The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

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The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by DSN on Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:40 pm

I found this question and answer quite interesting.

Question 21: Will nationalities continue to exist under communism?
Answer: The nationalities of the peoples who join together according to the principle of community will be just as much compelled by this union to merge with one another and thereby supersede themselves as the various differences between estates and classes disappear through the superseding of their basis – private property.

What exactly is being said here? At first glance this seems to contradict the views of the forum.

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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by Celtiberian on Wed Jan 09, 2013 8:49 am

I discussed this topic at some length elsewhere, and provide a comprehensive analysis of it in my forthcoming paper, but to briefly summarize: when Marx and Engels wrote of nationality, they didn't use the term as we do, i.e., as a definition of an ethnocultural community. Neither of them ever wrote a treatise on the national question, though there is evidence of Marx having planned on writing such a text in 1845 (along with analyses of law, civil society, the concept of rights, etc.). Unfortunately, this never came to fruition. Nevertheless, what we can deduce from the little Marx and Engels did write on the national question was that they were using the term "nationality" as it was commonly used in German philosophy at the time, i.e., to describe an organic community of diverse social classes harmoniously co-existing under a common governing apparatus, and they were entirely right to criticize such a fanciful concept.

What Engels meant in the passage you're citing was simply that there would be somewhat of a cultural homogenization under communism, and the basis for that claim was the cultural homogenization humanity is already experiencing as a result of the global expansion of markets. But he meant this only in the limited sense of diverse peoples utilizing the same methods of production, which left-wing nationalists don't deny is occurring and will continue to occur after capitalism has been transcended. As Otto Bauer explained,

"It is certain that the differences between the material contents of different national cultures will be reduced in socialist society. Modern capitalism has already begun this work. The precapitalist peasant lived and produced for centuries in the manner inherited from his ancestors without adopting any of the advances made by his neighbors. He used the same primitive plough even though, only a few miles away, he would have had the opportunity to observe a better plough that would have assured him a much higher yield. Modern capitalism, however, has taught the nations to learn from one another; each technological advance becomes the property of the whole world within a few years, every change in the law is studied and imitated by neighboring peoples, each scientific and artistic current influences the civilized peoples of the entire world. There can be no doubt that socialism will increase this cosmopolitan tendency in our culture to an enormous extent, will reduce the differences between the material contents of cultures at an incomparably greater speed, such that the nations will learn still more from one another, each learning from the other that which corresponds to its particular goals. However, it would be precipitate to conclude from this that the reduction of differences between the material contents of cultures will also lead to nations' becoming completely identical."
Otto Bauer, The Question of Nationalities and Social Democracy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), p. 96.


In addition to the hypothesis that the virulent national hostilities witnessed under capitalism will diminish as a result of communist social relations, Marx and Engels predicted that there would be a gradual erosion of borders as a result of bourgeois imperialism, eventually demarcating governing territories along more of a continental basis. History seems to have falsified the latter idea, but Marx had abandoned that theory after 1848, while observing the various movements for national self-determination that were materializing at the time.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by DSN on Wed Jan 09, 2013 3:37 pm

Ah, I see. With all of the notes crammed into these works in PDF format, it's strange this wasn't mentioned. I know that there are several words for "community" in German with different meanings though, so I thought it would make more sense for Engels to use one of those instead.

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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by Celtiberian on Wed Jan 09, 2013 7:15 pm

DSN wrote:Ah, I see. With all of the notes crammed into these works in PDF format, it's strange this wasn't mentioned. I know that there are several words for "community" in German with different meanings though, so I thought it would make more sense for Engels to use one of those instead.

Since notes of textual clarification are left to the discretion of the translator, and these translators can be rather careless or even ideologically biased, many editions of Marx and Engels's works contain passages that are written in a manner which Marx and Engels may well have objected to.

Returning to the views of Friedrich Engels, I should add that his notion of nationality after capitalism was informed by a rather vulgar Hegelian social Darwinism which contemporary Marxists are either unaware of or intentionally suppress. Roman Rosdolsky in particular attempted to conceal the extent of this tendency in Engels's writings, but it's simply undeniable.

Unfortunately, Engels became influenced by Hegel's theory of "historical" and "historyless" peoples at some point in his philosophical investigations. According to this view, certain nations lacked the ability to advance beyond barbarism because they didn't possess crucial "natural and spiritual abilities," thereby condemning them to extermination by the more progressive peoples. A letter Engels wrote to Eduard Bernstein regarding Germany's various conflicts with Polish Slavs highlights his belief in this doctrine by, among other things, containing an admission that he viewed the outright ethnic cleansing of (allegedly) nonhistoric populations as necessary for progress: "I am enough of an authoritarian to regard the existence of such aborigines [Slavs] in the heart of Europe as an anachronism. They and their right of cattle stealing will have to be mercilessly sacrificed to the interest of the European proletariat" [Engels to Eduard Bernstein (22 and 25 February, 1882) in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol. 46 (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1992), pp. 206-207]. In an earlier article he wrote for the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, he further commented that "The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only the reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is a step forward" [“The Magyar Struggle” (January, 1849) in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol. 8 (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1977), p. 238]. Besides Slavs, Engels viewed Basques (my people), Bretons, and Gaels as also being backwards European nationalities which weren't capable of existing into communism (to say nothing of the many non-European populations he believed too savage to achieve the status of historical nations). So, despite the innocuous language Engels chose to utilize in the “Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith” and the “Principles of Communism,” his conception of nationality following capitalism was basically one in which a few advanced nations would remain and cooperate with one another.

Marx's views on the national question, by contrast, were far less retrograde and more consistent with what we left-wing nationalists espouse.


Last edited by Celtiberian on Wed Jan 09, 2013 7:47 pm; edited 1 time in total

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by DSN on Wed Jan 09, 2013 7:47 pm

I do remember hearing that in a video explaining the not-so-friendly views that Marx and Engels held in regards to race in order to promote National Bolshevism. I find the quote at about 2:20 especially interesting.


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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by Celtiberian on Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:25 am

DSN wrote:I do remember hearing that in a video explaining the not-so-friendly views that Marx and Engels held in regards to race in order to promote National Bolshevism. I find the quote at about 2:20 especially interesting.


I realize that you posted this video to illustrate the various controversial remarks Marx and Engels made regarding race in their lifetimes, but I just want to emphasize that it's impossible to justify National Bolshevik political philosophy even by appealing to Engels's Hegelian social Darwinism. With the possible exception of Fritz Wolffheim and Heinrich Laufenberg's relatively unpopular tendency, National Bolshevism is based on a conservative Weltanschauung that is fundamentally at odds with Marxism. Also, conveniently omitted from the video are the aforementioned instances of Engels's intraracial contempt for the Slavic people, which certainly wouldn't assist the Russian National Bolshevik Front in the racism they are attempting to justify in that video. (Engels's views are better described as enthocentric, as his appraisal of national value fails to conform with the broad racial divisions—e.g., the Caucasoid, Negroid, and Mongoloid divide—typically favored by "scientific" racists.)

With respect to the Engels quote at 2:20, the producers of the video seem to have combined two separate statements he had made. The first, about Paul Lafargue being endowed with "one-eighth or one-twelfth n*gger blood," is taken from a letter of recommendation to the Paris Municipal Council which Engels had written on behalf of Lafargue. The second is from a letter Engels wrote to Laura Marx (Lafargue's wife), wherein he jokingly claims that Lafargue's black ancestry rendered him "a degree nearer to the rest of the animal kingdom than the rest of us," and therefore a worthy candidate for the position as overseer of the Paris city zoo. Marx, who was initially very critical of Lafargue's relationship with his daughter, also remarked to Engels that "Lafargue has the blemish customarily found in the negro tribe—no sense of shame, by which I mean shame about making a fool of oneself" [Marx quoted in Francis Wheen, Karl Marx: A Life (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001), p. 291]. Nevertheless, both Marx and Engels were fond of Lafargue, whom they referred to as their "little n*gger" (as well as "the gorilla," "negrillo," "the African," and other rather cruel nicknames).

Even though Marx and Engels's comments about Lafargue weren't meant to be interpreted in a malevolent manner, they nevertheless contain evidence that the men attributed less than noble characteristics to the black race. Marx's remarks about Ferdinand Lassalle, for instance, reveal that, in addition to being "shameless," he felt that blacks display a troubling degree of "importunity." (Unlike Lafargue, however, Marx possessed no fondness toward Lassalle whatsoever—having once described him as "a greasy Jew disguised under brilliantine and cheap jewels.") But whether Marx and Engels considered these traits to be innate, as the video implies, is an entirely separate matter. It's quite possible that Engels did, considering his espousal of Hegel's theory of historical and nonhistorical peoples—in The Aryan Myth: A History of Racist and Nationalist Ideas in Europe (New York: Basic Books, 1974), Léon Poliakov claims that Engels's study of evolution and Hegel's Philosophy of Mind did indeed lead him to the view that blacks were "congenitally incapable of understanding mathematics"—but Marx was very skeptical of biological reductionism. In fact, the most heated debate Marx ever had with Engels was over the evolutionary theories of Pierre Trémaux, who stressed the role of geography in effecting the manner by which races develop. Engels eventually convinced Marx that Trémaux's theories were untenable, whereupon Marx adopted more of a Darwinian approach to the subject. Still, there doesn't seem to be enough evidence to conclusively determine the precise extent to which Marx and Engels viewed the behavioral and intellectual diversity of populations as innate or acquired. What is certain is they were both staunch abolitionists, and that alone separated them from the majority of racial supremacists in their day.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by DSN on Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:09 am

What amuses me is not necessarily that Marx used the "greasy Jew" insult when he had a Jewish background himself, but more the fact that Marx himself was insulted by Mikhail Bakunin for being a Jew. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I remember you posting the following quote in another thread quite some time ago (which I shall post again for others to see):

"Marx is a Jew and is surrounded by a crowd of little, more or less intelligent, scheming, agile, speculating Jews, just as Jews are everywhere -- commercial and banking agents, writers, politicians, correspondents for newspapers of all shades; in short, literary brokers, just as they are financial brokers, with one foot in the bank and the other in the socialist movement, and their arses sitting upon the German press."

Not too long after this they became bum chums apparently.

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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by Red Aegis on Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:24 am

I am not sure how much of this we can take as their actual opinion. There is no doubt that they held some poorly conceived views but for them to flip-flop so much makes me think that they were just letting off steam or throwing a below-the-belt insult. It is not as though they had things like facebook to toss petty insults, they had to do so either in letters or in the public sphere, like a newspaper. I am thinking that they both loved a little drama.

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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by Celtiberian on Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:53 am

DSN wrote:What amuses me is not necessarily that Marx used the "greasy Jew" insult when he had a Jewish background himself, but more the fact that Marx himself was insulted by Mikhail Bakunin for being a Jew.

There is an ongoing debate among Marxologists regarding whether or not Marx can be classified as having been a 'self-hating Jew.' Isaiah Berlin, for example, was absolutely convinced that he was—as a consequence of being influenced by the anti-Semitic philosophy which was pervasive in Germany during his formative years—but scholars like Francis Wheen consider such assessments to be exaggerated:

"True, Marx seemed to accept the caricature of Jews as inveterate moneylenders—but then so did almost everyone else. (The German word 'Judentum' was commonly used at the time as a synonym for 'commerce'.) More significantly, he didn't blame or accuse them: if they were forbidden to participate in political institutions, was it any wonder that they exercised the one power permitted to them, that of making money? Cash and religion both estranged humanity from itself, and so 'the emancipation of the Jews is, in the last analysis, the emancipation of mankind from Judaism'.

From Judaism,
nota bene, not from the Jews. Ultimately, mankind must be freed from the tyranny of all religions, Christianity included, but in the meantime it was absurd and cruel to deny Jews the same status as any other citizen. Marx's commitment to equal rights is confirmed by a letter he sent from Cologne in March 1843 to Arnold Ruge: 'I have just been visited by the chief of the Jewish community here, who has asked me for a petition for the Jews to the Provincial Assembly, and I am willing to do it. However much I dislike the Jewish faith, [Bruno] Bauer's view seems to me too abstract. The thing is to make as many breaches as possible in the Christian state and to smuggle in as much as we can of what is rational.' It is also borne out by the other major work on which he started during the post-honeymoon summer of 1843, 'Towards a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: An Introduction', which was completed in Paris a few months later and published in the spring of 1844."
Francis Wheen, Karl Marx: A Life (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001), pp. 56-57.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I remember you posting the following quote in another thread quite some time ago (which I shall post again for others to see):

"Marx is a Jew and is surrounded by a crowd of little, more or less intelligent, scheming, agile, speculating Jews, just as Jews are everywhere -- commercial and banking agents, writers, politicians, correspondents for newspapers of all shades; in short, literary brokers, just as they are financial brokers, with one foot in the bank and the other in the socialist movement, and their arses sitting upon the German press."

I believe the Bakunin quote I cited was even more vicious than that one. In it, Bakunin accuses Marxian socialism of essentially being the latest manifestation of a series of covert Jewish plots to enslave humanity:

"This whole Jewish world which constitutes a single exploiting sect, a sort of bloodsucker people, a collective parasite, voracious, organised itself, not only across frontiers of states but even across all the differences of political opinion—this world is presently, at least in great part, at the disposal of Marx on the one hand and of the Rothschilds on the other. I know that the Rothschilds, reactionaries as they are and should be, highly appreciate the merits of the communist Marx; and that in his turn the communist Marx feels irresistibly drawn, by instinctive attraction and respectful admiration, to the financial genius of Rothschild. Jewish solidarity, that powerful solidarity that has maintained itself through all history, united them."
Bakunin quoted in Hal Draper, Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Vol. IV: Critique of Other Socialisms (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1989), p. 296.

Bakunin's claim that Marx 'admired' the Rothschilds was, of course, utterly baseless. On the contrary, Marx was nothing but critical of financiers:

"The issue of a new Russian loan affords a practical illustration of the system of loan-mongering in Europe, to which we have heretofore called the attention of our readers.

This loan is brought out under the auspices of the house of Stieglitz at St. Petersburg. Stieglitz is to Alexander what Rothschild is to Francis Joseph, what Fould is to Louis Napoleon. The late Czar Nicholas made Stieglitz a Russian Baron, as the late Kaiser Franz made old Rothschild an Austrian Baron, while Louis Napoleon has made a Cabinet Minister of Fould, with a free ticket to the Tuileries for the females of his family. Thus we find every tyrant back by a Jew, as is every Pope by a Jesuit. In truth, the cravings of oppressors would be hopeless, and the practicability of war out of the question, if there were not an army of Jesuits to smother thought and a handful of Jews to ransack pockets.

"...the Hopes lend only the prestige of their name; the real work is done by Jews, and can only be done by them, as they monopolize the machinery of the loan-mongering mysteries by concentrating their energies upon the barter-trade in securities, and the changing of money and negotiating of bills in a great measure arising therefrom. Take Amsterdam, for instance, a city harboring many of the worst descendants of the Jews whom Ferdinand and Isabella drove out of Spain, and who, after lingering a while in Portugal, were driven thence also, and eventually found a safe place of retreat in Holland. In Amsterdam alone they number not less than 35,000, many of whom are engaged in this gambling and jobbing of securities. These man have their agents at Rotterdam, the Hague, Leyden, Haarlem, Nymegen, Delft, Groningen, Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels, and various other places in the Netherlands and surrounding German and French territories. Their business is to watch the moneys available for investment and keenly observe where they lie. Here and there and everywhere that a little capital courts investment, there is ever one of these little Jews ready to make a little suggestion or place a little bit of a loan. The smartest highwayman in the Abruzzi is not better posted up about the locale of the hard cash in a traveler's valise or pocket than those Jews about any loose capital in the hands of a trader.

"...As far as the seventeen million rubles assigned to Holland are concerned, although brought out under the name of Hope, they will at once go into the hands of these Jews, who will, through their various branch houses, find a market abroad, while the small Jew agents and brokers create a demand for them at home. Thus do these loans, which are a curse to the people, a ruin to the holders, and a danger to the Governments, become a blessing to the houses of the children of Judah. This Jew organization of loan-mongers is as dangerous to the people as the aristocratic organization of landowners. It principally sprang up in Europe since Rothschild was made a Baron by Austria, enriched by the money earned by the Hessians in fighting the American Revolution. The fortunes amassed by these loan-mongers are immense, but the wrongs and sufferings thus entailed on the people and the encouragement thus afforded to their oppressors still remain to be told.

"...This Eastern war is destined at all events to throw some light upon this system of loan-mongering as well as other systems. Meantime the Czar will get his fifty millions, and let the English journals say what they please, if he wants fifties more, the Jews will dig them up. Let us not be thought too severe upon these loan-mongering gentry. The fact that 1855 years ago Christ drove the Jewish money-changers out of the temple, and that the money-changers of our age enlisted on the side of tyranny happen again chiefly to be Jews, is perhaps no more than a historical coincidence. The loan-mongering Jews of Europe do only on a larger and more obnoxious scale what many others do on one smaller and less significant. But it is only because the Jews are so strong that it is timely and expedient to expose and stigmatize their organization
."
“The Russian Loan” by Karl Marx (New York Tribune, January 4, 1856) in Eleanor Marx Aveling (ed.), The Eastern Question: A Reprint of Letters Written 1853-1856 Dealing with the Events of the Crimean War (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1897), pp. 600, 602, 604, 606 (bold emphasis added).

So much for Marx's alleged "Jewish solidarity."

Not too long after this they became bum chums apparently.

There is some evidence that Marx and Bakunin were friends around the time Bakunin translated the Communist Manifesto into Russian (1869), but it undoubtedly ceased during the events which led to the dissolution of the International Workingmen's Association in 1876, which Marx blamed on Bakunin's anarchist followers.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by DSN on Thu Jan 10, 2013 11:43 am

Funnily enough, I just visited RevLeft to have a laugh at how many active "this is reactionary" type threads I could find, and I came across a thread with talk of Marx being anti-semetic. Obviously someone had to jump in and deny it with the idea that The Jewish Question is the only text in which Marx talks about Jews.

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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by Celtiberian on Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:54 pm

DSN wrote:Funnily enough, I just visited RevLeft to have a laugh at how many active "this is reactionary" type threads I could find, and I came across a thread with talk of Marx being anti-semetic. Obviously someone had to jump in and deny it with the idea that The Jewish Question is the only text in which Marx talks about Jews.

This is further evidence that the majority of RevLeft members have not read much of Marx's work. His articles as a journalist and personal correspondence are replete with his opinions of Jews. Personally, I side with the historians that regard Marx as an ardent critic of Jewish culture, and not necessarily of the Jewish ethnicity—although he did occasionally write critical remarks about, what he considered to be, unsightly Jewish physical characteristics, e.g., in a letter to his cousin Antoinette Philips (dated March 24, 1861), he described a brief encounter he had with a Jewish woman as follows: "This young lady, who instantly overwhelmed me with her kindness, is the ugliest creature I have seen in my entire life, with repulsive Jewish facial features."

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by DSN on Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:40 pm

That one made me laugh. The contradiction actually makes me think back to my anti-semetic father's two-year relationship with a Jewish woman.

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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by Red Aegis on Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:12 pm

It is a shame that Marx held some messed up beliefs like that. Even if they were being used for hyperbole or simply as insults it would still be a shame.

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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by Celtiberian on Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:51 pm

Red Aegis wrote:It is a shame that Marx held some messed up beliefs like that. Even if they were being used for hyperbole or simply as insults it would still be a shame.

Most of the 19th century socialists held what would now be considered controversial views of race, sex, ethnicity, and gender. Marx and Engels were clearly not exceptions to this, but that is precisely why we must avoid the temptation to deify men—regardless of how extraordinary their intellectual attributes may be. Moreover, despite their personal failings, the preponderance of Marx and Engels's contributions to political economy, philosophy, and sociology remain invaluable, and we shouldn't allow our ethical judgements of their character interfere with acknowledging that fact.

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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

Post by Red Aegis on Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:53 pm

Of course, there are many studies and investigations into feminism and race from a marxist perspective that I have only begun to do serious reading on. Even if Marx and Engels themselves did not have modern views they certainly have legacies that absolve them. I was just pointing out the obvious.

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Re: The Communist Manifesto: A Communist Confession of Faith

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