The purpose of this site it to explain the general scientific outlook of Marxism, dialectical materialism, in the form in which it must concretely exist in the present -
A summary of the work of Karl Marx by V. I. Lenin
The renewed interest in the Labour Party following the nomination of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership is a massive blow to the ruling class. However, a victory in one battle does not end the war. In the absence of proper leadership these gains could easily be reversed. What leadership is necessary?
Only complete socialist transformation will bring final victory. But the Labour Party, even under Corbyn’s leadership, can only approach this question in a Utopian, un-
The article below, written by Lenin in 1913, is a brilliant exposition of the proper, scientific approach to the struggle to socialism, as first set out by Karl Marx. It is essential reading for anyone seeking an understanding of the Marxist outlook. Only a party based on this theory and method can bring final emancipation for the working class.
The article is reproduced just as Lenin wrote it. Since the paragraphs are very long it is recommended that a hard copy be taken for study.
A BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH WITH AN EXPOSITION OF MARXISM
By V. I. Lenin
Marx, Karl, was born on May 5, (New style), in the city of Trier (Rhenish Prussia). His father was a lawyer, a Jew, who in 1824 adopted Protestantism. The family was well-
After graduating, Marx moved to Bonn, hoping to become a professor. However, the reactionary policy of the government, which deprived Ludwig Feuerbach of his chair in 1832, refused to allow him to return to the university in 1836, and in 1841 forbade young Professor Bruno Bauer to lecture at Bonn, made Marx abandon the idea of an academic career. Left Hegelian views were making rapid headway in Germany at that time. Ludwig Feuerbach began to criticise theology, particularly after 1836, and return to materialism, which in 1841 gained the ascendancy in his philosophy (The Essence of Christianity). The year 1843 saw the appearance of his Principles of the Philosophy of the Future. “One must oneself have experienced the liberating effect of these books”, Engels wrote subsequently of these works by Feuerbach. “We [i.e., the Left Hegelians, including Marx] all became at once Feuerbachians.” At that time, some radical bourgeois in the Rhineland, who were in touch with the Left Hegelians, founded, in Cologne, an opposition paper called Rheinische Zeitung (the first issue appeared on January1, 1842). Marx and Bruno Bauer were invited to be the chief contributors, and in October 1842 Marx became editor-
In 1843, Marx Married, at Kreuznach, Jenny Von Westphalen, a childhood friend he had become engaged to while still a student. His wife came of a reactionary family of Prussian nobility, her elder brother being Prussia’s Minister of the Interior during a most reactionary period – 1850-
In September 1844 Engels came to Paris for a few days, and from that time on became Marx’s closest friend. They both took a most active part in the seething life of the revolutionary groups in Paris (of particular importance at the time was Proudhon’s doctrine, which Marx pulled to pieces in his Poverty of Philosophy, 1847); waging a vigorous struggle against various doctrines of petty-
On the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848, Marx was banished from Belgium. He returned to Paris whence, after the March Revolution, he went to Cologne, Germany, where Neue Rheinische Zeitung was published from 1 June 1848 to 19 May 1849, with Marx as editor-
His life as a political exile was a very hard one, as the correspondence between Marx and Engels (published in 1913) clearly reveals. Poverty weighed heavily on Marx and his family; had it not been for Engels’s constant and selfless financial aid, Marx would not only have been unable to complete Capital but would have inevitably been crushed by want. Moreover, the prevailing doctrines and trends of petty-
the Critique of Political Economy (1859) and Capital (Vol 1, 1867).
The revival of the democratic movements in the late fifties and in the sixties recalled Marx to political activity. In 1864 (28 September) the International Workingmen’s Association – the celebrated First International – was founded in London. Marx was the heart and soul of this organisation, and the author of its first Address and of a host of resolutions, declarations and manifestos. In uniting the labour movement of various countries, striving to channel into joint activity the various forms of non-
Marx’s health was undermined by his strenuous work in the International and his still more strenuous theoretical occupations. He continued to work on the refashioning of political economy and on the completion of Capital, for which he collected a mass of new material and studied a number of languages (Russian for instance). However, ill-
His wife died on 2 December 1881, and on 14 March 1883 Marx passed away peacefully in his armchair. He lies buried next to his wife at Highgate Cemetery in London. Of Marx’s children some died in childhood in London, when the family were living in destitute circumstances. Three daughters married English and French socialists: Eleanor Aveling, Laura Lafarge and Jenny Longuet. The latter’s son is a member of the French Socialist Party.
THE MARXIST DOCTRINE
Marxism is the system of Marx’s views and teachings. Marx was the genius who continued and consummated the three main ideological currents of the nineteenth century, as represented by the three most advances countries of mankind; classical German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism, combined with French revolutionary doctrines in general. Acknowledged even by his opponents, the remarkable consistency and integrity of Marx’s views, whose totality constitutes modern materialism and scientific socialism, as the theory and programme of the working class movement in all civilised countries of the world, make it incumbent on us to present a brief outline of his world-
Beginning with the years 1844-
“Hegel was an idealist, that is to say, the thoughts within his mind were to him not the more or less abstract images [Abbilder, reflections; Engels sometimes speaks of “imprints”] of real things and processes, but on the contrary, things and their development were to him only images, made real, of the ‘Idea’ existing somewhere or other before the world existed.” In his Ludwig Feuerbach – which expounded his own and Marx’s views on Feuerbach’s philosophy, and was sent to the printers after he had re-
As the most comprehensive and profound doctrine of development, and the richest in content, Hegelian dialectics was considered by Marx and Engels the greatest achievement of classical German philosophy. They thought that any other formulation of the principle of development, of evolution, was one-
“The great basic thought”, Engels writes, “that the world is not to be comprehended as a complex of ready-
This revolutionary aspect of Hegel’s philosophy was adopted and developed by Marx. Dialectical materialism “does not need any philosophy standing above the other sciences”. From previous philosophy there remains “the science of thought and its laws – formal logic and dialectics.” Dialectics, as understood by Marx, and also in conformity with Hegel, includes what is now called the theory of knowledge, or epistemology, which, too, must regard its subject matter historically, studying and generalising the origin and development of knowledge, the transition from non-
In our times the idea of development, of evolution, has almost completely penetrated social consciousness, only in other ways, and not through Hegelian philosophy. Still, this idea, as formulated by Marx and Engels on the basis of Hegel’s philosophy, is far more comprehensive and far richer in content than the current idea of evolution is. A development that repeats, as it were, stages that have already been passed, but repeats them in a different way, on a higher basis (“the negation of the negation”), a development, so to speak, that proceeds in spirals, not in a straight line; a development by leaps, catastrophes, and revolutions; “breaks in continuity”; the transformation of quantity into quality; inner impulses towards development, imparted by the contradiction and conflict of the various forces and tendencies acting on a given body, or within a given phenomenon, or within a given society; the interdependence and the closest and indissoluble connection between all aspects of any phenomenon (history constantly revealing ever new aspects), a connection that provides a uniform, and universal process of motion, one that follows definite laws – these are some of the features of dialectics as a doctrine of development that is richer than the conventional one. (Cf. Marx’s letter to Engels of 8 January 1868, in which he ridicules Stein’s “wooden trichotomies”, which it would be absurd to confuse with materialist dialectics.)
THE MATERIALIST CONCEPTION OF HISTORY
A realisation of the inconsistency, incompleteness, and one-
“In the social production of their life, men enter into definite social relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces.
“The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production, or – what is but a legal expression for the same thing – with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins the epoch of social revolution. With the change in the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out.
“Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so we cannot judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production … In broad terms Asiatic, ancient, feudal, and modern bourgeois modes of production can be designated as progressive epochs in the economic formation of society”. (cf. Marx’s brief formulation in a letter to Engels dated 7 July 1866: “Our theory that the organisation of labour is determined by the means of production.”)
The discovery of the materialist conception of history, or more correctly, the consistent continuation and extension of materialism into the domain of social phenomena, removed the two chief shortcomings in earlier historical theories. In the first place, the latter at best examined only the ideological motives in the historical activities of human beings, without investigating the origins of these motives, or ascertaining the objective laws governing the development of the system of social relations, or seeing the roots of these relations in the degree of development reached by material production; in the second place, the earlier theories did not embrace the activities of the masses of the population, whereas historical materialism made it possible for the first time to study with scientific accuracy the social conditions of life of the masses, and the changes in these conditions. At best, pre-
THE CLASS STRUGGLE
It is common knowledge that, in any given society, the strivings of some of its members conflict with the strivings of others, that social life is full of contradictions, and that history reveals a struggle between nations and societies, as well as within nations and societies, and, besides, an alternation of periods of revolution and reaction, peace and war, stagnation and rapid progress or decline. Marxism has provided the guidance, i.e., the theory of the class struggle, for the discovery of the laws governing this seeming maze of chaos. It is only a study of the sum of the strivings of all the members of a given society or group of societies that can lead to a scientific definition of the result of those strivings. Now the conflicting strivings stem from the difference in the position and mode of life of the classes into which each society is divided. “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto (with the exception of the history of the primitive community, Engels added subsequently). “Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and surf, guild-
Marx’s economic doctrine is most profound, comprehensive and detailed confirmation of the application of his theory.
MARX’S ECONOMIC DOCTRINE
“It is the ultimate aim of this work to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society”, i.e., capitalist, bourgeois society”, says Marx in the preface to Capital. An investigation into the relations of production in a given, historically defined society, in their inception, development, and decline – such is the content of Marx’s economic doctrine. In capitalist society the production of commodities is predominant, and Marx’s analysis therefore begins with an analysis of commodity.
A commodity is, in the first place, a thing that satisfies a human want; in the second place, it is a thing that can be exchanged for another thing. The utility of a thing makes it a use-
After making a detailed analysis of the two-
At a certain stage in the development of commodity production money becomes transformed into capital. The formula of commodity circulation was C-
To obtain surplus value, the owner of money “must … find …in the market a commodity, whose use-
There were two historical prerequisites for capital to arise: first, the accumulation of certain sums of money in the hands of individuals under conditions of a relatively high level of development of commodity production in general; secondly, the existence of a worker who is “free” in a double sense; free of all constraint or restriction on the sale of his labour power, and freed from the land and all means of production in general, a free and unattached labourer, a “proletarian”, who cannot subsist except by selling his labour power.
There are two main ways of increasing surplus value; lengthening the working day (“absolute surplus value”), and reducing the necessary working day (“relative surplus value”). In analysing the former, Marx gives a most impressive picture of the struggle of the working class for a shorter working day and of the interference of the state authority to lengthen the working day (from the fourteenth century to the seventeenth). Since the appearance of Capital, the history of the working class movement in all civilised countries of the world has provided a wealth of new facts amplifying this picture.
Analysing the production of relative surplus value, Marx investigates the three fundamental historical stages in capitalism’s increase in the productivity of labour: (1) Simple co-
To continue. New and important in the highest degree is Marx’s analysis of the accumulation of capital, i.e., the transformation of a part of surplus value into capital, and its use, not for satisfying the personal needs or whims of the capitalists, but for new production. Marx revealed the error made by all earlier classical political economists (beginning with Adam Smith), who assumed that the entire surplus value which is transformed into capital goes to form variable capital. In actual fact, it is divided into means of production and variable capital. Of tremendous importance to the process of development of capitalism and its transformation into socialism is the more rapid growth of the constant capital share (of the total capital) as compared with the variable capital share.
By speeding up the supplanting of workers by machinery and of creating wealth at one extreme and poverty at the other, the accumulation of capital also gives rise to what is called “the reserve army of labour”, to the “relative surplus” of workers, or “capitalist overpopulation”, which assumes the most diverse forms and enables capitalism to expand production extremely rapidly. In conjunction with credit facilities and the accumulation of capital in the form of means of production, this incidentally is the key to an understanding of the crises of over production which occur periodically in capitalist countries. – at first at an average of every ten years, and later at more lengthy and less definite intervals. From the accumulation of capital under capitalism we should distinguish what is known as primitive accumulation; the forcible divorcement of the worker from the means of production, the driving of the peasants off the land, the stealing of communal land, the system of colonies and national debts, protective tariffs, and the like. “Primitive accumulation” creates the “free” proletarian at one extreme, and the owner of money, the capitalist, at the other.
The “historical tendency of capitalist accumulation” is described by Marx in the following celebrated words: “The expropriation of the immediate producers is accomplished with merciless vandalism, and under the stimulus of passions the most infamous, the most sordid, the pettiest, the most meanly odious. Self-
Also new and important in the highest degree is the analysis Marx gives, in Volume Two of Capital, of the reproduction of aggregate social capital. Here, too, Marx deals, not with an individual phenomenon but with a mass phenomenon; not with a fractional part of the economy of society, but with the economy as a whole. Correcting the aforementioned error of the classical economists, Marx divided the whole of social production into two big sections: (1) production of the means of production, and (2) production of articles of consumption, and examines in detail, with numerical examples, the circulation of the aggregate social capital – both when reproduced in its former dimensions and it the case of accumulation.
Volume Three of Capital solves the problem of how the average rate of profit is formed on the basis of the law of value. The immense stride forward made by economic science in the person of Marx consists in his having conducted an analysis from the standpoint of mass economic phenomena, of the social economy as a whole, not from the standpoint of individual cases or of the external and superficial aspects of competition, to which vulgar political economy and the modern “theory of marginal utility” frequently restrict themselves. Marx first analyses the origin of surplus value, and then goes on to consider its division into profit, interest, and ground rent. Profit is the ratio between surplus value and the total of capital invested in an undertaking. Capital with a “high organic composition” (i.e., with a preponderance of constant capital over variable capital in excess of the social average) yields a rate of profit below the average; capital with a “low organic composition” yields a rate of profit above the average. Competition among capitalists, and their freedom to transfer capital from one branch to another, will in both cases reduce the rate of profit to the average. The sum total of the values of all the commodities in a given society coincides with the sum total of the prices of commodities, but, in individual undertakings and branches of production, as a result of competition, commodities are sold, not at their values but at their prices of production (or production prices), which are equal to the capital expended plus the average profit.
In this way, the well-
A rise in the productivity of labour implies a more rapid growth of constant capital as compared with variable capital. Inasmuch as surplus value is a function of variable capital alone, it is obvious that the rate of profit (the ratio of surplus value to the whole capital, not to its variable part alone) tends to fall. Marx makes a detailed analysis of this tendency and of a number of circumstances that conceal or counteract it. Without pausing to deal with the extremely interesting sections of Volume Three of Capital devoted to usurer’s capital, commercial capital and money capital, we pass on to the most important section – the theory of ground rent. Since the area of land is limited and, in capitalist countries, the land is all held by individual private owners, the price of production of agricultural products is determined by the cost of production, not on soil of average quality but on the worst soil; not under average conditions but under the worst conditions of delivery of produce to the market. The difference between this price and the price of production on better soil (or in better conditions) constitutes differential rent. Analysing this in detail, and showing how it arises out of the difference in fertility of different plots of land, and out of the difference in the amount of capital invested in the land, Marx fully reveals (see also Theories of Surplus Value, in which the criticism of Rodbertus is most noteworthy) the error of Ricardo, who considered that differential rent is derived only when there is a successive transition from better land to worse. On the contrary, there may be inverse transitions, land may pass from one category into others (owing to advances in agricultural techniques, the growth of towns, and so on), and the notorious “law of diminishing returns”, which charges Nature with the defects, limitations and contradictions of capitalism, is profoundly erroneous. Further, the equalisation of profit in all branches of industry and the national economy in general presupposed complete freedom of competition and the free flow of capital from one branch to another. However, the private ownership of land creates monopoly, which hinders that free flow. Because of that monopoly, the products of agriculture, where a lower organic composition of capital obtains, and consequently an individually higher rate of profit, do not enter into the quite free process of equalisation of the rate of profit. As a monopolist, the land owner can keep the price above the average, and this monopoly price gives rise to absolute rent. Differential rent cannot be done away with under capitalism, but absolute rent can – for instance, by the nationalisation of the land, by making it state property. That would undermine the monopoly of private land owners, and would mean the more consistent and full operation of freedom of competition in agriculture. That is why, as Marx points out, bourgeois radicals have again and again in the course of history advocated this progressive bourgeois demand for the nationalisation of the land, a demand which, however, frightens most of the bourgeoisie, because it would too closely affect another monopoly, one that is particularly important and “sensitive” today – the monopoly of the means of production in general. (A remarkably popular, concise, and clear exposition of his theory of the average rate of profit on capital and of absolute ground rent is given by Marx himself in a letter to Engels, dated 2 August 1862. See Briefwechsel, Vol. 3, pp 77-
With reference to the history of ground rent it is also important to note Marx’s analysis showing how labour rent (the peasant creates surplus product by working on the lord’s land) is transformed into rent paid in produce or in kind (the peasant creates surplus product on his own land and hands it over to the landlord because of “non-
The peasant’s private ownership of the land he tills is the foundation of small scale production and the conditions for its prospering and achieving the classical form. But such small scale production is compatible only with a narrow and primitive framework of production and society. Under capitalism the “exploitation of the peasant differs only in form from the exploitation of the industrial proletariat. The exploiter is the same; capital. The individual capitalists exploit the individual peasants through mortgages and usury; the capitalist class exploits the peasant class through the state taxes” (The Class Struggle in France). “The small holding of the peasant is now only the pretext that allows the capitalist to draw profits, interest and rent from the soil, while leaving it to the tiller of the soil himself to see how he can extract his wages”. (The Eighteenth Brumaire). As a rule the peasant ceded to capitalist society, i.e., to the capitalist class, even a part of the wages, sinking “to the level of the Irish tenant farmer – all under the pretence of being a private proprietor” (The Class Struggle in France). What is “one of the reasons why grain prices are lower in countries with a predominant small-
From the foregoing it is evident that Marx deduces the inevitability of the transformation of capitalist society into socialist society wholly and exclusively from the economic law of the development of contemporary society. The socialisation of labour, which is advancing ever more rapidly in thousands of forms and has manifested itself very strikingly, during the half-
A new form of family, new conditions in the status of women and in the upbringing of the younger generation are prepared by the highest forms of present day capitalism: the labour of women and children and the break-
The factory system contains “the germ of the education of the future, an education that will, in the case of every child over a given age, combine productive labour with instruction and gymnastics, not only as one of the methods of adding to the efficiency of social production, but as the only method of producing fully developed human beings” (Ibid.) Marx’s socialism places the problems of nationality and of the state on the same historical footing, not only in the sense of explaining the past but also in the sense of a bold forecast of the future and of bold practical action for its achievement. Nations are an inevitable product, an inevitable form, in the bourgeois epoch of social development. The working class could not grow strong, become mature and take shape without “constituting itself within the nation”, without being “national” (“though not in the bourgeois sense of the word”). The development of capitalism, however, breaks down national barriers more and more, does away this national seclusion, and substitutes class antagonisms for national antagonisms. It is, therefore, perfectly true of the developed capitalists countries “the working men have no country” and that “united action” by the workers, of the civilised countries at least, “is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat. (The Communist Manifesto).
The state, which is organised coercion, inevitably came into being at a definite stage in the development of society, when the latter had split into irreconcilable classes, and could not exist without an “authority” ostensibly standing above society, and to a certain degree separate from society. Arising out of class contradictions, the state becomes “ … the state of the most powerful, economically dominant class, which, through the medium of the state, becomes also the politically dominant class, and thus acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class. Thus, the state of antiquity was above all the state of the slave owners for the purpose of holding down the slaves, as the feudal state was the organ of the nobility for holding down the peasant serfs and bondsmen, and the modern representative state is an instrument of exploitation of wage labour by capital.” (Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, a work in which the writer expounds his own views and Marx’s)
Even the democratic republic, the freest and most progressive form of the bourgeois state, does not eliminate this fact in any way, but merely modifies its form (the links between the government and the stock exchange, the corruption, direct and indirect – of officialdom and the press, etc.). By leading to the abolition of classes, socialism will thereby lead to the abolition of the state as well. “The first act”, Engels writes in Anti-
“The society that will organise production on the basis of a free and equal association of producers will put the whole machinery of state where it will then belong; into the museum of antiquities, by the side of the spinning wheel and the bronze axe.” (Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.)
Finally, as regards the attitude of Marx’s socialism towards the small peasantry, which will continue to exist in the period of the expropriation of the expropriators, we must refer to a declaration made by Engels, which expresses Marx’s views; “… when we are in possession of state power we shall even think of forcibly expropriating the small peasants (regardless of whether with or without compensation), as we shall have to do in the case of big landowners. Our task relative to the small peasant consists, in the first place, in effecting a transition of his private enterprise and private possession into co-
TACTICS OF THE CLASS STRUGGLE OF THE PROLETARIAT
After examining, as early as 1844-
At the same time, all classes and all countries are regarded, not statically, but dynamically, i.e., not in a state of immobility, but in motion (whose laws are determined by the economic conditions of existence of each class). Motion, in its turn, is regarded from the standpoint, not only of the past, but also of the future, and that not in the vulgar sense it is understood by “evolutionists”, who see only slow changes, but dialectically “ … in development of such magnitude twenty years are no more than a day,” Marx wrote to Engels, “though later on there may come days in which twenty years are embodied” (Briefweshsel, Vo. 3, page 127). At each stage of development, at each moment, proletarian tactics must take account of this objectively inevitable dialectics of human history, on the one hand, utilising the periods of political stagnation or of sluggish, so called “peaceful” development in order to develop the class-
Here we have the programme and tactics of the economic battle and the trade union movement for several decades to come, for all the lengthy period in which the proletariat will prepare its forces for the “coming battle”. All this should be compared with numerous references by Marx and Engels to the example of the British Labour movement, showing how industrial “prosperity” leads to attempts “to buy the proletariat” (Briefwechsel, Vol 1, page 136), to divert them from the struggle; how this prosperity in general “demoralises the workers” (Vol. 2, page 218); how the British proletariat becomes “bourgeoisified” – “this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie (Vol. 2 page 290); how its “revolutionary energy oozes away, (Vol 3, page 290), how it will be necessary to wait a more or less length space of time before “the British workers will free themselves from their apparent bourgeois infection.” (Vol. 3, page 127); how the British labour movement “lacks the mettle of the Chartists” (1866; Vol. 3, page 305); how the British workers’ leaders are becoming a type midway between “a radical bourgeois and a worker” (in reference to Holyoak, Vol. 4, page 209); how, owing to Britain’s monopoly, as long as that monopoly lasts, “the British workingman will not budge” (Vol. 4, page 433). The tactics of the economic struggle, in connection with the general course (and outcome) of the working class movement, are considered here from a remarkably broad, comprehensive, dialectical, and genuinely revolutionary standpoint.
The Communist Manifesto advanced a fundamental Marxist principle on the tactics of the political struggle: “The Communists fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of that movement.” That is why, in 1848, Marx supported the party of the “agrarian revolution” in Poland, “that party which brought about the Cracow insurrection in 1846. In Germany, Marx, in 1848 and 1849, supported the extreme revolutionary democrats and subsequently never retracted what he had then said about tactics. He regarded the German bourgeoisie as an element which was “inclined from the very beginning to betray the people” (only an alliance with the peasantry could have enables the bourgeoisie to completely achieve its aims), “and compromise with the crowned representatives of the old society”. Here is Marx’s summing up of the German bourgeoisie’s class position in the period of the bourgeois-
About 20 years later, Marx declared, in a letter to Engels (Briefwechsel, Vil. 3 page 224), that the Revolution in 1848 had failed because the bourgeoisie had preferred peace with slavery to the mere prospect of a fight for freedom. When the revolutionary period of 1848-
In the celebrated Address of the International of September 9, 1870, Marx warned the French proletariat against an untimely uprising, but when an uprising nevertheless took place (1871), Marx enthusiastically hailed the revolutionary initiative of the masses, who were “storming heaven” (Marx’s letter to Kugelmann). From the standpoint of Marx’s dialectical materialism, the defeat of revolutionary action in that situation, as in many others, was a lesser evil, in the general course and outcome of the proletarian struggle, than the abandonment of a position already occupied, than surrender without a battle. Such a surrender would have demoralised the proletariat and weakened its militancy. While fully appreciating the use of legal means of struggle during periods of political stagnation and the domination of bourgeois legality, Marx, in 1877 and 1878, following the passage of the Anti-
Taken from Collected Works, V.I. Lenin,
Posted 17 November 2015