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Full text of "Karl Marx; an essay"

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In compliance with current 
copyright law, Cornell University- 
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1993 



KARL MARX 



AN ESSAY 



By 

HAROLD J. LASKI 




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^7 7/ 73-/3 

a 3? 

X 



KARL MARX 

AN ESSAY 



NO name in the history of social ideas occupies a 
place more remarkable than that of Karl Marx. 
Save Machiavelli and Rousseau, no thinker has 
been the subject of a condemnation so unsparing, and, 
like Rousseau, it has been his fortune to preside after 
death over a revolution conceived in his name. His 
books have received from a chosen band a scrutiny as 
earnest as ever the Bible or the Digest have obtained. 
Yet the precise grounds of the position he occupies among 
Socialists is a more complex problem than is usually 
assumed. His theory of value is no more than a formid- 
able adaptation of a concept already worked out in full 
by a group of English" pfedecessors. TSIennike HaHing' 
ton and James Madison realized, hardly l ess clearly than 
he, the significance of the materialist interpretation of 
history. His appreciation of the fact of class antagonism 
had been anticipated in detail by Saint-Simon. Even his 
passionate sympathy with the inarticulate aspirations of 
the working class was no more profound than that of 
Charles Hall and Owen and John Stuart Mill. 

His position, indeed, cannot be appreciated unless it 
is seen in its historical perspective. Born between two 
revolutions, he utilized the method produced by the re- 
action from the excesses of France to the service of its 
fundamental principles. The disciple of Hegel, he was 
the first of those who felt his master's influence to apply 
his dialectic to the analysis of social facts. Hardly less 
important was the material of which he made use. Be- 
ginning to write when the full implications of capitalism 
were becoming visible, he utilized its own description of 
its economic consequences as the proof of its moral 
inadequacy. The evidence was impressive and complete ; 
and the induction therefrom of a social order at once 
new and inevitable, suited to a nicety the yearnings of 
his generation. 



4 KARL MARX 

The main result of the Hegelian movement was to 
lend a new sanction to philosophic conservatism. The 
impact of the revolutionary wars seems to have turned 
the mind of its founder towards the justification of estab- 
lished order. In that sense, Hegel is a chief of reac- 
tionary romanticism, and his affinity to men like Burke 
and Savigny is obvious. Yet the essence of Hegelianism 
is, at the same time, the idea of evolution, and, to an 
age which, as with de Maistre, was chiefly concerned 
with finding the basis of a permanent social scheme the 
notion of evolution was a definitely radical one. For 
Hegel insists on the impermanence of institutions. Each 
age is its predecessor with a difference. There is a change 
of tone and outlook, a tendency to emphasize the anti- 
thesis of what has been characteristic of the earlier 
period. To the period of religious intensity there suc- 
ceeds the age of religious indifference; Bossuet begets 
Voltaire, as Lord Eldon implies the reforming zeal of 
Henry Brougham. The law of life is the warring of 
contradictions, with growth as its consequence. This 
process, which Hegel called dialectic, is, as it were, a 
kind of rhythm which moves from the concrete hardness 
of some definite idea to its opposite ; from that repulsion 
it shifts towards a synthesis in which the two first stages 
interpenetrate each other to form a new concept by their 
union. 

This notion is the ruling method of Marxian thought. 
Obviously enough, it provides a means whereby the 
foundations of any given social system may be criticized 
at their base. For if we can be certain that any inter- 
prtrtation of a period is necessarily a partial view, we 
have only to emphasize its antithesis to call forth the 
possibility of a new standpoint. Hegelianism, for 
example, might insist on the moral adequacy of the 
Prussian State. But under its very banner. Young 
Germany might make protest against its rigorous im- 
permeability to freedom. Where Hegelian doctrine had 
empliasized birth and position, Young Germany could 
point to the frustration of talent and the tragedies of 
the poor. Where it insisted on the value of religion, the 
newer thinkers might question the very foundation's of 
faith. The disciples of Hegel, in fact, turned the 
weap ins of their master to the service of a cause he had 



KARL MARX 5 

denied. Straus s and Feuerbach, Bruno Bauer and Heine 
are essentially a part of the same generaltendericy of 
which Marx is the representative in social ideas. They 
are the heralds of revolt against the reaction. Their| 
difference from Marx consists in their failure to see the! 
political implications of their position. Marx grasped 
them from the outset ; and the Hegelian dialectic in his 
hands is an effort at the overthrow of the existing social 
order. 

The time, indeed, was singularly fitted for the ideas 
of which he was the protagonist. The shadow of two 
French Revolutions bestrode Europe like a colossus; 
and the very reaction they had provoked was compelled 
to make grudging concessions to ensure even its tem- 
porary survival. The mood of the people was every- 
where bitter and discontented; and the criticism of exist- 
ing institutions secured a widespread and eager welcome. 
In France, the work of Saint-Simon and Fourier and 
Enfantin had shown how prolific of novelty the revolu- 
tion remained ; and its influence was hardly less apparent 
in the new liberalism of Sismondi and the Catholic 
experiments of Lamennais. England was in the throes 
of a convulsion not the less profound because it was 
silent. Bentham had at last come into his own; and, 
under the stress of his urgent protests English institu- 
tions were being transformed into the organs of a middle- 
class state. The refics of feudalism had at last submitted 
to the assaults of Ricardo and his school ; and the new- 
born industrialism, even if, to an observant eye, it 
seemed but the grim doctrines of Calvin translated to an 
economic sphere, completely altered the atmosphere of 
social life. 

The revolution, indeed, did not achieve its purpose 
without suffering. As early as 1805, Charles Hall had 
uttered a remarkable protest against the implications of 
the new civilization and that half-forgotten school of 
economists who form a link between the individualism 
of Bentham and the co-operation of Owen, were riddling 
its protective armour in the name of social justice. The 
masses had regarded the Reform Act of 1832 as the 
prelude to the greatest happiness of the greatest number; 
and their disappointment expressed itself in the revolu- 
tionary activity of the trade unions and the formation of 



6 KARL MARX 

the Chartist movement. Thinkers like William Thomp- 
son and J. F. Bray, noble-minded agitators like Francis 
Place and William Lovett, are every whit as indicative of 
the new capitalism as the great merchants and the in- 
credible machines of Lancashire and Yorkshire. The 
Industrial Revolution reaped what it had sown. It 
ground a whole generation into intolerable despair, and 
dreams of its destruction were the sole refuge of its 
victims. Those dreams were the background which made 
possible the emergence of Karl Marx. They gave him 
the foundation of his social philosophy. 

II. 

Karl MaTX was born at Treves on May 5th, 1818, of 
Jewish parents who were descended on both sides from 
rabbinic ancestors. Neither his father, whowas a lawyer, 
nor his mother seems to have had any special ability ; 
and Marx himself was the only one of several children 
who attained intellectual distinction. When he was six 
years old, the family was converted to Christianity, not, 
it appears, from any desire to avoid the stigma then 
attached to the Jewish faith, but' as a result of that 
romantic idealizing of Christianity of which Chateau- 
briand was the most famous representative. It is not 
easy to measure exactly what influence this change had 
upon Marx. If it later opened to him avenues that 
would otherwise have been closed, he never availed him- 
self of them. To the end of his life he remained some- 
thing of an anti-Semite ; but this does not seem traceable 
to any emotion of iapostasy\ 

Marx's childhood was passed in the normal atmosphere 
of a patriotic lawyer's life. His father was a zealous 
Prussian, to whom the defeat of Napoleon offered the 
opportunity, of which his son did not take advantage, 
of a lyrical hymri to Prussian victory. He went to the 
grammar school of his native town, where his ability 
was immediately marked by his teachers. There, too, 
he was intimate with the Privy Councillor, von West- 
phalen, whose house was a kind of salon for the intel- 
lectual youth of Treves. At least Marx learned there a 
love of literature, and the dedication of his doctor's 
thesis is testimony to his grateful regard for his future 
father-in-law. For even before his departure, in 1835, 



KARL MARX 7 

to Bonn University, he had become secretly engaged to 
Jenny von Westphalen, whose beauty and strength of 
mind had awakened in him an affection which did not 
diminish through life. 

Marx remained a year in Bonn, studying jurispru- 
dence ; but he seems to have devoted himself to the more 
convivial side of the University, and it was not until his 
removal to Berlin, in 1836, that he threw himself into 
intellectual work. Berlin was then at the very height of 
its reputation ; and the influence of Hegel was still para- 
mount in its instruction. No sort of learning seems to 
have come amiss to Marx. History and philosophy, 
geography and jurisprudence, literature and aesthetic, 
all of them aroused in him the typical enthusiasm of an 
undergraduate in search of omniscience. Nor — it is a 
grateful thought — did he fail to write poetry ; and if his 
verses are a fair index to his state of mind, he was full 
of a restless insatiability for knowledge, and a zealous 
desire to solve the problems of the universe, from which 
at least there must have been derived many hours of 
happy work. He tried his hand at composing philo- 
sophic systems. He attempted to compile an outline of 
jurisprudence. He went hardly at all into society, and 
it was not until the winter of 1837 that his experiments 
resolved themselves into a settled system. He surren- 
dered the neo-idealism of Kant and took refuge in a 
complete acceptance of Hegelian metaphysic. That this 
change represented for him a very real mental crisis is 
evident from the passionate, if turgid, letter to his father 
of November loth, 1837. There he summarizes the in- 
tense struggle through which he had passed, the desire 
" to dive into the deeps of the ocean . . . bringing up 
chaste pearls into the sunlight." He was ill and 
troubled. His poems^and short stories were burned; he 
sought escape from the seductions of Hegel in discussion 
at the Graduates' Club, only to find himself the more 
securely enmeshed therein. It is the typical intellectual 
history of an ardent mind, conscious of great powers, 
and eager to secure a foothold from which to survey the 
universe. 

Not unnaturally, it greatly disturbed his father. He, 
good man, was anxious above all to see Karl at work in 
a lawyer's office, or, even better, in Government service. 



8 KARL MARX 

Why did he not do as other students, attend his lectures, 
meet the right people, and embark upon his future career ? 
He did not understand this mental torment save to see 
that it involved physical ill-health and a good deal of 
miscellaneous reading totally unconnected with the law. 
But Marx's ideals had already passed beyond so pedes- 
trian an existence; and his father seems to have reconciled 
himself to the new ambitions. Marx determined upon a 
University post, and for that purpose devoted himself to 
the study of philosophic jurisprudence. With friends 
like Bruno Bauer and Friedrich Koppen, he buried him- 
self in study and discussion. A thesis was written on the 
philosophical systems of Democritus and Epicurus, and 
in 1841 Marx became a doctor of the University of Jena. 
He rejoined Bauer at Bonn and awaited the oEFer of a 
lectureship in the University. Had that offer come, the 
history of European Socialism might have been very 
different. But the Prussian educational system did not 
look with affection upon eager young men whose views 
did not square with orthodox teaching. The post did not 
arrive, and it was shortly enough obvious that it was not 
likely to arrive. An academic career being thus im- 
possible, Marx set to work to find a living in journalism, 
and in 1842 an opportunity of an attractive kind presented 
itself. 

The first number of the Rheinische Zeitung was pub- 
lished on January ist, 1842, and Marx was a warm friend 
of the editor, who had met him at the Graduates' Club 
in Berlin. Invited to assist, he wrote philosophical 
articles which not only brought him to the notice of a 
wider circle, among whom were men like Feuerbach 
and Moses Hess, but also secured for him the direction 
of the journal on the retirement of its first editor in the 
next October. Thereby Marx was compelled to deal, 
and for the first time, with immediate political issues'. 
He came into contact with French and German Social- 
ism, then in their Utopian stage. The agrarian problem 
m the Rhme provinces and the discussion of the tariff 
gave him " the first stimulus " to investigate economic 
questions. French socialist ideas were already beinff 
discussed in the paper, but Marx, as always, determined 
upon a thorough grasp of the issue, did not as yet pro- 
nounce upon their worth. An editor who takes time to 



KARL MARX 9 

make up his mind is obviously lost ; and the directors of 
the paper decided to make a change in its management. 
Marx, who had just married, seems to have resigned 
without regret, and to have buried himself for the next 
two years in those economic studies from which he 
emerged a Socialist. 

Of the inner history of those years Ave know practically 
nothing. Certain alone it is that as early as May, 1843, 
he detected within society " a breach which the old 
system cannot heal ' ' ; and it was not long before he 
showed in his letters an intimate knowledge of Fourier, 
Proudhon and Cabet. Already he had done with 
Utopias; the problem was "to explain the struggles and 
yearnings of the time." In the winter of 184;^, when he 
had settled with his wife in Paris, he wrote the introducJ 
tion to Hegel's ^^i^2££^^J:L_£i_L2H' which remains,! 
perhaps, his profoundestpiece of technical criti cism. ' 
Already he^"was~fhmkmg~tir'teinis--of-TBVC)1trrron, and 
insisting that the task of the proletariat was to free itself 
from the existing social order. Poverty he viewed, thus 
early, as the artificial product of a bourgeois society ; and 
the denial of the right to private property had become 
for him the fundamental avenue of release. But we 
catch glimpses only of this time. All that can be said 
with certainty is the fact that reflection had made him a 
Socialist. He had realized, too, the inadequacies of the 
abstract remoteness of French Socialism . He had seen 
that the political state was, at any given time, tjie reflec- 
tion in structur e of the idea s of that epoch . ~He had 
realized that the main need was to make plain to the mass 
of men the implications of the state, and the end to which 
their half-conscious struggle should lead them. His 
thought, indeed, was abstract enough, and still fettered 
within the^jTarrow^waJb__ofjtheJHegelian djalec But 

at least it was moving forward. 

Meanwhile, the problem of how to live had still to be 
solved. He had gone to Paris in October, 1843, to 
become editor of the Franco-German Year Books. But 
that periodical lasted only for a single issue, and, for 
Marx, its chief importance was the appearance therein 
of a long and, frankly, bad article by Friedrich En^els 
, on political economy. The article led to correspondence 
between them, and in the autumn of 1844, Engels went 



lo KARL MARX 

to Paris to visit Marx. That visit was the commence- 
ment of a friendship which even death did not terminate. 

Friedrich Engels was the son of a rich manufacturer 
in the Rhineland. His father owned a cotton mill near 
Manchester, to which, in 1842, Engels had been sent to 
study English business conditions. He was already an 
eager critic of social conditions, and how carefully he 
observed the life about him, his Condition of the Work- 
ing Classes in England in 1844, which he published in 
1845, bears witness. A sympathizer with the Chartist 
Movement, and a contributor to Owen's New Moral 
\World, he was exactly in the frame of mind to be recep- 
tive to Marx's ideas. And his personal qualities 
admirably fitted him to be the complement of Marx. 
Thoroughly loyal, without an atom of personal ambition, 
generous, and self-effacing, practical and energetic, he 
brought to Marx all the necessarj' characteristics of a 
Fidus Achates. His unstinting literary assistance hardly 
less than his constant financial aid were the materials 
which determined Marx's future career. It is, indeed, 
almost impossible to disentangle the labours of the twol 
Clearl}' enough, it was to Engels that Marx owed both 
his knowledge of English blue-books as a source of 
economic theorj?^, and his introduction to the work of the 
English socialist school. Without Engels, too, it would 
have been difficult for Marx to undertake the research 
to which the first volume of the Capital bears witness; 
and the posthumous publication of the two latter volumes 
was the tribute that Engels paid to the memory of his 
master. That Marx would have been an important 
figure without Engels is clear enough ; but the aid ren- 
dered by the latter made all the difference between the 
comparative calm of London and the restless wanderings 
of which hapless exiles like Bakunin were the miserable 
victims. 

The sudden end of the Franco-German Year Books 
made Marx turn to more solid production. The Holy 
Family (1845) is important, not only because it contains 
the fijst clgar^utline o f the materiali stic conceptinn^nf 
histog^ but aliSlDecause its attack on Bruno Bauer is 
evidence that Marx had already broken with the youncr 
Hegelians. He had come to place all his faith in the 
significance of mass-movements, where Bauer believed 



KARL MARX n 

that the ideas by which mankind is moved cannot hope 
for mdrethan superKcial understangi ngTrom the mass 
a nd" depend for the i r success upon t he^ettojJalfit . great ^^ 
men. Simultaneously, alsoTTie was answering Ruge's'l 
attacks upon the German proletariat with an impassioned 
defence of socialism and revolution. Weitling is held 
up as proof of proletarian virtue against the mediocrity 
of the political literature of the German bourgeoisie. 
And in the polemic against Riige it is insisted that thei 
time for political revolution, the only revolution of which! 
the German bourgeoisie is capable, had passed; thel 
capacity of Germany is the capacity of its workers, and ' 
it is to a social revolution that Marx directs attention, j 

This Paris period is important not only for the advent 
of Engels. Mingling with the German workers then 
living in Paris, Marx naturally met those who were already 
in sympathy with his own views. From them to Proud- 
hon was a natural step, for Proudhon was already the 
dominant socialist influence in France. Proudhon was 
interested in the Hegelian dialectic, and he and Marx 
spent countless hours in discussing its application to 
social science. But this fruitful intercourse was inter- 
rupted by his expulsion from France (January, 1845) at 
the demand of the Prussian Government. Marx went 
from Paris to Brussels, where he remained, but for 
short intervals, until the outbreak of the I'evolution of 
1848. Engels gave him a selection of his library and 
' Marx devoted himself to the composition of his singu- 
larly able and unpl easant criticism of Proudhon. This 
was published iTrT§47, and it may be said to mark his 
transition to the full vigour of his matured philosophy. 

Proudhon's reputation as-a social philosopher has 
undergone an interesting reconstruction -in our own 
day.' As an economist he has hardly survived the 
analysis of Marx. A self-taught man, originally a 
printer, he came into prominence by the publication, in 
1840, of his prize essay. What is Property? in which, 
with much brilliance of style and no small genius for 
paradox, he repeated in the economic sphere the sub- 
stance of those criticisms of social organization which 

' See A. Berthod, Proudhon et la Propriiti; C. Bougie, La Sociologie 
de Proudhon; G. Pirou, Proudhon et Syndicalisme Rdvolutionnaire ; 
" les Amis de Proudlion," Proudhon et Ses Temps. 



y 



12 KARL MARX 

Rousseau had expressed in a prize essay not less famous. 
But Proudhon's aspirations were not limited by his 
knowledge. With undoubted ability and with a real gift 
of social insight, he yet lacked that rigorous training in 
the method of intellectual inquiry without which the pro- 
duction of a logical system is rarely possible. Discover- 
ing the work of Hegel, he^alt«n£tedjinjntergretati^n_qf_ 
social life in terms of the dialectic. It is, broadly, a mass 
of"ilPaTfTaTrgsa*^argon with sonie brilliant asides. But 
the work was written while in contact with Marx, and. the 
Philosophie de la Misere is the exposition of exactly 
that type of Utopia-mongering which aroused Marx's 
anger. It depended for its success mainly upon the 
unconscious ease with which it determines the most 
complex economic problems, and the reckless certitude 
of its own conclusions. It is, indeed, at the same time, 
a very attractive book. Proudhon realized, not less 
keenly than Marx, the evils of capitalism, and he was not 
less anxious to point the way to an economic order of 
which the motives were freedom and justice. In the 
Dm Principe Federatif and the Justice dans la Revolu- 
tion, indeed, he outlined a type of federalism of which 
the suggestiveness is immense ; and it would be legitimate 
to argue that not the least significant source of the 
ancestry of Guild Socialism could be traced to his 
writings. 

But the conflict between Marx and Proudhon was an 
inevitable one. At_bottoin,Jh e ideals of P roudhon were 
those lof a peasant soc iaBsm, ilTwhich the authority of a 
central state was reduced to a minimum ; he was re- 
formist in outlook, despite the vigour of his phrases, 
land his economic views were always subordinate to 
certain ethical assumptions. Marx was the typical 
representative of the new industrialism, and the source 
jof change for him was solely to be traced to develop- 
;ments in industrial technique. Authoritarian and 
!materialist in both outlook and temper;, there was no real 
contact between Proudhon and himself. Marx more- 
over, was a trained scholar, to whom the luxuriance of 
Proudhon's speculations was never an adequate sub- 
stitute for fact. He was able without difficulty to show 
that Proudhon understood neither the theory of value 
nor the process of production. At bottom, as' he insists 



KARL MARX 13 

Proudhon had done little more than urge, first that 
labour was the source of value, and next that riches and 
poverty co-exist. Proudhon could see that the source 
of economic injustice lay somewhere within the system 
of production, but he could not, with any clarity, explain 
its development. Marx overwhelmed him with ridicule, 
abuse, and sarcasm, and it must be admitted that from 
the standpoint of an economist, right is on his side. 
And Marx's answer, the Poverty of Philosophy, is note-j 
worthy also for its firm grasp of the economic processes', 
of history and for his insistence upon the part that an I 
oppressed class has always played in the development 
of any system founded upon class antagonism. But 
tlie main value of the book consists less in any positive 
doctrine that ft annoiIricS^tian~ln~the~jrtTtlospKere~By' 
wKIch it is permeated. It is definitely revolutionary, and 
it is revolutiohar)' because it is historical. Its lesson is 
the argument that social evolution implies economic 
revolution. That was a new note to strike in the history 
of European Socialism. 

III. 

The controversy with Proudhon was the natural pre- 
lude to the Communist Manifesto. It had been evident 
to Marx, for several years before 1848, that Europe was 
on the verge of revolt. England was passing through 
a period of intense agitation. Socialism was growing in 
Germany by leaps and bounds; and the lyrical falsi- 
fications of Lamartine seemed to the Paris workmen in- 
finitely preferable to the mediocre corruption of Guizot 
and Louis Philippe. Marx, indeed, did not see that 
the political situation was far too complex to admit of 
an interpretation in uniform terms. Democratic nation- 
alism like that of -Mazzini, individualist republicanism 
like that of Ledru-Rollin, such hostility to dynastic 
oppression as Kossuth embodied, ,state socialism as 
typified by Louis Blanc — the forces of upheaval were 
too various and incompatible to admit of any continuous 
co-operation. Bitterly as the worker might resent the: 
consequences of industrialism, he had not yet reached 
the stage where the seizure of political power for) 
economic ends seemed to him the one ideal worthy ofl 
attainment. And he was, to no small degree, still 



14 KARL MARX 

attracted by the kind of unrealistic thinking of which 
Robert Owen was so prolific, the sense that the diffi- 
culties of , the time might be evaded by extra-political 
organization. Marx realized that this attitude was 
definitely unconstructive. The seizure of the State was 
to him the starting point of successful effort, and when 
Frederic William IV summoned the United Assembly 
in Februar}', 1847, it was not unnatural for him to 
assume that the hour for action was at hand. 

From the outset of his life in Brussels, Marx had 
mingled with the German socialist residents there. He 
had come into contact with the League of the Just, an 
organization of German workers with branches in the 
chief European towns. This society, founded in 1836, 
had in 1840 moved its headquarters to London, pro- 
bably to escape the unwelcome attention s^jpf the political 
police. The attention of the London gjoi^p had been 
drawn to Marx by the members in Parl^teiid Brussels. 
The London branch commissioned inquiries to be made 
about him, and when the first Congress of the League 
was held in London in the summer of 1847, Engels and 
Wilhelm Wolff, the latter, through Engels, a disciple 
of Marx, were present at its deliberations. Engels had 
spent the year in efforts at revolutionarj'- propaganda in 
Paris and the Rhineland; and it is probably due, in 
the main, to him that the League of the Just was trans- 
formed into the Communist League. The ground was 
thus prepared for Marx, who appeared at the second 
Congress, also in London, in December, 1847. Engels 
had already conferred with him as to the ground to be 
taken there; and he had sent Marx the outline of a 
programme to be offered to the Congress for acceptance. 
Engel's outline contains the substance of the famous 
manifesto; but it lacks the ringing challenge and firm 
grasp of its successor. At the Congress, Marx and 
Engels were commissioned to draw up a programme. 
They were prepared for the effort; and the'Cerman 
edition of the Communist Manifesto appeared a few 
..^ays before the outbreak of the Paris revolution. 
: It is not easy to over estimate the significance of the 
; Manifesto. It gave direction and a philosophy to what 
: had been before little more than an inchoate protest 
against injustice. It began the long process of weldincr 



KARL MARX 15 

together the scattered groups of the disinherited into an 
organized and influential party. It freed SociaUsm from 
its earlier situation of a doctrine cherished by conspira- 
tors in defiance of government and gave to it a ^ once a 
purpose and an historic background. It almost created 
a proletarian consciousness by giving, and for the first 
time, to the workers at once a high sense of their 
historic mission. and a realization of the dignity implicit 
in their task. It destroyed at a stroke both the belief 
that Socialism could triumph without long preparation, 
and the hope that any form of economic organization 
was possible save that which was implicit in the facts 
of the time. It insisted upon no natural rights. It did 
not lay down any metaphysic. It was, on the contrary, 
a careful and critical historic survey of the institutional 
process regarded as a whole. 

To insia|^iBon its epoch-making character is not to. 
regard it^^p^n original or definitive document or to; 
suggest that it is free from inconsistencies. It qwesi 
much, clearly, tojDqn_siderantls_J£am/ejfM_d£_Ja-j3e«io- 
cratie which M^as published four years before.' There 
Have been Utopian socialisms in despite of Marx; and 
we are doubtless not at the end of them. The belief in 
natural rights revives with every age of discontent, and 
it would be possible to prove that the idea of natural 
rights is necessarily implicit in the juridical structure' 
of Socialism. Nor is its treatment of the middle class 
at all adequate. At one point it is subject to a vitupera- 
tion so scathing and relentless, as to make it seem the 
nurse of all social evil. At another its great historic 
achievements are exalted beyond all praise. Its immediate 
programme of action is borrowed in almost everyi 
particular from those earlier Socialists who are so un-i 
sparingly condemned. Nor can Marx's claim that he 
substituted " a critical insight into the facts, progress 
and general results of the actual social movement "for 
the systems of his predecessors, be entirely accepted;! 
for, after all, it is not the least merit of Fourier and' 
Saint-Simon that they had described with not less sober 
accuracy than that of Marx the economic conditions of 
their time. Even the use of the class-war as the key to 

' But Considerant, though his picture of the economic situation is 
lilcc that of Marx, rejects revolutionary communism. 



i6 KARL MARX 

history was brilliantly anticipated in the Gene.van 
Letters of Saint-Simon. 

' Yet the general superiority of the Manifesto to 
previous Socialist writing is incontestable. It contains, 
broadly speaking, four definite groups of ideas. Be- 
ginning with a history of the growth of the middle class, 
it recounts its victory over feudal privilege, its emer- 
gence into the full development of capitalistic enterprise, 
and its necessary result in a revolutionary proletariat. 
A second section deals with the philosophic interpreta- 
tion of this history. It argues that the doctrine of the 
class struggle, the necessary and inevitable conflict 
between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, with the 
consequent revolutionary role that is assigned to the 
latter, are the plain deductions to be drawn. Ways and 
means are then discussed, the main object of which is 
to bring within the ambit of state control the whole 
economic life of the people. There then follows a 
criticism of previous Socialist literature of which it must 
be said that, forcible and eloquent as it is, much of it 
is inaccurate and the whole unfair. No description can 
do justice to the brilliant vigour of the whole. Every 
phrase of it is a challenge, and much of it has the same 
moving passion that distinguishes the exordium of the 
Social Contract or, in a very different type of polemic, 
the Paroles d'un Croyant of Lamennais. It is the book 
of men who have viewed the whole process of history 
from an eminence and discovered therein an inescapable 
lesson. It is at once an epilogue and a prophecy — an 
epilogue to the deception from which the workers 
suffered in the Revolution of 1789, and a prophecy of 
the land of promise they may still hope to enter. A 
movement that could produce a challenge so profound 
came hardly less to fulfil than to destroy. 

It had hardly appeared before the .Revolution broke 
out in Paris, and Marx, as a precautionary measure, was 
banished from Brussels by the Belgian Government. 
" Tyranny has banished you," wrote the French Pro- 
visional Government, " but a free France opens her 
gates to you." Marx proceeded to Paris, but remained 
there only a short time. Germany was already seething 
with revolt, and the natural vantage-ground for him 
was obviously the Rhineland. Gathering about him 



KARL MARX 17 

the members of the Communist League, Marx went to 
Cologne where the editorship of the revolutionary paper, 
the Neue Rheinische Zeitimg, was entrusted to him. 
Brief as was its life, its substance was not merely- 
brilliant but of great significance as an indication of the 
Marxian tactic. Engels and Wilhelm Wolff were its 
chief contributors, and Freiligrath and Lassalle sent 
poems and essays. Mehring has published a selection 
of the chief articles of Marx in this paper. Dominantly, 
they insist upon three ideas : the disarming of the 
bourgeoisie, the erection of a revolutionary terror " 10 
abridge and concentrate the hideous death agonies of 
society," and the creation of a revolutionary army. 
Th ^ere is no room in Marx's_thouglit, save perhaps asj 
an ultimate, tor any d em ocratic system] Revoliltion 
opposes counter-revolution, and a reign of terror is the' 
path to triumph. Liberty is dismissed as a purely! 
bourgeois ideal, which impedes proletarian advance to! 
its goal. The idea of a general upheaval, Russia link- 
ing hands with France, Berlin uniting with Vienna, is 
emphasized, though it should be added that Marx had 
no full realization either of the difficulties the Revolu- 
tion would encounter, or the speediness of its destruc- 
tion. The paper hardly lived for a year, when troubles 
with the censorship put an end to its existence, Marx 
left Cologne and returned to Paris, but only to witness 
the bloody suppression of the days of June. Banished 
by the French Government in July, 1849, to a remote 
corner of Brittany, he decided to move to London. 
Thither he went with his family, and he remained in 
England, with one or two brief intervals, for the rest of 
his life. 

IV. 

,1 
Marx's London period is, creatively, the most im- 
portant .part df^j.s career ; but it was a difficult and 
tragic struggle fof: existence, and his work was accom- 
plished only by heroic effort. For the first ten years, 
the famify was hardly over the verge of starvation, and 
Marx had even to pawn his clothes for necessary ex- 
penses. Nor was his intellectual environment easy. 
The disappointed maker^ of a revolution are never com- 
fortable neighbours;, and his pamphlet, Herr Vogt 



i8 KARL MARX 

(i860) is proof that German Communists did not differ 
from their fellows of France or Russia. For ten years 
(1851-60) Marx acted as European correspondent of the 
New York Tribune, a post which was the sole source 
of any continuous income. It w-as, however, very 
poorly paid, and if the selection of his articles therein 
published by Eleanor Marx after his death is at all 
representative, it is clear that the taste of the American 
I reader has changed in remarkable fashion since the 
'sixties. For Marx does not abate one iota of his con- 
victions in his correspondence; and the manner of inter- 
pretation is that of the philosopher rather than the 
journalist. 

That income apart, Marx had no consistent means of 
livelihood during his first ten years in London. Then 
came one or two family legacies, and a generous tribute 
from Wilhelm WolfT; later, Engels was able from his 
own means to allow Marx some three hundred and fifty 
pounds a year. Yet, with all their penury, these were 
not unhappy years. His wife seems to have had a real 
genius for deriving contentment from misfortune; 
judges like Heine and Paul Lafargue paid her the 
tribute of profound admiration. His children were 
growing up, and Marx was passionately fond of his 
children. Their nurse, Helene Demuth, was a source 
of infinite help and comfort, and there was always the 
sure knowledge of the inevitable triumph of the revolu- 
tionary cause. 

For Marx did not share in the sense of depression 
which fell upon Liberals after the failure of 1848. He 
shut himself in the British Museum and, sometimes 
viforking sixteen hours a day, set himself to the composi- 
tion of a socialist economics. One or two minor pamph- 
lets were written, as the unsparing denunciation of the 
coup d'etat of 1851, which he called the Eighteenth 
Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852) and the Critique of 
Political Economy (1859) which is important, in part 
because it is the groundwork of the Capital itself and 
in part because of the valuable light it throws upon his 
own conception of his method. But outside^ his rela 
tions with the international, it was to the Capital that 
these years were devoted. And they were years of un 
remitting and devoted service. He was at the Museum 



KARL MARX 19 

as it opened and never left until the attendants turned 
him out. A chosen band of helpers, all fellow-exiles, 
used to accompany him and aid in the researches he 
conducted ; though it should perhaps be added that 
they were not admitted as assistants until they had 
shown their agreement with Marx and passed certain 
craniological tests. Phrenologj- was not typical merely 
of the Utopian period of Socialism. Marx, moreover, 
never considered the exchange of conviction for com- 
fort; offers of position came to him, as when Buchar 
sounded him, possibly on Bismarck's behalf ; but he 
never dreamed of desertion. There is certainly no more 
remarkable instance of great sacrifice for intellectual 
discovery than that of which I^Iarx's life is a record. 
Darwin, it is true, devoted twenty years to the testing 
of his hypotheses, but he had ample means at his com- 
mand. Marx was surrounded by difficulties, of which 
not the least was the knowledge that his self-imposed 
task condemned his wife and family to profound suffer- 
ing. Neither he nor they seemed to have flinched from 
the consequences, and one may judge not unfairly that 
their pride in his work was for Marx his happiest 
achievement. 

Of Marx's intellectual environment in London, we 
know all too little. Men like John Stuart Mill he never 
met, though he was on friendly terms with the leading 
trade unionists as Odger and Applegarth. With the 
latter, however, he had no intimate political relations, 
and in the contemporary history of English labour, his 
name has no large place. That, perhaps, was natural 
enough ; for English trade unionism was then a system 
of compromises with which Marx's revolutionary 
dogmas had little connection. For the most part his 
affiliations were with Engels and the German exiles in 
London, though only the former seems to have enjoyed 
his full confidence. He had, moreover, a close relation- 
ship with that mysterious figure, half-fanatic and half- 
knight-errant, David Urquhart, whose loathing of 
Russia Marx seems fully to have shared. Both of them 
saw spies at every street corner, and at one time or 
another, in each case without a shadow of justification, 
Marx was able to convince himself that Herwegh and 
Bakunin were government emissaries. It is, of course. 



20 KARL MARX 

sufficiently intelligible that an exile who had himself 
been the object of police attentions should live in an 
atmosphere of nervous suspicion ; but it is a regrettable 
corollary of Marx's accusations that both Herwegh and 
Bakunin belonged to different sections of the Socialist 
party. Marx never welcomed opposition or rivalry ; and 
he was too prone to assume that a doubt of his right- 
ness was a doubt also of his opponent's integrity. Yet 
it must be counted to his great credit in these years that 
he is in no small degree responsible for the sympathy 
shown to the North by the working class during the 
American Civil War. It was Marx who advised the 
union of the labour leaders with Cobden and Bright to 
arouse the enthusiasm of the trade unions ; and it was 
Marx who proposed in the General Council of the Inter- 
national, that a vote of congratulation be sent to 
Lincoln, on his re-election as President of the United 
States. Marx played some part also in arousing the 
trade unions to protest against the brutal suppression 
by Russia of the Polish revolt of 1863. 

But, apart from the preparation of Capital, Marx's 
chief occupation in London was with the early stages 
of the First International. In 1862 a group of Paris 
workmen paid a visit to the London Exhibition of that 
year. A trade union committee received them and a 
joint international Council was founded. When the 
Polish rebellion of 1863 broke out, it was this Council 
which prepared the gigantic protest meetings against 
Russian barbarity which represented the first interven- 
tion, failure though it was, of British labour in foreign 
politics. It was in connection with this campaign that 
Odger, a member of the Junta, suggested that the needs 
of the working class involved the holding of regular 
international meetings. The idea was taken up with 
enthusiasm and a great meeting was held in London in 
September, 1864, to organize the movement. Marx, 
who had held rather aloof from the initial stao-es, was 
present at the meeting, and joined the Founders' Com- 
mittee that was created. He perceived at once the 
significance of the new movement, and, though he seems 
to have had little but contempt for its leaders, he was 
appomted to draw up the inaugural address. The Com- 
mittee had given him a basis prepared by the French 



KARL MARX 21 

delegates and accepted by it as adequate. Marx, 
characteristically enough, destroyed the basis, and pro- 
duced instead an address of his own detailing the pro- 
gress of the working class in England during the past 
thirty years, and insisting that its meaning must be 
read in terms only of his own theories. It is, in fact, a 
new edition of the Communist Manifesto, with the 
revolutionary period of trade unionism as the basis of 
Its deductions instead of universal history. The special 
interest of the address, however, lies in Marx's use of 
the history of the Factory Acts as a proof of the value 
of working-class agitation. " In the bright sunlight of 
day," he said, " the bourgeois political economy was 
here vanquished for the first time by the political 
economy of the working class." The Factory Acts 
were, indeed, revolutionary in the sense that they were 
a direct admission of the inadequacy of laissez-faire; 
but their passage was hardly due to the type of influence 
Marx had in mind. At least in other moods he would 
not have called Lord Shaftesbury a revolutionary Com- 
munist. 

Marx henceforward devoted much energy to the 
International, and as he hurried it forth from its cradle, 
so he may be said to have hastened it towards the grave. 
Its origin began in dissension — the struggle between 
the idealist nationalism of Mazzini and the revolution- 
ary and class-conscious aggressiveness of Marx. On 
the latter's victory Mazzini withdrew, though with 
characteristic selflessness he advised his followers to 
continue their support. Marx henceforth dominated 
the organization, though he waged a continuous war- 
fare to maintain his supremacy. To him, the movement 
was essentially an effort to propag*;e the ideas of the 
Com,munist Manifesto and thus to prepare the way for 
the revolution. But to the English members the Inter- 
national was essentially an organ for promoting trade 
unionism ; and when Odger perceived, in the Commune 
of 1871 and Marx's defence of it, the real drift of its 
purpose, he resigned from the organization. The Eng- 
lish section always remained aloof from the directorate; 
for it was that special brand of Radicalism of which 
William Lovett was perhaps the finest representative 
that they were really conc'erned to foster. Nor was the 



22 KARL MARX 

English section the only difficulty. For the first two 
years, the followers of Proudhon were notable rivals, 
and they had no sympathy with Marx's idea of a direct 
and immediate political revolution. They were, more- 
over, hostile to Communism; and racial differences 
played their part. Even when the Proudhoniens had 
been defeated, Bakunin and his followers remained. 
They were anarchists and bitterly opposed to the cen- 
tralized dictatorship of which Marx was the exponent; 
and there were grave differences between them on the 
degree to which property was to be confiscated. Bakunin, 
it must be admitted, was as difficult as Marx himself in 
colleagueship. He founded a rival organization and did 
much intriguing against Marx when he was readmitted 
on its abandonment. By 1872 his influence had so 
increased that a frontal attack upon him was impossible. 
In the Hague Congress of that year, Marx therefore 
proposed the removal of the headquarters to New York. 
The motion was carried ; but it was obviously impossible 
to direct European Socialism from a position three 
thousand miles away. By 1875 the International was 
extinct; and hostile as were the attentions given to it 
by the Governments of Europe, it rather perished of 
internal dissension, the struggle between two powerful 
and antithetic personalities, than from external attack. 

Not, however, before it had rendered one great ser- 
vice. The Second Empire perished in the defeat of 
Sedan, and the provisional government created by 
Thiers was not merely hostile to a democratic re-organ- 
ization, but even looked forward to the building of a 
new monarchy. The working men of Paris had no 
sympathy with these ideas ; and the Commune was their 
answer to them. The effort lasted only seven weeks, 
when it was overthrown amid scenes of unexampled 
butchery. Marx had been definitely hostile to its incep- 
tion. For him the essential function of the workers was 
to strengthen their own organizations and to prepare 
themselves thereby for their coming freedom. But 
when the Communards perished in their heroic folly, 
and were pursued, as even more modern history has 
pursued them, by a campaign of virulent and lying 
attack, Marx came to their defence in what is, the Com- 
munist Manifesto apart, the m ost brilliant pamphlet 



KARL MARX 23 

be^ver_wrQi£^^ The Civil __W_q£_inJ'rance, published 
as an official statement of the International, is, of course, 
a partial and incomplete view of the complicated events 
it narrates ; but nothing that has been written since so 
admirably depicts the ideas and sentiments by which, 
the Communards were inspired, or more energetically 
displays the savage brutality with which they were 
treated. The defence was the more generous when 
Marx's low opinion of the French Socialist movement 
is remembered, as also his conviction that Sedan was 
the just price of Bonapartist imperialism. Yet even in 
the hour of a victory he welcomed, Marx addressed the 
German workers in a manifesto which demanded a fair 
and honourable place for the vanquished. 

Meanwhile, the great labour of his life had been 
partially completed by the publication, in 1867, of the 
first volume of the Capital. It cannot be said to have 
received the welcome it deserved. Written, of course, 
as it was in a German particularly cumbrous and in- 
volved in structure, it was necessarily caviare to the 
multitude. The Saturday Review perceived the value 
of the material of which it made use ; though not even 
Professor Beesly's persuasiveness could induce George 
Henry Lewes to insert a long notice from Engels in 
the Fortnightly. Russian and French translations soon 
followed; and in Russia, particularly, the book soon 
made its way to that position of commanding influence 
it has never lost. Marx, it must be remembered, was 
already well-known in Russia. Belinsky had already 
praised the Franco-German Year Books; Annenkov had 
published a long critique from Marx on Proudhon ; and 
his relations with Herzen and Bakunin had made him 
a notable figure among international Socialists. In Ger- 
many the book seems to have made its way but slowly ; 
and the second edition (1873) contains a long protest 
by Marx against what he deemed an organized con- 
spiracy of silence. It had, of course, presently to under- 
go the inevitable attack incidental to all learned German 
controversy — on the ground that its doctrines had been 
anticipated ; and Marx was ludicrously assumed to have 
stolen his thunder from Rodbertus. But within five 
years from its publication Capital had become the 
pivotal part of German Socialist literature, and his 



24 KARL MARX 

name assumed the position from which all other social- 
isms might be surveyed. 

Marx, was not, however, destined to complete it. The 
long struggle against poverty had left its mark upon 
his frame, and the last twelve years of his life were an 
incessant fight against pain and disease. Asthma and 
infiainmation of the lungs left him little chance of con- 
tinuous work, though typically enough, he devoted his 
rest to the study of the Russian language that he might 
speak the more authoritatively upon its agriculture, and 
to such recreations as physiology and advanced mathe- 
matics. He wrote, too, in 1875, his Criticism of the 
Gotha Frogramme, which contains, perhaps, the 
clearest statement of his attitude towards the transition 
to Socialism. He was able, further, in 1877-8, to do 
something towards preparing the second volume of 
Capital for the press. But visits to Karlsbad and 
Algiers did not improve his shattered health ; and he 
did not lift his head again after the death of his wife on 
December 2nd, 1881. To her, Marx had intended, as 
Engels has told us, to dedicate the completed structure 
of his work. He had no strength for the effort. On 
March 14th, 1883, he died peacefully, after a slight 
hcemorrhage of the lungs. His old nurse, Helene, and 
Engels were present at his death; and three days later 
he was laid to rest in the cemetery at Highgate. Engels 
and Wilhelm Liebknecht spoke at his graveside ; and 
the former devoted the remaining twelve years of his 
life to completing the unfinished edifice of his master. 
Marx would have wished no other wreath upon his 
tomb. 

V. 

_ Marx's personality is no easy one to dissect. There 
is no trace of the rebel in his inheritance; and his early 
education would have fitted him for any career rather 
than the one he chose. If he became the head and 
centre of the destructive forces of Europe, that was the 
inevitable outcome of the reactionary regime into which 
he was born; and he would doubtless have countered 
that description by insisting that destruction is the 
parent of creativeness. His work dealt with the historic 
foundations of the permanent source of revolution, and 



KARL MARX 25 

the only weapon, as he realized, for flesh that has morti- 
fied is the knife. The view that makes of him the com- 
peer of Darwin, the discoverer of the universal law of 
economic evolution, has not a little truth in it; but it 
is less true than that which places him alongside of 
Rousseau and Carlyle, as one of the great prophets of 
the human race. 

For it is essentially by the qualities of th e prop het 
t hat he is distinguishe B^ He was unnToved'Tjy oracles 
other than his own. Impatient of difference, as with 
Proudhon and Bakunin, contemptuous, as his corre- 
spondence with Engels shows, of all who did not think 
exactly in his fashion, he never learned the essential art 
of colleagueship. He was too prone to regard a hostile 
view as proof of moral crime. He had not a little of 
that zest for priority he was so unwilling to recognize 
in the discoveries of others. He was rarely generous 
in his recognition of intellectual stimulus. With Marx, 
to enter a movement was to dominate it; and he was 
incapable of taking the second place. " Hatred," 
wrote Mazzini of him, " outweighs love in his heart, 
which is not" right even if the hatred may in itself have 
foundation." There is a penetrating truth in that 
criticism. Marx's absorption in the wrongs of the dis- 
inherited undoubtedly blinded him to the universality 
of human nature. He had brooded so long over the 
method of their redress, that he became incapable of 
weighing the value of alternative channels. He never 
realized how partial and incomplete were the views upon 
which he based his conclusions ; and vast and patient 
as were the researches he undertook, he was not always 
exact in his measurement of evidence. 

He is, in fact, a noble, but not an attractive figure. 
-That there was a Marx eminently lovable in himself, 
the testimony of friends makes certain ; but it was not 
the Marx of public life. There is something unhealthy 
in the venom with which he assails early friends like 
Bruno Bauer, or not less ardent seekers after light like 
Proudhon. His accusations against Proudhon, even 
when the temptation to destroy is remembered, were 
singularly ungenerous. Learned, courageous, capable 
of profound sympathy with the mass of men, he was 
never able to grasp the secret of dealing with individuals. 



26 KARL MARX 

Much, doubtless, is to be pardoned to an exile who never 
enjoyed comfort, and had often risked his personal safety ; 
but Mazzini was able to emerge from trials not less diffi- 
cult with a sweetness unembittered. Nor could Marx 
accustom himself to the necessary compromises of 
political life. One is tempted to feel that Marx confined 
his introspection to other men, and never attempted that 
sober examination of self which is often the beginning of 
political wisdom. 

That effort, after all, is fundamental. The unstated 
assumptions of a thinker's personality are the more 
urgent because they do not appear in the printed word. 
Every great philosophic interpretation is at bottom a 
spiritual autobiography, and Marx never realized how 
greatly his work is a palimpsest within which one can 
read the history of his personal experience. It is signi- 
ficant for his books that his early radicalism should 
have proved a barrier to his university career. It is 
significant also that he should have known the pains 
and penalties of exile. Nor is it irrelevant that, after 
thirty years in London, he was still, at the end, a Ger- 
man stranger testing facts and constructing theories in 
terms quite alien from the circumstances around him. 
The impalpable penumbra of his thought never im- 
pressed him, even while it remained the subconscious 
touchstone by which he judged the thought and acts 
of other men. Thus, while he wrote with superb pro- 
fundity about the material environment of men's lives, 
he rarely penetrated into the inner substance of those 
lives. With such tracts of experience — religion for 
example — as were alien from his own knowledge he 
could neither sympathize, nor understand. He wrote a 
philosophy which expresses in the mass the aspirations 
of men ; but it is not a philosophy, like that of Rousseau, 
which, with all its defects, springs directly from their 
deepest emotions. In a sense, that is to say, the seem- 
ing logic of his attitude is deceptive, for it in part rests 
upon a failure to test his own assumptions, and in part 
upon an abstract view of human nature with which the 
totality of facts is in direct contradiction. v 

f Marx's doctrines may be divided into five different 
' parts which, though they are brought into connection 
in his writings, hayejnj-ealijtyno necessary dependence 



KARL MARX 27 

upon each other. Their central economic position is a 
theory of_value, by which he endeavoured to explain 
Oie methods^Hy which the workers are exploited under 
capitalism ; and as a corollary, a view of the increasing 
concentration of capital from which he derived^ im- 
portant consequences in his prophecy of the future. 
Historically it is an attempt to explain the growth of 
movements and institutions entirely in economic terms.; 
Predominantly, Marx insists, the antagonism of classes 
is the motive-power which underlies the historic process ; 
and it is to the impulses which are at work in the satis- 
faction of economic demand that all changes are to be 
traced. Philosophically, this view results in a purely 
materialistic view of human nature — a view, be it noted, 
which has obvious and important connections with the 
general attitude of the Benthamite school. Politically, 
the doctrines of Marx resolve themselves into a defence 
of revolution as the method by which the workers are 
to attain to power, and dictatorship as the method by 
which they so consolidate it as ultimately to secure a 
condition of general freedom. ^ 

Upon_Mani^ theory of value it is not necessary to. 
spend much time. It has "not stood the test of critidsm,; 
IT is out'oF'fiarmony with the facts, and it isTar from 
self-consistent. It represents essentially a narrow inter- 
pretation of some loose sentences of Ricardo. The latter 
had argued, with certain qualifications, that the value 
of any commodity is to be measured by the quantity of 
labour which goes to its production. Marx, however, 
ignored the qualifications, and the proof he offered of 
the thesis is essentially different from that of Ricardo. 
Exchange value, he argued, is not the singular quality 
of the commodity in which it inheres. Exchange value 
is the quality which it possesses alike with all other 
qualities for which it can be exchanged. Since human 
labour is the only quality which all commodities possess 
in common, human labour must be the measure of ex- 
change value. And, be it noted, _by huma n labour is 
meant " undiffere ntiated human labour," 11 is 'a. quanti - 
tative and n ot a qualitative equation, it is a measur e 
siniply ot efCort in time and not of effort in result "o r 
quality ot result. Labour is paid differently simply in 
relatton to the-Sifferent amount of labour " congealed " 



28 KARL MARX 

in any given commodity produced. That which will 
suffice to produce the necessaries of life for the labourer 
is therefore th^_price_ol labour power. Wages, as it 
clearly follows7are"the value of the' worker's necessaries 
of life. But the worker produces in a day more than 
suffices for his necessaries of life. If we assume that 
by working six hours each day the worker can produce 
his necessaries, while his working day is eight hours 
long, then the value of what he produces is as eight 
hours is to six, is, that is to say, one-third greater. 
Marx termed this extra-production surplus-value, and 
he assumed that the capitalist, taking his surplus as his 
profit, robbed the worker of it. For by buying labour- 
power at its market price, the capitalist at once grows 
rich and exploits his workers. And in any capitalistic 
society, especially where there is free competition, this 
is bound to be the case; from which it of course follows 
that only by the abolition of capitalism can we stop the 
exploitation of labour. 

It is unnecessary to dwell at any length upon the 
fallacies implicit in this analysis. As a matter of logic, 
Marx had no right to assume that the quality of labour 
is, other differences being subtracted, the common basis 
of measurement. N,oiidjd.hejnention_ that, in addition 
tqjab our, all com modities to havevajue must, have this 
a t least m com moiT7TIi"at""t"Rey satisfy some need. Utilit y, 
iji_other^wordSj_i_s_a._neces.^s.a it wcmld 

be impossible to produce aeroplanes except" upon the 
assumption that some people wanted to fly in them. Nor 
can " undifferentiated human labour " be taken as a 
measure of value. It is an economic platitude that 
differences in wages are not merely due to differences 
in the effort in time of production. It costs no less to 
produce a bad carpenter than a good one, but the 
guahty of a good_car£enter'^ w-ork_has a value quite 
apart from cost as effort; inkslTieTypFof value which 
the economists^ call a quasi-rent, and this quasi-rent 
appears in the value-in-exchange of the product. 

Nor is this all. Wherever there is a type of produc- 
tion the phenomena of which result in rent, the measure- 
ment of value is not the mean cost of production but 
the marginal cost of production. Marx failed to note 
this limitation, with the result that he cannot under- 



KARL MARX 29 

stand the nature of rent and was led into obvious con- 
tradictions." And he fails also to take any account of; 
the fluctuating character of demand. He seems to have? 
regarded demand as purely static, and falls, as a con-' 
sequence, into all the difficulties Avhich Bohm-Bawerk 
and the Austrian school have emphasized. To say, 
moreover, with Marx that the " cost of a labourer is 
the socially necessary cost," the lowest cost, that is, at 
which he can be produced, is immediately to bring within 
purview tests of his hypothesis which he entirely failed 
to apply. For if wages represent the cost of necessaries, 
'the existence of a proletariat whose wages are above 
the bare cost of necessaries clearly invalidates the whole 
process. And, in fact, the question of a wages level 
is an historical problem in which logical considerations 
do not play the whole part. Social conscience, for 
example, as with the Trade Boards, may insist upon a 
rate of wages historically above " the socially necessary 
cost," and trade unions may by the combined strength 
they represent, lead to the same result. If a state, even 
though it be a capitalistic state, chose to adopt a policy 
of a minimum basis of civilized life, in which a wage- 
standard was fixed, the iron law of wages, which Marx 
deduced from his theory of value, would immediately 
be obsolete. 

It must not be forgotten, moreover, that in thel 
Marxian analysis whatever does not appear as wages,! 
is always regarded as unearned profit. Of rent and in-| 
terest this is, perhaps, no unfair account, but it is out- 
side the evidence of facts to argue that the taskof-^irect- 
ing;^ busijiess, the '^'of^ci^^iii^entre^T^^Qr, is""not to 
count as labour and"3oe"s not jcreate value. Even when 
a suspiCfffn' ofTihrsTmpossib'iIity dawned upon Marx, he 
dismissed the earnings of direction simply as cunning," 
and argued that all profits contain an element of surplus 
value which differs from interest, wages and payment 
to the entrepreneur. But if profits are not a payment 
for work then it should surely follow that. the capitalist 
must take it also ; otherwise he is gifted with a quality 
of moderation with which Marx does not normally 
endow him. 

' See Das Kapital, Vol. Ill, pp. i8o-i and 192, for an example of 
two quite different theories of rent within a dozen pages. 
= Vol. Ill (German edition) Part I, p. 343 ff- 



30 KARL MARX 

In such a general background, the Marxian theory 
of value seems clearly untenable not less on theoretic 
grounds than from an analysis of the facts of business. 
Yet it_is equallj_jjndeniable jdiat.31arxls_ view has 
obtamed~lTTe'^sentJ2la3vli)le_^ c>^^ _soclety__to ,its 
t£uA; and'TtIs, therefore, worth while for a moment 
to inquire exactly what magic it possesses from which 
its strengthening hold is derived. That, it may be sug- 
gested, is simple enough. For the technical economist, 
the difference between profits and rent was fundamental. 
Men like Ricardo and Nassau Senior saw a natural distinc- 
tion in source of origin which manufacturers like Bright 
embodied in the legitimate earnings of a hardworking mill- 
owner, whatever his wealth, and the illegitimate because 
unearned income of a land-owning duke. They saw 
it the more clearly when, as in the period of Marx's own 
maturity, they were struggling to free his business from 
the environment of a hostile squirearchy. But to the 
labourer, as Marx clearly saw, such a distinction was 
for practical purposes irrelevant. The world was 
divided for him into those who lived by wages and those 
who did not. Those who lived by wages were poor, 
those who did not live by wages were rich. Assume, 
as Marx assumed, that the surplus theory of value is 
true, and the riches of those who do not live by wages 
are due to the poverty of those who do. The worker 
was able to see that he was poor; he saw also that he 
produced more than he could consume, and that his 
surplus production was divided among a relatively small 
class of rich, and often idle, men. A theory such as 
Marx's inevitably appealed to him as the natural ex- 
planation of his oppressed condition. He clung to it, 
not by virtue of any logical estimation of its theoretic 
adequacy, but because it summarized the most poignant 
experience he knew. The Marxian law of wages, more- 
over, will, from its very nature, win new adherents at 
every period of commercial depression. At any moment 
when there is a decline in the effective demand for com- 
modities, or' when the strength of trade union resistance 
is at a low ebb, the impact of capitalism upon the M-ao-e- 
earner will closely resemble what Marx insisted is Its 
normal relation ; for few business men have imao-ination 
enough to realize that there are other ways to the re 



KARL MARX 31 

habilitation of markets than the reduction of price by 
means of lower wages. Inevitably, therefore, the 
worker will move from the acceptance of surplus value 
to the philosophy which Marx constructed as its natural 
environment. 

The law of the concentration of capital stands upon] 
firmer ground. The greater the degree of complexity 
involved in the productive process, argues Marx, the 
fewer will be the number of persons controlling its 
instruments. Everything contributes to the intensifica- 
tion of this process. New means of communication are 
established, the problems of which are beyond the solu- 
tion of the small capitalist. Important mechanical 
inventions are beyond his financial means. Territorial 
consolidation destroys the local market in which he was 
once a privileged person. The process, indeed, is 
neither immediate nor direct. It took the bourgeoisie' 
three centuries to expropriate the artisan and create the 
proletariat. But once the process had begun, the 
development was inexorable. Over production created 
a new army of reserve workers. The substitution of 
pasture for arable farming concentrated a large rural 
population in the towns. The economies of large scale 
production forced hitherto^ independent producers into 
the ranks of the wage-earners. The capitalistic system 
moves from a national to an international character; 
its market becomes the world. Its nature involves 
increasing centralization, until the control of the forces 
of production reaches a point where its further develop- 
ment in private hands is impossible. For alongside the 
development of accumulation is the increase of the pro- 
letariat. The workers cannot any longer endure the 
misery that is involved in the capitalist regime. They 
have learned discipline from the training that is. neces- 
sitated by the mechanism of the process of which they 
are the victims. "The knell of capitalist private pro- 
perty then sounds. The expropriators are expro- 
priated." To the great capitalist there succeeds the 
state, which is captured by the workers for their own 
purpose. The result of capita lism is^Jn^fact^ its own 
destruction. It produces, in Hegelian fashion,, its own 
antithesis. The very condition of its growth is that it 
should involve the laws which imply its inevitable ruin. 



32 KARL MARX 

We need not accept the conclusion of the argument to 
insist on the important truth that it contains. The 
wastage of competition in large scale enterprise is a 
commonplace of modern business, and the trust or 
cartel is the characteristic symptom of industrial de- 
velopment. There are, indeed, certain important limi- 
•tations to the simplicity of the Marxian view. The 
igrowth of joint stock enterprise distributes over a wider 
Icircle the number of those interested in the receipt of 
profits, even while it limits those who actually control 
the industrial process itself; while there are many minor 
industries, of which photography and the repair of 
motor-cars are examples, in which the tendency is to 
the increase of small firms rather than to the develop- 
ment of great ones. But parallel with this evolution 
has gone a very striking centralization of credit which 
concentrates in continuously fewer hands the finances 
of the community. Agriculture, indeed, despite the 
large-scale farming of Western America, and the de- 
velopment of agrarian co-operation, remains persistently 
individualist in temper.' Yet, on the balance of inquiry, 
it is impossible to deny the emergence of an increasingly 
collectivist spirit. And its reaction upon industry is 
the more important because it leads, without question, 
to the demand by the workers of certain nominal 
standards from the state which are increasingly insisted 
upon as the condition of business enterprise. Nor is 
that all. It becomes obvious that certain industries are, 
from their very nature, too vital in their results to be 
left to the chaotic possibilities of private effort. If the 
expropriators are not actually expropriated, there comes, 
as with mines and railways, a demand for some form of 
nationalization, and just as the investigations of the 
/ 'thirties and 'forties produced the Factory Acts, so it is 
legitimate to argue that the results of inquiries like the 
Coal Commission of 1919, and the Dockers' Inquiry of 
1920, are likely to put a term to the continuance of 
private enterprise. Capitalism, in fact, prepares mono- 
polies which immediately affect the community towards 
some form of state administration. 

So regarded, of course, this view does not involve the 
theory of revolution which Marx regarded as the inevit- 

' Cf. Herman Levy, Lart^c and small lioldings (191 1). 



KARL MARX 33 

able corollary of capitalistic concentration. It need not, 
indeed, involve a transition towards a socialistic state, 
at all. All that would seem to be implied would be the, 
removal of industries essential to the welfare of the 
community from the danger of exploitation by private 
interests. The logic of a necessary conflict resultant 
upon the concentration of capital is derived by Marx 
from other sources. It is the corollary of his interpre- 
tation, of history. That, broadly speaking, may be 
summarized by saying that all the phenomena of history 
are the result of economic motives. To them are trace-i 
able legal and social institutions not less than the 
religion and philosophy of each age. The system of 
production is the ultimate factor, in short, by which 
the mass of human relationships is determined. Pro- 
testantism, Engels wrote, is " essentially a bourgeois 
religion " ; so too, in a feudal period we should expect 
the legislation to reflect not general ideas of right, but 
those ideas of right which are compatible with the main- 
tenance of feudalism. But ideas change, and in Marx's 
view, the source of change is to be discovered in the 
transformation of one economic system into another. 
A new external world produces new internal ideas. Let 
womerf enter industry ii^ the mass and, as Mr. Bertrand 
Russell has pointed out, ideas which not even the logic 
of Plato and Stuart Mill could make obvious, become 
accepted without question. Two hundred years ago, 
it was unthinkable that a peer should go into the city; 
to-day, finance has enmeshed political life within its 
fold, so that no company prospectus is complete until 
the peerage is represented there. 

No one can doubt the very large measure of truth in 
this outlook. No one can write the history of English 
Puritanism, of the struggle for toleration, or of the 
American Revolution, without making the defence of 
an economic incentive fundamental to their explanation. 
But it is equally clear that the insistence upon an 
economic background as the whole explanation is radic- 
ally false. No , economic motive , cajX..explaiii„lJi.e.&uIcidal 
nationalism ^JheJBalkans. The, war of 1914 may have 
BSH^Targely due"to"conHicting commercial imperial- 
isms ; but there was also a competition of national ideas 
which was at no point economic. Historically, too, the 



34 KARL MARX 

nail played by religion in the determination of social 
butlook was, until at least the peace of Westphalia, as 
important as that played by material conditions. Luther 
represents something more th^n a protest against the 
financial exacdons_of Rome— The impulses of men, in 
fact^are' never referable to any single source. The love 
of power, herd-instinct, rivalry, the desire of display, 
all these are hardly less vital than the acquisitiveness 
which explains the strength of material environment. 
Engels, indeed, seems to have realized the narrowness 
of the orthodox view, for in the later years of his life 
he insisted that the dominant part ascribed by Marx to 
the economic motive was due mainly to its neglect by 
his opponents, " and there was not always time, place 
and opportunity to do justice to the other considera- 
tions." 

*-■ But with Marx the economic motive is not only final, 
it is final in a particular way. " The only durable 
source of faction," said Madison, " is property," and, 
for Marx, the emergence of private property in history 
is the beginning of the class struggle. Immediately 
society can be divided into those who do, and those who 
do not, possess private property, a power is released 
|which explains the changes of history. For the class 
iwhich possesses property moulds the civilization of that 
society in the service of its own interests. It controls 
the government, it makes the laws, it builds the social 
institutions of the commonwealth in accordance with 
its own desires. Slave and free man, master and ser- 
vant, these have been the eternal antitheses of history. 
With the advent of capitalism the struggle is at once 
simplified, and made more intense. Thenceforward, 
the final stage of the class-war, the struggle between 
bourgeoisie and proletariat, emerges. And just as each 
social order of the past has secreted within its womb 
the germ of its successor, as for example, feudalism 
produced capitalism, so does the latter contain within 
^Itself the germ of its communist successor. " Capital- 
ism," said Marx, "produces its own gravedigger." 
The conflict, in his view, was an inevitable and a bitter 
one, and it was Sound to result in the victory of the 
proletariat. " The bourgeoisie," he wrote in the Com- 
munist Manifesto, " is incapable of continuing in power 



KARL MARX 35 

because it is incapable of securing a bare subsistence 
to its slaves "; and the result is a growing sense of 
revolt in the worker who ultimately, by a revolutionary 
act, assumes the reins of power. 

In a large sense, it is obvious that the substance of 
this interpretation is accurate. The fact of the class- 
struggle, as Marx himself pointed out, is a common- 
place of historians and economists ; and it may be added 
that to deny its importance is to make history unin- 
telligible. Where Marx parted company with his pre- 
decessors was in the deductions he drew from his per- 
ception of its significance. For whereas with men like 
Madison and Guizot, the fact of conflict produced a 
sense of horror at its implications, and a search for a^ 
technique that its dangers might be obviated, with Marx 
the conflict was fundamental and both its method and 
ultimate outcome were to him alike obvious. Whereas 
with Madison there is an ever present uncertainty 
whether a just victory may not suffer betrayal, or a 
wrong object be pursued, with Marx the process is pre- 
determined and, save for a brief period in 1870, no 
hesitation seems to have crossed his mind. 

The method by which the proletariat was to securei| 
power lies at the very root of Marx's doctrine ; and it ; 
has been in our own day, perhaps, the main source of 
his influence. The method was revolution, and a dicta- 
torship of iron rigour would consolidate the new system 
until the period of transition had been effectively; 
bridged. Marx did not blind himself to what all thiS' 
implied. The history of capitalism was the history of 
a relentless defence of each phase of the rights of pro- 
perty. They were maintained by methods at each point 
unconnected with ethical demands. If -the conflict was 
extreme as in the days of June, 1848, or with the Com- 
mune of Paris, the last ounce of misery was wrung from 
its opponents, that capitalism might be secure. A 
period of comparative quiescence may produce the con- 
cession of social reform, but this is merely deception. 
Once a really vital point is touched by the workers' de-' 
mands, they are met by armed resistance. That means, 
of course, that only by conscious violent intervention 
can communism be realized. The proletariat must seize 
a propitious moment for the revolution; but until it 



36 KARL MARX 

comes, they must do all in their power to disturb the 
existing regime. Even if minor successes have been 
achieved by the aid of the liberal-minded bourgeoisie 
" from the first hour of victory, the workers must level 
their distrust against their former allies." They must 
create a working-class organization of their own, 
workers' committees, local workers' councils, to oppose 
proletarian institutions and their influence to those of 
the middle-class state. The Communists must arm the 
proletariat and do all they can to cut down the army of 
the State as the chief weapon of defence possessed by 
the bourgeoisie. Where the workers are in the militia, 
they must form within it a secret organization to obtain 
its control. They must form their own independent, if 
hidden, military force and acquire arms by every 
method. Influential democrats to whose word the work- 
ing class seems to respond, must be discredited. The 
old social order, in fact, must be attacked at every point. 
Communists have two functions only, to prepare for the 
■revolution, and to consolidate it successfully when it 
has been prepared. They must think of themselves not 
as realizing an ideal, but only as setting free the ele- 
ments of a new societ}^ concealed within the womb of 
the old. 

The period of consolidation, moreover, must be a 
period of iron dictatorship. Marx had no illusions 
about the possibility of a democratic governance in such 
an hour. The ideals of freedom were impossible to 
maintain until the ground so conquered had been made 
secure. Revolution provokes counter-revolution ; and 
a victorious proletariat must be on its guard against 
reaction. Revolution, in fact, demands of the revolution- 
ary class that it secure its purpose by every method at 
its disposal. It has neither time nor opportunity for 
compassion or remorse. Its business is to terrorize its 
opponents into acquiescence. It must disarm antagon- 
ism by execution, imprisonment, forced labour, control 
of the press. For as it cannot allow any effort at the 
violent overthrow of what it has established, so must it 
stamp out such criticism as might be the prelude to 
further attack. Revolution is war, and war is founded 
(upon terror. The methods of capitalism must be used 
;for the extinction of capitalism. For as capitalism has 



KARL MARX 37 

made of life itself the cheapest of commodities, there 
need be no repining at its sacrifice, and the result, in 
any case, is worth the cost, since it destroys the possi- 
bility of future sale. It would have been a wanton be- 
trayal of trust, said Marx of the Paris Commune, to 
observe the traditional forms of liberalism. The end, 
in fact, is too great to be nice about the means employed. 
7; Nor can we expect that a. peaceful revolution is pos- 
jsible. While Marx had certain doubts of England, on 
the whole he was certain that a violent . struggle was 
inevitable. The workers might capture Parliament at 
the polls ; but political power of that kind is in any cas& 
a shadow, and werelFused for ah assa'ult liporTpropefty;' 
iTwould i nevitably~prowke' an ~anned~re 
indeed7~weh1t fiir'tTier anSTwas openly conternptuous of 
democracy. It was a bourgeois invention unrelated to 
the real, and used only to deceive the people. Again' 
and again the proletariat is betrayed ; and throughouF 
Marx's writings there is the assumption that reliance 
must be placed upon a class-conscious minority. For 
in his view there is no place in history for the majority 
principle; the record of States is the clash between 
determined minorities, contending for the seat of power. 
To introduce considerations of consent, to wait on in 
the belief that the obvious tightness of communist doc- 
trine will ultimately persuade men to its acceptance, is 
entirely to ignore reality. The mass of men will always] 
acquiesce in, or be indifferent to, whatever solutions arel 
afforded. Communists must proceed upon the assump- 
tion that nothing matters save the enforcement of their 
will. " 

^ Upon the end this revolution is to serve, the forms 
its purpose will adopt, Marx has written but little. 
Obviously, with justice on his side ; for speculation in 
distant historical futures is the worst form of gambling. 
It was with the destruction of capitalism an^ the period 
of transition therefrom that he was mainly concerned. 
A new productive system was bound to involve new 
institutions which no man could foresee. That the Com- 
munist maxim, " From each according to his powers, to 
each according to his wants," would become operative 
was, of course, obvious to him ; that performance would 
be measured in terms of labour-time (a possibly incon- 



38 KARL MARX 

sistent hypothesis) he took for granted. But he was 
always emphatic that the future must settle itself. He 
insisted that the measure of distribution would be neces- 
sarily unequal in the period of transition. You may, 
as he saw, destroy by catastrophe, but creation is not 
an immediate and spontaneous process. So that he 
nowhere set limits to the duration of this interrnediate 
period. It was necessary to wait until the habits en- 
gendered by a new productive system created a psycho- 
logy in which the dogma of equality superseded the 
bourgeois hypothesis of individual rights. The main 
thing was the destruction of a regime in which class- 
distinction made possible the servitude of the many. 
It was possible to have confidence in an order in which 
the whole force of social effort was deliberately placed 
at the disposal of the common welfare. 

VI. 
A generation which has seen this doctrine supported 
by machine-guns and bayonets is unlikely to belittle its 
importance. Nor can it be denied that not a little of 
/social evolution has taken the course Marx predicted. 
Anyone who reads the history of the industrial struggle 
in Colorado or West Virginia will find it difficult to 
discover a limit of unreason which capitalism is not 
willing consistently to overpass. The treatment of 
communists in Hungary and Finland ^as exactly the 
characteristics he foretold. An isolated community like 
the miners of South Wales becomes, naturally, commun- 
ist in the background of incompetence and ill-treatment 
from their employers. And representative government, 
at least in its classical form, seems unlikely to justify 
the high hopes of its Benthamite exponents. Every 
country in the world that has experimented with univer- 
sal suffrage has experienced a sense of disillusion. It 
is even commonplace to argue that reason has little place 
in political struggle, and to pin faith to an irrational 
impulse which seeks no more than the satisfaction of 
individual desire. If there has been an improvement 
in the general standard of civilization, an increasing 
unwillingness, for example, to inflict unnecessary pain, 
there are no signs of the- mitigation of the class-conflict'. 
On the contrary, the events of the last decade point 



KARL MARX 39 

directly to its exacerbation; and we have obviously 
entered upon a period in whicli the rights of property- 
are challenged at their foundation. Certainly it is un-t 
questionable that the purchase-price of capitalist sur- 
vival is the offer of concessions which a generation ago 
would have seemed not less unnecessary than unthink- 
able. 

Yet the approximation of the general atmosphere to 
the condition Marx had in view hardly justifies the prin- 
ciples upon which he placed his reliance. To begin 
with, the preparation for revolution is a qualitatively 
different problem from what it was in the days of the 
Paris barricades. It is possible in a mood of defeat for 
a civilian population to destroy a regime which the army 
and navy no longer uphold, and, as was .demonstrated 
long ago. by Cromwell, a military force which is dis- 
satisfied with its civilian superiors can without difficulty 
become. their master. But for a party of men in the 
position of communists in the modern State, the situa- 
tion is very different. Unless they are the majority 
and, consequently, the government, the hostility of the 
army and navy is certain. Nor can they obtain, on any 
large scale, the necessary equipment for insurrection. 
They would have to obtain control of the national 
arsenals; and that would mean the dispersion of forces 
in any case small by hypothesis. They would have to 
meet in the people at large at least a mood of acquies- 
cence. They would have to guarantee a supply of food, 
which, in any but a dominantly agricultural society, 
would be practically impossible if international credit 
was seriously impaired by the revolution. Even if we 
regard a general strike as tantamount, in the conditions 
of modern industry, to a revolution the difficulties are 
overwhelming. A general strike might well succeed as 
a protest against war, for its penumbra might, in the 
future, arouse emotions of determination that would be 
irresistible. But upon any less dramatic issue, it seems 
tolerably certain that once again, the army and navy 
must be in the control of the strikers if success is to be 
assured. For a modern army can supply all services 
connected with transportation ; it can secure the distribu- 
tion of food, and the problem of fuel is becoming less 
and less a matter of mining coal. The Marxian view 



40 KARL MARX 

iof a secretly armed minority assuming power at a single 
Istroke is unthinkable in the modern state. It would 
have to imply either the existence of a government so 
weak that it had practically ceased to be a government 
at all, or, what is perhaps, an equivalent, a population 
actively sympathetic to the revolutionary minority. The 
iresources of publicity in modern civilization make im- 
jpossible the private preparation of the gigantic effort 
iassOmed by the Marxian hypothesis. 

But this is only the beginning of the difficulty. Marx 
assumed throughout his analysis a system of compact 
states the life of which was mainly determined by 
economic considerations, and each relatively indepen- 
dent of its neighbours. Each of these assumptions is 
only partially true of the modern world. A State like 
England, which is wholly dependent on foreign trade, 
could not undergo a successful revolution except upon 
the assumption that her neighbours viewed its results 
with benevolence. Such an attitude on the part, for 
instance, of America is very unlikely, and the rupture 
of Anglo-American trade would be fatal to any revolu- 
tion in this country. Nor is that all. It is quite clear 
that the division a revolution would imply must, in its 
workings, be very partially determined by economic 
considerations. In a country like America, for example, 
there would be at least three other factors of vital im- 
portance. An American communist revolution would 
have to cope with problems of distance which would 
probably render it abortive at a very early stage. It 
would not, as in France, be a matter of the immense im- 
pact of the capital on the life of the nation ; Washington 
is relatively insignificant in the perspective of America. 
To control the whole continent would involve control- 
ling the most complicated railway system in the world. 
And even if that difficulty could be surmounted, a com- 
plex of nationalist differences would have to be assuaged 
German, French, English, Irish, Polish, these have 
their special characteristics which the American capital- 
ist has been able to exploit to their common dis- 
advantage; it is difficult to see how an appeal to a 
communist minority of each would result in the trans- 
cendence of these differences. Even then, the religious 
problem remains ; and the hold of the churches upon the 



KARL MARX 41 

mind, particularly, of the Latin peoples would not be 
easy to loosen. For Marx, insisting only upon the! 
economic motive, it is easy to ignore these difficulties, j 
but it is far too narrow an outlook not to realize at the' 
outset that appeal can be made to other incentives every! 
whit as strong. And even if it were argued that Marx; 
could in our own time assume that the day of such pre- 
judice as nationality and religion engender is passing 
(which is doubtful), and that the barriers built by 
economic difference are now alone important, his con- 
clusions would not follow. For in a period of universal 
suffrage, it ought then to be possible to capture the 
seat of power at the polls, and throw upon the 
capitalist the'onus of revolting against a socialist demo- 
cracy. 

There are, however, other approaches to the problem! 
which Marx did not adequately consider. There is, in 
the first place, the general result upon society of the 
practice of violence, particularly when the destructive 
nature of modern warfare is borne in mind ; and, in the^ 
second, there is the special psychological result upon 
the agents of the opposing forces in such a regime. 
Marx did not consider these possibilities, in part because 
he judged that, in any case, the conflict was inevitable, 
and also because he was convinced that whatever sacri- 
fices had to be made would be ultimately justified by the, 
result. Such an attitude is, of course, simply an instance! 
of his general failure to weigh sufficiently the substance j 
of a political psychology. In part, also, it is the corol-' 
lary of a determinism which the facts in issue at no point, 
justify. For it is obvious that if revolution, with its 
attendant violence, is justified for any cause in which 
you happen to believe profoundly, no modern state can 
hope for either security and order. The war has shown 
clearly that the impulses of savagery which are checked 
by peace are, when loosed, utterly destructive of the 
foundations of a decent existence. If life became an 
organized and continuous jacquerie, civilization could 
quite easily be reduced to the state where, as in Mr. 
•Wells's imaginary but far from impossible picture, some 
aged survivor may tell of an organized Europe as a 
legend which his grandchildren cannot hope to under- 
stand. Violence, on the grand scale, in fact, so far from 



42 KARL MARX 

proving an avenue to communism, would be the one 
kind of existence in which the impulses demanded by a 
communist state had no hope of emergence. For the 
condition of communism is the restraint of exactly those 
appetites which violence releases; and Marx has nowhere 
indicated how this difficulty could be met. 

Even beyond this issue, a further point must be raised. 
Marx has assumed the seizure of power, and a period of 
rigorous control until the people are prepared for com- 
munism. But he has not shown what approximate length 
that period is to be, nor what certainty we have that those 
who act as controllers of the dictatorship will be willing 
to surrender their power at the proper time. It is a 
commonplace of history that power is poisonous to those 
'who exercise it; there is no reason to assume that the 
Marxian dictator will in this respect be different from 
other men. And, ex hypothesi, it will be more difficult 
to defeat his malevolence since his regime will have 
excluded the possibility of opposition. No group of 
men who exercise the powers of a despot can ever retain 
the habit of democratic responsibility. That is obvious, 
for instance, in the case of men like Sir Henry Maine 
and Fitzjames Stephen, who, having learned in India 
the habit of autocratic government, become impatient on 
their return to England of the slow process of persuasion 
which democracy implies. To sit continuously in the 
seat of office is inevitably to become separated from the 
mind and wants of those over whom you govern. For 
the governing class acquires an interest of its own, a 
desire for permanence, a wish, perhaps, to retain the 
dignity and importance which belong to their function ; 
and they will make an effort to secure them. That, after 
all, is only to insist that every system of government 
breeds a system of habits ; and to argue as a corollary 
therefrom that the Marxian dictatorship would breed 
habits fatal to the emergence of the regime Marx had 
ultimately in view. The special vice of every historic 
system of government has been its inevitable tendency 
to identify its own private good with the gublic welfare. 
To suggest that communists might do the same is no 
more than to postulate their humanity. And it may be 
added that if they surrendered power at a reasonable 
time, the grounds for so doing, being obviously in their 



KARL MARX 43 

nature non-economic, would thereby vitiate the truth of 
the materialistic interpretation of history. 

All this, it is worth noting, is to omit from considera- 
tion the ethical problems that are involved. It is obvious, 
for example, that it involves the complete erosion of 
the whole historic process. But the erosion of responsi- 
bility in the governing class is the destruction of per- 
sonality in their subjects. In such a regime notions of 
liberty and equality are out of place. Yet it is obvious 
that the two main defects of capitalism are its failure 
to produce liberty and equality for the mass of humble 
men and women. Marx, that is to say, contemplated a 
condition which reproduces exactly the chief vices of 
capitalism without offering any solid proof of their ulti- 
mate extinction. For, after all, the chief effort that is 
worth making is towards a civilization in which what 
Mr. Graham Wallas has termed, " the capacity of con- 
tinuous initiative," is implied iR the fact of citizenship. 
It is clear enough that the possibility upon which the 
existence of that capacity turns is a wide distribution of 
power. A man whose thought and acts are at the dis- 
posal of other men is deprived of his personality, and 
that deprivation is implied in the rigorous centralization 
to which Marx looked forward. Unquestionably, he 
was right in his insistence that the distribution of 
economic power in a capitalist state makes the enjoyment 
of such personality impossible to most ; but it does not 
seem any more likely to emerge in the successor to it that 
he contemplated. We may go further and argue that 
it is impossible in any state where the main purpose of, 
and motive to, effort, is the increase of material wealth. 
No society can realize itself in any full sense of the word 
until the mainspring of its existence is a capacity to value 
things of the mind as more precious than material com- 
modities. That involves a sociology in which the 
economic motive which Marx emphasized is appraised 
at a low level. Obviously, to achieve the condition in 
which that appraisal is possible, involves an educational 
system far different, both in scope and purpose, from 
what we now have. It involves a complete transforma- 
tion of values, in which things like the wider apprecia- 
tion of art, the study of science and philosophy, the 
release, in short, of the creative energies of men from 



44 KARL MARX 

their present bondage, are regarded as the main and 
immediate effort of political organization. 

Yet, if historic experience is to count for anything — 
and Marx's philosophy is nothing if not the interpreta- 
tion of historical experience — it is exactly this trans- 
formation of values which cannot take place in the 
development Marx had in view. The barbarian invasions 
of Rome did not produce a great art and a great culture, 
they produced the dark ages. The Thirty Years' War im- 
peded constructive effort in Germany until the threshold 
of the nineteenth century. Nor has our own experience 
been different. The idealism of 1914 has perished before 
the greater strength of the purely destructive forces 
released in the struggle. What we have realized is 
how tenuous and fragile are the bonds of civilization, 
how little likely they are to be reinforced by any effort 
save that of peace. In such a background, the conflict 
that Marx envisaged looms before us as the harbinger 
of precisely those evils from which we are seeking release. 
It emphasizes in men the impulses against which civili- 
zation is a protest. That wrong can be wiped out with 
wrong, that we are to regard ourselves as the victims of 
blind and impersonal forces against which it is useless 
to strive, that the ix>ssessive impulses of men cannot be 
transcended by creative effort — these and things like 
these are a gospel of impossible despair. In that aspect, 
surely, the older socialists were right who made the 
basis of their creed a doctrine of right and fraternity 
and justice. For right and fraternity and justice imply 
love as their foundation; they do not spring, even at 
the last vain striving, from a doctrine founded upon hate. 

VII. 

The real power and influence of Marx lie in a direction 
essentially different from what is generally assumed. 
He was the first thinker to expose in all its hoUowness 
the moral inadequacy of a commercial civilization. He 
showed that in any society where the main effort is the 
attainment of wealth, the qualities that are basically noble 
cannot acquire their full vigour. He did, in fact, for the 
economic relationships of peoples what Grotius did for 
their international relationships. He founded both a 
science and an ideal. For he made finally impossible 



KARL MARX 45 

any economic system which makes the volume of trade 
the test of national well-being; and he put in the fore- 
front of social discussion the ultimate question of the 
condition of the people. And he performed the incal- 
culable service to his generation of bringing to it a 
message of hope in an epoch where men seemed to them- 
selves to have become the hapless victims of a misery 
from which there was no release. In every country of 
the world where men have set themselves to the task of 
social improvement, Marx has been always the source 
of inspiration and prophecy. 

His weaknesses, of course, are obvious and important.! 
" He diagnoses a disease admirably," says Mr. Wells, 
in an excellent phrase, " and then suggests rather an! 
incantation than a remedy." Yet the diagnosis is an 
essential part of the cure. No one can read unmoved 
the picture he drew of the results of the Industrial Re- 
volution. Massive in its outline, convincing in its detail, 
it was an indictment such as neither Carlyle nor Ruskin 
had power or strength to draw. It is relatively unim- 
portant that his explanations of the phenomena he 
depicted have not stood the test of criticism. What is| 
vital in the whole was his perception that a society' 
dominated by business men and organized for the pro- 
sperity of business men had become intolerable. Hardly 
less splendid was his insistence that no social order is 
adequate in which the collective energies of men are not 
devoted to their common life. It does not matter that 
such perception had been given to others, that such 
insistence was not new. No thinker of the nineteenth 
century drove home the lesson with force so irresistible 
or with urgency so profound. Even his advocacy of 
catastrophic revolution has this much of truth in it, that 
a point is reached in the development of any social 
system where men will refuse to accept any longer a 
burden they find too great to bear; and, in that moment, 
if they cannot mitigate, they will become determined to 1 
destroy. The condition, in fact, upon which a state 
may hope to endure is its capacity for making freedom 
in each generation more widespread and more intense. 
Where Marx was wrong was in his belief that the catas- 
trophe was, in itself, worthy of attainment and in his 
emphasis upon its ultimate benefit. But where he was, 



46 KARL MARX 

also, irresistibly right was in his prophecy that the 
civilization of his epoch was built upon sand. And even 
the faults of his prophecy may be pardoned to an 
agitator in exile to whom the cause of the oppressed was 
dearer than his own welfare. 

At bottom, the main passion by which he was moved 
was the passion for justice. He may have hated too 
strongly, he was jealous, and he was proud. But the 
mainspring of his life was the desire to take from the 
shoulders of the people the burden by which it was 
oppressed. He realized that what, in all varieties of 
time and place, has caused the downfall of a governing 
class, has never been some accidental or superficial event. 
The real cause of revolution is the unworthiness of those 
who controlled the destinies of a people. Indifference 
to suffering, selfishness, lack of moral elevation, it was 
for those defects that he indicted the class from which 
he sprang. He transformed the fears of the workers into 
hopes, he translated their effort from interest in political 
mechanisms to interest in social foundations. He did 
not trust in the working of laws, he sought always for 
the spirit that lay behind the order of which they were 
the expression. He was often wrong, he was rarely 
generous, he was always bitter; yet when the roll of 
those to whom the emancipation of the people is dvie 
comes to be called, few will have a more honourable, 
and none a more eminent place. 



GARDEN CITV PRESS, PRINTERS, LETCHWORTH, ENGLAND. 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR. 

The Problem of Sovereignty. 

Authority in the Modern State. 

Selected Letters of Edmund Burke, edited with an Intro- 
duction. 

(The above are pubHshed by the Oxford University 
Press.) 

Political Thought in England from Locke to Bentham 

(Williams & Nor gate). 
The Foundations of Sovereignty and other Essays (Allen 

& Unwin). 



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