1930s >> 1939 >> no-421-september-1939

Forgings from the Furnace

It is interesting to read some of the lesser known writings of Marx,

Via the Marxists Internet Archive.

interesting because you often come in contact with material that seems new to you. 

Otto Rühle’s work, “Karl Marx,” contains many quotations from “The Holy Family” and the earlier works of the old revolutionist. 
I selected a few of these that appealed to me; perhaps the readers of the Standard may find it worth their while to peruse them. It would be superfluous to comment. 
We will let the old red speak for himself:
Charles Lestor.

“We shall not dogmatically anticipate the coming world, but shall begin by discovering the new world through criticism of the old one. . . . We are developing the principles of the new world. We do not say to the world ‘cease your struggles, which are foolish, for we will give you the true battle-cry.’ We merely show the world for what it is really fighting, and the world must become self-conscious whether it will or no. Our motto must therefore be: Reform of the consciousness, not by dogmas, but by analyses of the mystical consciousness, of the consciousness which is not fully clarified, whether it be religious or political, ‘ To make the time fully understand its. struggles and its wishes.’

 

“The weapon of criticism cannot replace the criticism of weapons. Physical force must be overthrown by physical force; but theory, too, becomes a physical force as soon as it takes possession of the masses. . . .

 

“If the proletariat demands the negation of private property, it is only raising to the level of a principle of society that which society has made a principle of the proletariat.

 

“Philosophy cannot be realised without the uprising of the proletariat; and the proletariat cannot rise without the realisation of philosophy.

 

“Proletariat and wealth are opposites. As such, they form a whole. We are concerned with the definite position which the two assume in the contrast. It does not suffice to describe them as two aspects of one whole.

 

  “Private property as private property, as wealth, is compelled to maintain its own existence, and therewith the existence of its opposite, the proletariat. It is the positive side of the contrast, private property satisfied with itself. The proletariat on the other hand, is compelled as proletariat to abolish itself, and therewith to abolish private property, the opposite that has determined its own existence, that has made it into a proletariat. It is the negative side of the contrast, its discontent with itself, private property dissolved and dissolving itself. The possessing class and the class of the proletariat represent an identical human self-alienation. But the former class feels itself comfortable and assured in this self-alienation, recognises this alienation as its own power, and possesses in it the semblance of human existence; the latter feels itself annihilated by this alienation, regards in it its own impotence, and perceives in it the reality of an inhuman existence.

 

“Beyond question, private property, in its economic movement, advances towards its own dissolution, but only through the development of an independent and unconscious character, which it undergoes without the exercise of its own will, and impelled by the nature of things; only inasmuch as it generates the proletariat as proletariat, creates poverty that is conscious of its own mental and physical poverty, creates dehumanisation that is conscious of itself and therefore abolishes itself. The proletariat fulfils the judgment which private property has brought upon itself by the creation of the proletariat, just as it fulfils the judgment which wage labour has brought upon itself by creating the wealth of others and its own poverty. When the proletariat is victorious, it has not thereby in any way become the absolute aspect of society, for it is only victorious inasmuch as it abolishes itself and its opposite. Then both the proletariat and its conditioning opposite will disappear. . . .

 

“We are not concerned, therefore, with what this or that proletarian, or even the proletariat as a whole may regard as an aim. What we are concerned with is, what the proletariat actually is: and what the proletariat will, in accordance with the nature of its own being, be historically compelled to do. Its goal and its historical action are obvious, are irrevocably indicated, in the vital situation of the proletariat, and also in the whole organisation of contemporary bourgeois society. . . .

 

“We may distinguish human beings from animals by consciousness, by religion, by anything you please. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their own means of subsistence, a step which is necessitated by their own bodily organisation. Inasmuch as human beings produce their own means of subsistence, they indirectly produce their own material life.

 

“The necessaries of life are, above all, food, drink, shelter, clothing and a few others. Hence the first historical act is the production of the means for the satisfaction of these needs, the production of material life itself, and thus one historical fact is a fundamental determinant of all history.

 

As individuals express their lives, so they are. Thus, what they are coincides with what they produce: and not only with what they produce, but with how they produce. Consequently, what individuals are, depends upon the material conditions of production.

 

“Social classification and the State are continually proceeding out of the life process of determinate individuals, not, however, of these individuals as they may appear to themselves or others, but as they really are; that is to say, as they work, as they are engaged in material production, as they are active under determinate material limitations, presuppositions and conditions which are independent of their will.

 

“Morality, religion, metaphysics, and ideology in general, with their appropriate forms of consciousness, thus forfeit the semblance of independence.

 

“They have no history, no evolution of their own. Human beings developing material production and material intercourse, and thus altering the real world that environs them, alter therewith their own thought and the products of their thought. Consciousness does not determine life, but life determines consciousness

 

“Once reality has been demonstrated, philosophy as an independent discipline loses its existence.

 

Not criticism, but revolution, is the motive force of history.”

 

“For us, Communism is not a condition of affairs which ‘ought’ to be established, not an ‘ideal’ toward which reality has to direct itself. When we speak of Communism we mean the actual movement which makes an end of the present state of affairs. The determinants of this movement arise out of the extant presupposition . . .  ”

 

“Economic conditions begin by transforming the masses of the population into (manual wage) workers. The regime of Capital has created for this mass a common situation, joint interests. Thus this mass is already a class confronting capital, though not yet aware of its own position as a class. . . . The interests it defends become class interests. Now, a struggle of class against class is a political struggle.

 

“The existence of an oppressed class is the vital condition of every society based upon class oppositions. Consequently, the liberation of the oppressed class necessarily involves the creation of a new society. If the oppressed class is to be able to liberate itself, it must have reached a stage at which the already acquired form of production and the extant social institutions can no longer continue to exist side by side. Of all the instruments of production, the greatest productive force is the revolutionary class itself.

 

“The organisation of the revolutionary elements as a class presupposes the existence of all the forces of production which can develop within the womb of the old society . . . “
“Capital is not only what Adam Smith calls it, the command over labour. Fundamentally, it is the command of unpaid labour. All surplus value, whatever the form into which it may subsequently become crystallized—as profit, land-rent, interest, etc.—is substantially the materialisation of unpaid labour time. The secret of the self-expansion of capital finds its explanation in this, that capital has at its disposal a definite quantity of other people’s unpaid labour.”

Karl Marx