the International Alliance, engineered a premature insurrection in Spain, which was crushed in blood. Engels’ pamphlets,”The Bakunist on Labour” and the “General Strike in Spain,” shows the danger of the anarchist element.

Dr. Clark has often pointed to the alleged unfounded accusations Marx made against Bakunin, but the publication of Bakunin’s “Confessions” recently in Russia showed Bakunin’s fawning subservience to the Czar of Russia, Alexander II, and justifies Marx. The bitterness of men like Dr. Clark against Marx shows their envy of his remarkable work and his growing world-wide reputation based upon it.

Marx, not Mazzini or Bakunin, is being studied to-day. His opponents in the International left behind them no writings or teachings which have lived or are worth studying.

Marx’s writings and ideas are the guide and inspiration of enlightened workers because they fit the facts of modern life.

Dr. Clark’s last point is the worst. He says that Marx’s principal theory “was propounded many years earlier by Thompson, who was Robert Owens’ secretary.”

Every student of Marx knows how silly this is. Marx made Thompson known on the continent, and acknowledged the value of his work. In the appendix to the “Poverty of Philosophy” Marx deals with Thompson’s work, “The Inquiry into the Principles of Human Happiness” (1827), and shows that Thompson used terms such as surplus value, which are also used by Marx. But the scientific proof of surplus value and its analysis was the work of Marx. Thompson, who was farseeing for his time, was unable to escape from the effect of Owenite Utopianism. Marx and Engels gave Socialist theory a scientific basis.


(Socialist Standard, July 1924)

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