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Three books on the life and thought of the `red terror doctor’

Reviews by Alex Miller

Karl Marx: A Biography
By David McLellan, Palgrave Macmillan
4th Edition 2006
487 pages, paperback

This is the fourth edition of David McLellan’s Karl Marx: His Life and Thought, the first edition of which was originally published in 1973. McLellan’s biography has stood the test of time, and despite the much-publicised and over-hyped publication of Francis Wheen’s biography of Marx in 1999, McLellan’s book remains by far the best biography of Marx available in English.

Unlike Wheen, McLellan has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Marx’s published work, and pulls off the difficult feat of interweaving exposition of Marx’s main works with a detailed and sympathetic account of his life, both public and private.

Compares well to classics

McLellan’s biography also compares well to some of the classic biographies in the Marxist canon. Franz Mehring’s Karl Marx: The Story of His Life is still very much worth a read, especially for the wonderfully clear chapter on the second and third volumes of Capital, which Mehring tells us was written as a favour by no less than Rosa Luxemburg. However, Mehring’s book was written in 1918 and thus predates the publication in the 1930s of such important works of Marx’s as the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and the Grundrisse of 1857-8, as well as numerous items of Marx’s correspondence.

Boris Nicolaievsky and Otto Maenchen-Helfen’s Karl Marx: Man and Fighter, completed under the shadow of Hitler in Berlin in 1933, but not published until 1936, is another classic. However, as the authors make clear in their foreword, Karl Marx: Man and Fighter does not aspire to be a full intellectual biography, but concentrates primarily on Marx’s political activity, especially around the periods of the 1848 revolutions and the years of the First International from the mid-1860s to the early 1870s. McLellan’s book thus remains the best and most up-to-date biography of Marx covering the full range of his activities, both practical and intellectual.

It would be futile in a brief review to attempt to summarise McLellan’s succinct summaries of Marx’s main works, such as the 1844 Manuscripts, the political writings about the 1848 revolutions and their aftermath, the Grundrisse, the various volumes of Capital, through to the late political writings about the Paris Commune and the Critique of the Gotha Programme. I’ll simply encourage readers to pick up McLellan’s book for themselves. Although Marx’s writings can be extremely hard going, McLellan does an excellent job of extracting the main lines of Marx’s thought, and by deft quotation does so in a way that conveys a sense of Marx’s great skills as a writer. Readers are likely to leave McLellan’s volume with an appetite to read Marx’s works for themselves, which is the best sign of success in an intellectual biography.

Tempestuous life

However, this is more than simply an intellectual biography. McLellan seamlessly integrates his account of Marx’s writings with the story of his sometimes tempestuous and chaotic life, giving detailed accounts of Marx’s activities as a revolutionary in both continental Europe and in London, to which Marx was permanently exiled following the defeat of the European revolutions of 1848.

Again, I won’t attempt to summarise McLellan’s account of Marx’s political life here. Instead, I’ll limit myself to some observations about Marx the man, and some critical remarks about the short concluding chapter on ``Marx’s Legacy’’.

Marx’s most important works – the Grundrisse and Capital among them – were written in extremely difficult conditions, conditions that would surely have silenced many a lesser human being. Marx was living in London, with a family to care for and no regular source of income except journalistic commissions from the New York Daily Tribune. McLellan gives a vivid picture of the poverty and privations that Marx and his family suffered, privations that would have defeated even Marx had it not been for the generosity of Friedrich Engels, who selflessly subsidised Marx and his family for almost all of their quarter century in London. Engels – these days unjustifiably maligned as a crude ``simplifier’’ of Marx’s thinking – in many ways emerges as the real hero of the story. Writing to his daughter Jenny a few months before his death in 1883, Marx commented, ``Good old Fred may easily kill someone out of love’’.

Perhaps the most harrowing episodes in Marx’s life were the premature deaths of his children. Marx’s only son, Edgar, died in 1855 at the age of eight while the Marx family was living in a squalid two-room flat in Soho. Marx wrote to Engels on April 6: ``Poor Edgar is no more. He went to sleep (literally) in my arms today between five and six.’’

William Leibknecht, a friend of the family, wrote of what he saw:

The mother silently weeping, bent over the dead child, Lenchen sobbing beside her, Marx in a terrible agitation vehemently, almost angrily, rejecting all consolation, the two girls clinging to their mother crying quietly, the mother clasping them convulsively as if to hold them and defend them against Death that had robbed her of her boy.

A few months later, Marx wrote to Lassalle:

Bacon says that really important men have so many relations with nature and the world that they recover easily from every loss. I do not belong to these important men. The death of my child has deeply shaken my heart and mind and I still feel the loss as freshly as on the first day. My poor wife is also completely broken down.

Despite these setbacks and grinding poverty – probably only the handouts from Engels saved the Marx family from complete destitution, and Marx often was unable to go out because his coat was in the pawnshop – Marx worked incredibly hard, regularly researching in the British Museum from nine in the morning to seven in the evening and then staying up late into the night writing.

But there are many lighter moments, including one hilarious episode in which William Leibknecht, Edgar Bauer and Marx get drunk on a pub crawl on the Tottenham Court Road.

`Shallow optimism’?

The short concluding chapter on Marx’s legacy is in many ways the weakest part of McLellan’s otherwise fine volume. For example, McLellan accuses Marx of ``shallow optimism’’ and cites the environmental crisis facing humanity as a problem for Marx’s world outlook:

Marx shared the common 19th-century view that progress was somehow inexorably written into the story of human development. There would no doubt be setbacks and sufferings, but humanity, in its struggle to dominate nature, would in the long run produce a society in which human capacities were more extensively exercised and human needs more fully met. But more recent developments in the productive forces, and particularly atomic energy, have led many to wonder whether humanity’s efforts to dominate nature have not taken a fundamentally wrong turning. The potentially disastrous impact of global warming is only just beginning to be realized. We have lost our nerve and our own inventions have made us more dubious about ‘progress’ than at any time for the last two hundred years.

However, in many ways the global environmental crisis is the perfect illustration of Marx’s idea – outlined in the famous Preface to A Critique of Political Economy, which McLellan earlier quotes – that the capitalist system of production relations, like the feudal system of production relations that preceded it, at a certain stage begins to fetter the development of the productive forces, the things necessary for the satisfaction of human needs. As well as fettering the development of the productive forces, the capitalist system of production relations, in which every aspect of life is subjected to the demands of the market and the pursuit of private profit, makes dealing with the problem of climate change effectively impossible, threatening the cessation of life on the planet altogether. Only planned production on a global scale can begin to address the challenge of climate change; but planned production requires co-operation between the owners of productive units, and the major players in the global capitalist system can no more co-operate to save the environment than a pack of wolves can co-operate to protect a baby lamb. It simply cannot happen: co-operation on a global scale between the owners of productive units can happen only on the basis of collective ownership of the productive forces on a global scale.

Despite this and other weaknesses in the concluding chapter, though, McLellan’s book remains the standard biography of Marx, scholarly and well informed, but at the same time an enjoyable and compelling read.

One thing that is clear is that Marx had an enormous sense of humour, so I will end this review on a light-hearted note. In the later years of his life Marx attained a certain degree of notoriety due to his association with the First International and was referred to in polite circles as ``the red terror doctor’’. But he also gained a degree of grudging respect, and in 1867 he was elected by his respectable English neighbours to the prestigious post of ``Constable of the sinecure of St. Pancras’’.

Marx declined the invitation with the comment, ``I should tell them that I was a foreigner and that they should kiss me on the arse.’’ His last recorded words on the UK were: ``To the devil with the British.’’


* * *

Marx’s London

Marx in London: An Illustrated Guide
By Asa Briggs & John Callow
Published by Lawrence & Wishart, in association with the Marx Memorial Library
Revised edition, 2008
110 pages

Australians visit London in their thousands every year, but the vast majority of us probably walk the streets of the British capital unaware that we are following in the footsteps of the founder of modern socialism, Karl Marx.

Fleeing continental Europe after the failure of the 1848 revolutions, Marx lived in London from 1849 until his death in 1883, and it was there that he wrote the great works on political economy on which his fame principally rests.

The first edition of this guide, written by the eminent social historian Asa Briggs, was published in 1982, and now a revised and updated version has been published with the assistance of John Callow, the chief librarian of the Marx Memorial Library.

The guide interweaves the social history of London with the story of Marx’s life and work, and with the aid of numerous maps and photographs guides the reader through the places most associated with Marx: Soho, where he lived on the edge of poverty in the early 1850s; the British Museum, where he did the research for his masterpiece, Capital; Hampstead Heath, where the Marx family regularly escaped the smoke and grime of the city on Sunday afternoons; Covent Garden, scene of the meetings of the First International; and Highgate Cemetery, the site of Marx’s tomb and a place of pilgrimage for socialists the world over.
If you’re visiting
London in the near future, give the usual tourist traps a miss and get along to the Marx Memorial Library in Clerkenwell. You can see the tiny office where Lenin edited the newspaper Iskra in 1902-3, pick up a copy of this excellent guide for £8.99 and then trace the footsteps of Marx, Engels and Lenin. It will be cheaper than the Tower of London, and good for you as well.

* * *

The story of a book that shook the world

Marx’s Das Kapital: A Biography
By Francis Wheen
Atlantic Books 2006
130 pages

Francis Wheen, who produced an entertaining (if over-hyped) biography of Karl Marx in 1999, returns to Marx with a ``biography’’ of the revolutionary philosopher’s most famous and important single work, in the series from Atlantic called Books That Shook The World. Wheen gives a readable account of the genesis of Das Kapital, interweaving the tale of Marx’s personal and political life with brief descriptions of Marx’s earlier works in the lead-up to the oft-promised and oft-delayed publication of his magnum opus in 1867.

Unlike most commentators, Wheen conveys a vivid sense of Das Kapital’s vastly under-appreciated qualities as a great work of literature, infinitely superior in this regard to the bourgeois political economists whose work Marx trounced on purely scientific grounds: ``The book can be read as a vast Gothic novel whose heroes are enslaved and consumed by the monster they created.’’

Wheen does a good job of destroying some of the myths that surround the book. For example, he recounts how British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson claimed never to have read it, giving up because of a page-long footnote on page 2. As Wheen points out, a glance at page 2 of the book reveals this to be a wild exaggeration.


Another example concerns the familiar claim that Marx’s predictions about the progressive immiseration of the proletariat under capitalism have been refuted by the actual development of capitalism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries: ``Countless pundits have taken this to mean that capitalism’s swelling prosperity would be achieved by an absolute reduction in the workers’ wages and standard of living, and they have found it easy to mock. Look at the working classes of today, with their cars and microwave ovens: not very immiserated, are they?’’. Wheen points out that the idea that Marx has been refuted in this way is based on a complete misreading of Chapter 25 of Das Kapital: Marx in fact argued only that under capitalism there would be a relative – as opposed to absolute – decline in wages, and Wheen shows that this is in fact ``demonstrably true’’.

In addition, Wheen makes the excellent point that ``immiseration’’ concerns not just the wages workers receive, but how long and how hard they have to work in order to get them. And in fact: ``The average British employee now puts in 80,224 hours over his or her working life, as against 69,000 hours in 1981. Far from losing the [capitalist] work ethic, we seem ever more enslaved by it’’. Wheen quotes Marx’s uncanny prescience regarding this in a passage in Chapter 12: ``We may read on one page that the worker owes a debt of gratitude to capital for developing his productivity, because the necessary labour time is thereby shortened, and on the next page that he must prove his gratitude in future for 15 hours instead of 10.’’ So much for the imminent leisure age predicted in the 1970s by apologists for capitalism!

Selective quoting

There are parts of the book where Wheen is less convincing. For example, in the chapter on the influence of Das Kapital after Marx’s death, by highly deceptive selective quotation from What Is To Be Done?, Wheen portrays Lenin as laying out an abstract blueprint for the future tyrannies of Stalinism. This is an all too familiar trick, and it is a pity that Wheen succumbs to the temptation to play it.

Also, Wheen objects to the labour theory of value (according to which the exchange value of a commodity is determined by the socially necessary amount of labour time required to produce it): ``Why do people sometimes pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for a single diamond ring or pearl necklace? Mightn’t these extraordinary prices also owe something to scarcity value, or perceptions of beauty, or even to simple one-upmanship?’’

But this is a weak objection. For one thing, there is a difference between the concepts of exchange value and price. True, Marx and the classical political economists generally held that in the long run, the prices of commodities tend in the direction of their exchange values. However, this clearly does not imply that the price of each and every commodity sold on the market is equivalent to its exchange value.

Moreover, even waiving this point there is a further problem with Wheen’s objection: as almost any modern philosopher of science will attest, empirical explanatory theories are confirmed or disconfirmed on the basis of their capacity to furnish a whole body of predictions. The holistic nature of theory confirmation means that a theory can issue in an inaccurate prediction yet still be confirmed overall if the theory’s predictions on sufficiently many and sufficiently important other matters are sound. So even if the labour theory of value did yield the wrong prediction about the exchange value of a diamond ring, it might still be justified in virtue of its capacity to predict the exchange values of more common commodities or, at a further remove, the long-term qualitative characteristics of the capitalist mode of production.

And, indeed, Wheen acknowledges the greatness of Marx’s achievement in just this regard: despite some wildly over-optimistic predictions about the imminence of socialist revolution, Marx pulled off the remarkable feat of accurately portraying the general shape and qualitative character of globalised capitalism in the 21st century from the vantage point of its infancy in one small part of the world in the 19th century. In this respect, no bourgeois economist or social scientist has ever come near to Marx.

Wheen concludes: ``Marx’s errors or unfulfilled prophecies about capitalism are eclipsed and transcended by the piercing accuracy with which he revealed the nature of the beast. While all that is solid melts into air, Das Kapital’s vivid portrayal of the forces that govern our lives – and of the instability, alienation, and exploitation they produce – will never lose its resonance, or its power to bring it into focus. Far from being buried under the rubble of the Berlin Wall, Marx may only now be emerging in his true significance. He could yet become the most influential thinker of the 20th century.’’

Readers of Wheen’s stimulating book will leave it with the desire to tackle Marx’s masterpiece for themselves: for this especially, Wheen is to be commended.

[Alex Miller is a member of the Scottish Socialist Party and of the Democratic Socialist Perspective in the Australian Socialist Alliance. Abridged versions of these reviews first appeared in the Australian socialist newspaper Green Left Weekly.]


MARX in spite of and against everybody

From every side, we see predatories appearing, swooping time after time to pillage, devour, distort and falsify the revolutionary programme into a disgusting counter-revolutionary mish-mash they call "Marxism": for example Trotskyists who make a pilgrimage across Europe (say from Treves to London) to put upon Marx's tomb ex-voto's in the form of "transitional programmes"; also, overtly bourgeois papers that salute the memory of that "great thinker", "economist", "sociologist", "historian", "journalist",... for which certain parts of his masterwork would still be relevant today.

The palm of these hypocritically recuperative policies nevertheless comes to all regimes (two thirds of this rotten humanity) who call themselves "Marxists", "Marxist-Leninists", "Socialists" indeed "Communists" all who with the centenary of the death of Marx (1883) stage one more morbid spectacle for the glory of capitalism, for the glory of what Marx fought against all his life.

In the same way that capital defines itself by the ruthless dictatorship of dead, objectified labour on living labour, by the vampire-like process that can only survive by sucking human life for the sake of value valorizing itself, the capitalist social relationship also expresses itself at a superstructural level by the infamous dictatorship of mummified walking corpses, inoffensive icons presented to the eyes of the masses in order to cynically exorcize their non-life, to stuck them still a little bit more to the rock of capitalist exploitation.

The more capitalism sinks (and the more it develops itself) in its mortal contradictions, the more it represents itself in caricature, affirming its "working", "communist" image,... which is in fact only the transformation in mits contrary of communism, the movement of which tears out the entrails of capital more and more, menacing capitalist society always more mortally. If at the beginning of its reign, the simple word of "communism" made capital tremble with fear, in the course of its development capital has exorcized that fear by representing itself as being not only the incarnated happiness, the freedom in act,... but also the "finally human society", "realised communism".

The supreme myth of capital is its pretension to have achieved communism through its fictitious community: democracy. This myth is subtended by the fact that it's capital itself that has integrally socialized the production (and consequently the reproduction of immediate living) and therefore has realised the programme of bourgeois socialism, in any kind of form, fascist, stalinist or parliamentary (1).

It is this always more developed, more contradictory world-wide capitalist system that generates communism each time as a more ineluctable, historical necessity, as an already accomplished fact. The movement of capital would like to achieve communism (just like the exchange-value "would like" to autonomise itself totally from the use-value) without destroying itself: that is its utopia. Only the proletariat organised as a class, hence as a party, is able to impose communism to humanity by destroying capital totally, and by negating itself as an exploited class: such is the realised utopia, and such is the programme of revolutionary communism.

Only the proletariat constituted as an autonomous class, thus organised and directed through its party is able to kick out putrefied capitalism which corrupts more and more all that is human in man and is able to achieve the human global community (negation of the negation). Consequently, the utopia of capital is to exist without any contradictions, thus only existing as a positive pole, without the party of its destruction, without the proletarian party (2). It's in the name of this utopia that capital goes to the extend of privatively appropriating the corpse of Marx, which for a long time already is being nibbled by the worms of social reformism. In the cabaret of capital, the mummified Marx finds himself on the same alter as Jesus Christ or Gandhi.

As in China where on innumerable posters Marx has been depicted slant-eyed, the universal bourgeoisie only represents Marx as just another tentative to reform the world, this is to say that he is made at the same time more inhuman and more acceptable in the eyes of the exploited. Against this Marx, posthumous super-start well placed in the hit-parade of ideologies, we oppose the militant Marx, Marx as the genious and modest incarnation of the revolutionary programme existing impersonally as much before as after his death.

"Communism is a social material force which subjugates our intelligence, captivates our feelings and achieves the union of our conscience and our reason. It's a chain from which nobody can free us without breaking our hearts. It's a demon from which man can only triumph by submitting himself to it." (Marx)

All the devotees of the capitalist cause will always present the "individual" Marx as a "thinker" more or less intelligent, as a "philosopher", a "sociologist",... and put him in one or another of these narrow-minded categories of these so-called sciences. For us, Marx is first of all a militant worker, an eager combatant defending the cause of the liberation of humanity. Even if at the beginning of his action, Marx passed through democratic liberalism (period of the "Rheinische Zeitung" 1842-43) and through the groups of the hegelian left (B.Bauer and consorts), he broke very soon with all these currents of the radical bourgeoisie to fully adhere to the cause of communism, to the cause of the complete destruction of the "civil society", of bourgeois society. It's through the fundamental texts such as "The Jewish question" and "The Manuscripts of 1844" that Marx breaks definitely with the bourgeois point of view of democracy and takes up the fully proletarian point of view of communism (3).

"Indeed the perfect Christian state is not the so-called Christian state which recognizes Christianity as its foundation, as the state religion, and which therefore excludes other religions. The perfect state is rather the atheist state, the democratic state, the state which relegates religion to the level of the other elements of civil society..." "Political democracy is Christian in as much as it regards man - not just one man but all men - as a sovereign and supreme being; but maan in his uncultivated, unsocial aspect, man in his contingent existence, man just as he is, man as he has been corrupted, lost to himself, sold, and exposed to the rule of inhuman conditions and elements by the enthe organization of our society - in a word, man who is not yet a true species-being. The sovereignty of man - but of a man as an alien being distinct from actual man - is the fantasy, the dream, the postulate of Christianity, whereas in democracy it is a present an material reality, a secular maxim." "Hence man was not freed from religion - he received the freedom of religion. He was not freed from property - he received the freedom of property. He was not freed from egoism of trade - he received the freedom to engage in trade." (Marx - "The Jewish question")

It's in this text that Marx authoritatively threw, polemizing against Bauer, the programmatic bases of the fight to death against the bourgeois state, thus against democracy, a position which he and Engels maintained during their whole life-times: "Our final objective is the suppression of all states, and consequently of democracy." (Engels - 1894)

And in a concomitant way to those anti-state and anti-democratic aphorisms, Marx defined the solution of human alienation (extraenization) (4), the solution of all contradictions which shake the world in which we are living: communism.

" is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man, the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution." (Marx - "Manuscripts of 1844")

From the very moment of this adhesion to the communist point of view, the masterwork of Marx will always affirm itself as a totality, as a critical whole where, if it develops such or such a question, at such or such a level of abstraction, it remains always from the point of view of the totality (for which Marx drew up multiple plans, but as we know he only managed to produce one tiny part of what he'd intended). The point of view and the method are the central axis that Marx maintained throughout his whole existence. The whole power of his masterwork resides in this totality, in the invariance of his critical method of investigation (5) always put at the service of the denunciation of the transitory character of capitalism and consequently of the ineluctable advent of communism.

So it's not by mere "chance" that all stalinists, democrats or other shitheads have always tried to scientifically destroy the totality of the masterwork of Marx, and tried to find contradictions where there were only different levels of abstraction merely opposing certain passages extracted from their context with the totality of Marx's militant activity. Such is amongst others, the "famous" and false "contradiction" between the theory of value especially developed in the first volume of "Capital" and the theory of "prices of production" in "Capital" - Vol 3 (which all things considered was published by Engels/Kautsky). Even more famous is the polemic on the pseudo "epistomologic cut" between the young hegelian utopian Marx and the mature, serious, scientific and non-revolutionary Marx (!), the putrid theory which gave such notoriety to the neo-stalinist Althusser and all his staff of marxologues who were paid especially to cut Marx up like a vulgar sausage, and to get rid of all the subversive contents of his masterwork, leaving only the "scientific and objective" and consequently bourgeois analyses (cf. the Poulantzas, Mandel, Harnecker, Ellenstein,...)(6).

The masterwork of Marx can only be understood as an attack, a criticism of the whole bourgeois society, or as Marx stated it himself about the publication of "Capital": "The most terrible missile ever to be launched in the face of the bourgeoisie" (Marx to J.P.H. Becker - 1867). And when Marx taken so fully the side of communism it's also by socially defining the people who are the only ones able to achieve it: the modern proletarians.

Thus it's not by conceiving communism as an ideal to aim at, but by conceiving it as the movement of dissolution of the established order, movement that is proceeding in front of our eyes; as well as by determining the people who are forced to impose it, that Marx accomplishes the rupture with the utopian socialists (Fourier, Owen), inventors of systems who could not see communism as a real movement, as a social, acting force proceeding in reality. It is not in philosophy, neither in science and even less in economy that Marx looks for the essential definition of the people historically determined to impose communism by the violence of their class; Marx defines the proletariat by its historical function; he defines the proletariat as the gravedigger of the old world, as the class which has nothing to lose and everything to gain or win. In opposition to the delirium of "workerists" Marx defines the revolutionary class as the one which, in reality is the dissolution of established order, the one which by its increasing force in confrontation against the bourgeois state, always re-affirms more clearly its subversive and revolutionary character.

"...a class with radical chains, a class of civil society which is not a class of civil society, a class which is the dissolution of all classes, a sphere which has a universal character because of its universal suffering and which lays claim to no particular right because the wrong it suffers is not a particular wrong but wrong in general, a sphere of society which can no longer lay claim to a historical title but merely to a human one, which does not stand in one-sided opposition to the premise of the state, and finally a sphere which cannot emancipate itself without emancipating itself from - and thereby emancipating - all the other spheres of society, which is, in a word, a total loss of humanity and can therefore redeem itself only through the total redemption of humanity. This dissolution of society as a particular class is the proletariat." (Marx - Critique of Hegel's philosophy of right)

The adhesion of Marx to communism is consequently in no way an adhesion to a new school of thought, philosophy, religion or sect. When he is adopting the communist point of view, and this until his death, it's by understanding in which way communism is an already existing movement carried by the revolutionary proletariat (episode of the Silesian workers' revolt), a movement that he'll always strife to direct, to organise, to make stronger as much organizationally as programmatically.

In that sense the masterwork of Marx is before anything a work of the party, work of the impersonal collectivity that will impose communism. Once he's clearly situated in the proletarian camp, Marx will work to always make his basic thesis more precise, solid and operational and that, by pitilessly criticizing all the elements which were impeding the understanding of the world from the communist point of view, and firstly, the many ideologies that the bourgeoisie forged for itself to justify its class domination, ideologies that call themselves philosophy, religion, history, economy,... So Marx didn't become a communist because he would have studied "scientifically and objectively" the different aspects of human knowledge, but quite to the contrary, it's because he was already a communist that he succeeded in totally demolishing all different bourgeois sciences, and that he managed, by demonstrating their narrow-minded and transitory character, to anticipate the coming of a world without any classes, any state, any money,...

"Each method is necessarily linked to the being of its corresponding class." (Lukacs)

Marx: militant of the Communist Party
In all Marx's activities theory and practice were always nothing else but two abstractions on different levels of an organic entity. Marx himself is the expression of this totality that is clearly defined by the word "PRAXIS" and in which action and theory can never be dissociated without misrepresenting the totality that these two words are unable to express. It's in this sense that Marx is first of all a communist militant who applied to all aspects of his activity, the same method to reach the same aim: the liberation of the human race. As Marx stated in his thesis on Feuerbach, written in Brussels in 1845:
"The coincidence of the change of circumstances and of human activity or of self-transformation can only be rationally understood as a revolutionary practice."

In the same way, the life and work of Marx can only be understood as a revolutionary practice. And this understanding can only be the work of groups, individuals,... placing themselves on the same path as Marx: the path of communism, the path of the communist party.

It is during this same period, after having constituted together with some comrades a "committee of communist correspondence" (1846), that Marx and Engels are joining the "Communist League". This adhesion is also a fight against all the archaic forms of communism (Weitling) and against the influences of the bourgeois-socialists. Marx very soon will assume a role of direction of the League and he'll be in charge of completely reorganising it. He'll draw up its statutes, as well as a new platform. The first article of these new statutes affirms clearly the aim of communists: "the aim of the League is the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the domination of the proletariat, the abolition of old bourgeois society based on class antagonisms and the instauration of a new society without classes and without private property."

The second article specifies the militant requirements:

"Joining conditions are as follows:
- a kind of life and activity according to that aim;
- revolutionary vigour and ardour for propaganda;
- to make profession of communism."

Within the League and later on within the International Workingmen's Association, Marx work will be to transform this "contingent and limited organization" into a real world-wide organization; this implied a break with the utopian conceptions that still existed to a large extend within the workers' movement. In order to carry out these tasks and after a first project by Engels (see the profession of faith in communism drawn up by Engels and that still bore to a large extend the mark of old utopian formulas) Marx accepts to draw up a new platform for the League, giving it immediately historical contents. The importance of this text is such that it will not be called the "Manifesto of the League" but will be given the much more fundamental title of "The Manifesto of the Communist Party" (drawn up in 1847 and published in 1848).

Indeed, as we already stated in another article (7), the Manifesto and other texts by Marx-Engels are directly texts of the party, essential expressions of the communist programme.

This programme of the revolutionary class cannot be reduced to one text or another, still less to the platform of some formal organization. On the contrary, the communist programme affirms itself as a "PRAXIS", as a movement of confrontation with the bourgeois state, and some texts of it express more synthetically in a more global way the communist aim and movement. The programme is an invariant enthety that cannot be identified with one of its written or theoretical expressions. It is a totality that cannot be dissociated and that can only be understood as such. In this sense, the Manifesto of the Communist Party is a brilliant example, because it affirms itself beyond all temporal and geographical contingencies; it is directly in its enthety, one of the clearest synthesis of the invariant programme of the workers' movement. Nobody, except idiots, would dare to limit the expressions of the revolutionary programme to the Manifesto of 1847 only. Once more here we can oppose the "praxis" of Marx to all his would-be followers for whom the communist movement and its organization into party could not possibly exist without a text called "programme" or "platform". Of the three fundamental texts: "The Manifesto", "Capital" and "Grundrisse", there is none which could be a better or more complete expression of the communist programme. Each of these texts, like all other communist texts passed and still to come, express a certain level of abstraction, a certain level of understanding of the programmatic enthety and are more or less developed expressions of the invariant programme. These texts that are impersonal achievements of the party, have indeed different functions: "The Manifesto" is more a summary of the fundamental positions of communists in front of the bourgeoisie, while "Capital" is since the implacable demonstration of the catastrophic end of the capitalist mode of production and therefore of the inevitable coining of communism, but both of them are essential expressions of a same and single programme: communism.

The whole history of the communist movement shows us that some texts, some individuals, or some actions,... that are often considered by "Marxists" and other academics of less importance, or even as being insignificant, in fact express superior levels of synthesis and conception; and often the production of texts supposedly expressing the summary, a definite codification of communism, represented in fact a set-back of the workers' movement and the crystallization of counterrevolutionary positions. It was Kautsky (and his followers Plekhanov,...) who was considered as an "orthodox Marxist", as the only depository of "Marxist truth" while all the authentic revolutionary expressions were distorted and rejected as "radicalism", "anarchism",... (e.g. Domela Nieuwenhuis who denounces in his book "Socialism in danger" the Second International). More clear still is the complete black-out on the experiences and the history of left communists, as well German, Italian as Belgian, Mexican or Hindu or still the lies and filth poured on communist militants, on such revolutionaries as Blanqui, Gorter, Miasnikov, Vercesi or Korsch. Who would dare to pretend that the Third Communist International didn't exist before 1928!? But it was only on the VIth world congress on September 1sr, 1928 that the C.I. finally adopted its programme, written by Boukharine; by that rime the C.I. had become nothing else but the formalization of the whole process of degeneration, the crystallization of the counter-revolutionary positions that had affirmed themselves always more clearly after each congress. Our care here is not to disparage the efforts to produce, at certain moments, documents that would state "the fundamental positions of communists" or that would outline the general political orientations, quite to the contrary, we want to denounce the very widespread myth according to which a communist organization wouldn't exist, wouldn't have a coherence and wouldn't be in the historical line of the party if it hadn't a sacred text called "platform" or "programme", pretending at the same time to compare, voluntary or not, these organizational positions to the historical programme of the proletariat. We, communists, don't refer exclusively to this or that sacred or pretended so, text, be it the Manifesto, the Rome thesis or another platform of any formal group, in front of which the revolutionary proletariat would have to fall on its knees. We refer to an organic totality where each expression of the communist movement finds its place insofar that it manages to represent the best it can the historical arch from the natural community to full communism and this, independently of all immediatist, contingent or limited vision. It's because they really are texts of the party, that the works of Marx, with the Manifesto, are always more a guide for our action. But already Engels warned the readers against the insufficiencies of the Manifesto and it is well known that Marx, after the experience of the Paris' Commune indicated the necessity to change the formula "to conquer the democratic state" by the need of destroying it from top to bottom.

"One thing especially was proved by the Commune, that the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purpose. Also if the remarks on the relation of the communists to the various opposition parties although in principle are still correct, yet in practice are antiquated, because the political situation has been enthely changed and the progress of history has swept from off the earth the greater portion of the political parties there enumerated. But the Manifesto still is a historical document which we have no longer any right to alter." (Engels - Preface to the English edition of the Manifesto - 1888)

So for the first time, with the Manifesto, the fundamental positions of communists were explained in a very explicit and synthetic way. Marx and Engels, during their whole life-times not only developed, improved and clarified the main positions enunciated in this text, but at every moment, they'll try to direct the forces that are historically determined to realise the communist revolution. As the Manifesto stated:

"It is high time that the communists explain to the whole world their conceptions, their aims, their tendencies and that they oppose against the legends of the communist spectre a Manifesto of the party itself."

Each time that a revolutionary period arrived, Marx tried to organise, to direct the movement, as well during the movements of 1848 (see "the class-struggles in France") when several times Marx risked his own skin, as later on during the foundation (1864) of the International Workingmen's Association, better known as the First International that took up as its main countersign the famous phrase of the Manifesto: "Workingmen of all countries, unite!" and which was rightly considered as the instigator, as the real political direction of the Paris Commune - 1871 (while the formal direction - the Central Committee of the Commune oscillated between the workers' interests and capitulation in front of the enemy). On the other hand, Marx took advantage of each period of withdrawal, of each period when counter-revolution completely dominated (e.g. from 1850 to 1864) to go deeply into the programmatical basis of the movement even if this meant being at counter-current of the still existing formal organizations. It is this position, at counter-current, that Engels vehemently expresses in a letter to Marx:

"How could we possibly be "a party" while we run away from all official nominations? Do we care about a party while we spit on popularity, while we doubt of ourselves as soon as we begin to become popular? Do we care about "a party" i.e. a flock of donkeys who believe in us because they think we belong to their species? It won't be a loss, indeed, when they will cease to consider us as the 'true expression' of that bunch of narrow-minds to which we have been associated for the last couple of years." (Engels)

What a sane vigour of class interest this excerpt expresses, it's a slash in the face of all those pseudo-partyists, guardians above all of the fetishism of formal organizations! What a clear affirmation of the necessary work of the party, obscure and unpopular work, mostly heaped with calumnies and abuse by all these gentlemen preoccupied above all with their own future! The fundamental understanding of the tasks communists have to assume permanently is clearly included in Marx' practice: at one and the same time the tasks of affirmation and deepening of the revolutionary programme and also, when the material conditions allow for it, the tasks of organization, of direction of the movements taking place in front of our eyes. That's why, when the movement was beaten and counter-revolution reigned, Marx, each time, without ever abandoning the work of the party, was the prime mover of the dissolution of the formal organization (the league, the I.W.A.) before these would pass to the counter-revolution. But each time a wave of revolution flared up, Marx tried to give a direction to this movement, to organise it in the perspective of its international unification, in the perspective of communism. That's why, independently of his adhesion to this or that group, Marx has always worked in the historical line of the party, was always a militant of the communist party.

"Above all, Marx was a revolutionary." (Engels - March 17th, 1883 - oration on Marx's tomb.)

Marx and the invariance of Marxism
As we have already seen in this text, counter-revolution will always try to denature, to pillage the revolutionary Marx, to deprive him from his subversive contents so as to keep only the image of a utopian reformer, full of good intentions. But this falsification, this depreciation not only takes the form of an explicit rejection of the revolutionary conclusions of Marx, of his necrology of capital so as to retain only a simple biology (the social-democratic, reformist and social-christian tradition), but can also take the complementary form of a formal assertion of "orthodox Marxism" while advancing contingent restrictions so as to more easily deny the validity of the fundamental principles. Such is the work of the "orthodoxy" of Kautsky, of the "formal invariance" (Stalinist, Trotskyist and Bordiguist tradition) against which the freedom of criticism can't propose any solution but the renunciation of the principles for the benefit of some innovations and other "transcendencies" that place themselves out of the historic line of the communist programme, and against which we can only hold up the real invariance, the real orthodoxy: the invariance of the class and of its own method:
"The path of consciousness in the historical process does not become smoother quite to the contrary, it becomes more and more arduous and requires an always bigger responsibility. The function of orthodox Marxism - beyond revisionism and utopism - is not the liquidation, once and for all, of all false tendencies; it is the incessant struggle always renewed against the perverted influences of the forms of bourgeois thought on the thought of the proletariat. This orthodoxy is not the guardian of traditions but the messenger always on alert of the relation between the present instant and its tasks in keeping with the totality of the historic process." (Lukacs - "What is orthodox Marxism" - 1919. Our ttranslation)

This fundamental question of real invariance can he exemplified through all of the communist positions. The Manifesto of the communist party declares: "the communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality. The workingmen have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got." Such is the affirmation of the real invariance of the workers' movement: never, the revolutionary proletariat has a home-country, a nationality. Its internationalist character is directly contained in its very essence itself. The proletariat constitutes itself as a class, that is to say, as an historical and world-wide totality - organic centralism, centralization in time and space.

And when workers fight for their country, for a nationality, it means essentially that the proletariat does not exist as a class anymore (e.g. situations of imperialist war during their first stage), it means that if atomized proletarians do have a country, it can only be as citizens, as members of bourgeois society, and not as grave-diggers of the old world. The point of view of communism is invariant: either the proletariat, by its tendential constitution as a class, and therefore as a party, realizes its universal and internationalist essence - the workingmen have no country -; or the proletariat is beaten by counterr-revolution and cannot exist as a class anymore; what will be left are atomized individuals totally submitted to the bourgeois ideology of the nation, the country (8). To this, all "orthodox", all "invariants",... will, while formally maintaining the aphorism: "the workingmen have no country", will deny this immediately after by introducing a multitude of restrictions: "the period", "the particular case", "the specific conditions", that invalidate the communist affirmation. Nevertheless they'll all pretend to have respected word for word a text that this way has become sacred and sanctified.

This process of "aspiration" of the subversive contents so as to retain only the revolutionary phrase, finds a material base in the texts and confusions of Marx himself. That's why, after stating that the proletariat does not have a home-country, all his would-be disciples will largely dissert about the following sentence: "Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is, so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word." Obviously this sentence is in contradiction with the programmatic affirmation preceding it, likewise it reflects the confused comprehension of the "conquest of political power" (acquire political supremacy) that later on was to be replaced by Marx himself with the vision of the necessary destruction of the bourgeois state. Therefore two wrong attitudes will be developed on the base of this contradiction of Marx: on the one hand the modernist, innovative attitude of rejection of all programmatical expressions on pretext that some formulations are confused (or totally wrong) and are still marked by the visions of the enemy; on the other hand, the approval of all the sentences signifying the adding up of contradictory positions, which comes down to adopting the counter-revolutionary position. After having thrown out nationalism through the door, they let it in again through the window! This is how even the Manifesto has been used and probably still will be used to justify capitalist war and the worst nationalist and patriotic delirium.

However, the whole history of our class (1789, 1848, 1871, 1905, 1917, 1927, 1936,... 1983,...) proves each time more clearly, since its beginning until today, the validity of the only internationalist, anti-nationalistic and anti-patriotic principled position.

"It follows from this disastrous experience that when the proletariat starts defending "its country", "the oppressed nation", it obtains only one goal, i.e. the reinforcement of its own bourgeoisie (...) The proletariat develops its movement, makes its revolution as a class. Not as a nation." ("L'ouvrier communiste" No 2/3 October 1929.)

Once again, this historical position of communists had already been clearly affirmed by Marx (even though once again our "orthodox", "invariants",... will use still other sentences or texts by Marx that occasionally affirm the contrary):

"The nationality of the worker is not French, nor English neither German, it is work, free slavery, the bargaining of oneself. His government is not French, nor English neither German, it is capital. His native atmosphere is not French, nor English neither German. It is the atmosphere of the factory. The soil that belongs to him is not French soil, nor English and neither German, it is some feet under the earth." (Marx - Critique of national economy - 1845. Our translation)

Marx' work (and that's why we're interested in it) is a fantastic synthesis of the positions that, historically, differentiate the proletariat from the bourgeoisie. This synthesis, on most questions, remains unequalled, Marx having once and for all outlined the main positions of the communist programme. We've seen how the international and internationalist character of the proletariat clearly affirmed itself which constitutes the very base for the comprehension of the revolution to be a world-wide process. In the same way we can take each one of the fundamental questions of the revolutionary programme, each question that still today constitutes the frontier between the interests of the proletariat and those of the bourgeoisie, and we can see how Marx has magnificently defined the "line and march, the conditions and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement" (the Manifesto).

On the central question of the state. Marx, as his friend Engels, has defined in the most clear way, the imperious necessity of the destruction from top to bottom of the bourgeois state, and the rejection of the deadly illusion of conquering or occupying it (cf. "The State and Revolution" by Lenin). Once this destruction of the bourgeois state accomplished, there will be period of transition when the proletariat organised as the ruling class imposes its class-dictatorship for the abolition of wage labour.

"Between capitalist and communist society stands a period of revolutionary transformation of the first one into the second. To this corresponds a period of political transition when the state can be nothing else but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat". (Marx - "Critique of the Gotha-programme" - 1875. Our translation)

It is on the contrary the Lassallean tradition (also partially used by Kautsky and social-democracy) that insists, while being wrongly assimilated to Marx's position, insists on the eternal necessity of the state, on its conquest, on the divine reign of democracy and therefore of the bourgeoisie:

"Besides, the whole programme is through and through infected by the servile belief of the lassallean sect in the state, or, which isn't any better, by the belief in the democratic miracle; or indeed, it is a compromise between these two kinds of faith or miracle, equally remote from socialism". (Marx - "Critique of the Gotha-programme" - 1875. Our translation)

So the polemic separating "Marxists" from "anarchists" within the I.W.A. is not to know whether or not we must destroy the state (at this period both currents agreed about the destructive tasks of the revolution) but it is to know if, once the bourgeois state having been destroyed, if a society without classes and without state could immediately and automatically emerge. The essential difference between the Bakuninist current (9) and Marx's positions is not the fight to death against the state, nor even the question of organization (reformists have always reproached Lenin with taking up Bakunin's position on the party: dictatorship of the party of anarchy!) but the essential comprehension of the period of transition, of this phase when the proletariat, organised as a ruling class which means as a state, imposes by the force of arms the destruction of value, the destruction of classes which means also its own negation as "state". This is why Marx always said about the workers' state that it was a semi-state, a state in process of extinction.

"It would be advisable to abandon all this gossip about the state, particularly after the Commune which wasn't really a state in the true sense of the word. Anarchists already talked enough about their popular state, though Marx' pamphlet against Proudhon and then also the Manifesto clearly state that with the instauration of a socialist social regime, the state dissolves itself and disappears. The state being only a temporary institution that we are forced to use in our struggle, in the revolution to repress by force its enemies, it is therefore perfectly absurd to talk about a free and popular state: as long as the proletariat still needs the state, it is not for the sake of freedom but to repress its enemies. And when it becomes possible to talk about freedom, the state ceases to exist as such. So we propose to replace everywhere the word "state" by the excellent old German word "Gemeinwesen" corresponding to the French word "commune"." (Engels - Letter to Bebel - 1875. Our translation))

So Marx's position is clearly against the state.

"The abolition of the state makes sense to communists only as the necessary result of the suppression of classes the disappearance of which automatically implies the disappearance of the need for an organized power by one class for the oppression of another class." (Marx - La Nouvelle Gazette Rhenane - 1850. Our translation)

The very affirmation of the dictatorship of the proletariat as "transition towards the abolition of all classes" (cf. letter to Weydemeyer - 1852) implies the understanding of the necessity of revolutionary terrorism:

"The massacres without any results since the days of June and October, the dull feast of expiation since February and March, the cannibalism of counter-revolution itself will convince the people that in order to shorten, to simplify and to concentrate the murderous death agony of the old society, there is only one way: revolutionary terrorism". (Marx - La Nouvelle Gazette Rhenane - 1850. Our translation)

And it was in this same perspective that Marx strongly criticized the Commune for not having taken the initiative in the struggle, for not having carried out terrorist acts aimed at saving workers' lives even if this entailed the killing of some generals and priests.

"Still the shooting of prisoners was suspended for a time. Hardly however, had Thiers and his decembrist generals become aware that the communal decree of reprisals was only an empty threat, that even their spies caught in Paris under the disguise of National Guards, that even the sergents de ville, taken with incendiary strolls upon them, were spared, then the wholesale shooting of prisoners was resumed and carried on uninterruptedly to the end." (Marx - The civil war in France - 1871)

And if Marx' positions on this question is relatively well known, their connection with the destruction of all alienation/extraenisation (4) is often hidden. Indeed, the bourgeoisie, except for its pacifist sheep, in its fright recognizes itself that Marx' positions involve a violent revolution (didn't it call Marx the "red terror doctor"!), involve a terrorist and then anti-democratic proletarian dictatorship, understood as being the force destroying the extraenisation of men, the force destroying wage-slavery and therefore labour. Even the bourgeois "Marxist" currents - Stalinists, Trotskyists - maintain this violent and dictatorial aspect. What fundamentally differentiates them from Marx' positions is not their anti-violence or their anti-terrorism, but the fact that this violence, this terror is directed against the revolutionary proletariat and not against the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. In front of these pseudo-Marxist rabbles, we do not discuss about the opportunity of the use of violence; against them, because they defend wage-slavery, we turn our arms. The problem is not to know whether one should use terror, but to know against who to direct our class violence so as to impose our class dictatorship. What decides of the class nature of violence is the ultimate goal terror is serving, are the historical class interests terror is defending. Any other debate immediately falls back into metaphysics, into philosophy,... putting the question of "violence", "terror", "the state" in itself, exterior to class struggle, a method Engels already demolished a long time ago in his Anti-During.

The really important thing for us is to replace back into the centre of the whole Marxist comprehension the essential question of the workers' struggle for the abolition of wage-labour and consequently of all labour. It is to impose its revolutionary claim "the abolition of wage-labour" (Marx) that the proletariat fights and will be victorious. It is Marx more than anyone else who has put forward this essential question of the abolition of wage- labour, who's defended the first our central watchword: "Death to work, long live communism!".

"We must not only attack private property as a "state of things" but attack it as activity, as labour if we really want to strike it a deadly blow. One of the most important mistakes is to talk about social, human, free labour, to talk about labour without private property. Labour - by essence - is not free, non-human, anti-social activity conditioned by private property and creating it in its turn. The abolition of private property will only become reality if it is conceived as the abolition of labour." (Marx - Critique of the National Economy - 1845. Our translation)

The proletarian struggle against capital can only be conceived as a struggle against wage-labour (the form labour is taking under capitalism, which means alienated, non-human activity) implying the abolition of all labour.

"In his labour the worker does not affirm himself, he denies himself; he does not feel at ease, he feels unhappy; he does not spread out a free physical and intellectual activity, but he mortifies his body and ruins his spirit. The problem is not to set labour free, but to suppress it!" (Marx - The German Ideology - 1845. Our translation)

Still many other questions could be subject of a reaffirmation of the fundamental positions of Marx, settling radically with what is being said of his positions (what is being said by the class enemy), with what is generally being designated by the term "Marxism". We insisted many times already on the fact that the whole vocabulary expressing the communist project, the revolutionary programme, has been completely plundered, opposing it now to its original meaning, to the meaning it had clearly at the origins of the workers' movement. If in Marx' time the quality of communist referred immediately to an irreducible opposition to the bourgeois state, today, for most proletarians the same word refers to the sad reality of wage-slavery in Eastern countries, in China or in Cuba or still the sinister grimaces of Marchais the clown.

In front of these deformations there can be no question of capitulating, of leaving these expressions full of history to the enemy by reinventing all these concepts, by reinventing a new "proletarian" language (that the bourgeoisie would soon recuperate also). To the contrary, it's important to give back to these words their original meaning, to recall to the collective memory of our class the fundamental experiences that gave real life to these expressions; it is essential to make the bourgeoisie tremble again just by the mere evocation of the "spectre of communism". The same goes for the term "Marxist" generalized by Engels after Marx' death, favouring this way the stupid cult of the "brilliant personality" to the detriment of the appropriation of the programme. Insofar as the term "Marxist" has the same meaning as the word "communist", we totally claim ourselves of this Marxism, of revolutionary communism, knowing that we must always insist more and more on the anonymous and impersonal character of our programme.

"The revolution will reveal itself terrible but anonymous." (Fantomes a la caryle - Il Programma Communista - 1953.)

This way Marx' sentence finds its fully Marxist comprehension: "The only thing I know is that me, I'm not Marxist!" (Marx) It is only from within the communist movement that we can understand why Marx was not Marxist. Here no more than anywhere else, the question is not to "go beyond" or to reject Marxists; what matters is to reaffirm the invariance of the subversion, the invariance of communism and therefore of Marxism as violent negation of the established order.

"In all these writings, I never qualify myself as a social-democrat but as a communist. To Marx as to myself it is absolutely impossible to use such an elastic expression to designate our own conception". (Engels - Preface to the pamphlet of Volksstaat off 1871-75. Our translation)

"You, you flatter in the most vulgar way the national feelings and the corporative prejudices of the German craftsmen, which, of course, is much more popular. In the same way the democrats made a sacred formula of the word "people", you, you are making a sacred formula of the word "proletariat". Just like the democrats you are substituting revolutionary phraseology to the revolutionary development". (Marx - Minutes of the Central Council of London - 1850. Our translation)

1. In this sense all the varieties of leftism who pretend to realise "the democratic bourgeois tasks", "the socialization of the economy", "the nationalizations",... are behind on the movement of capital itself. Capital, through its own movement has realised the most radical reformist programmes, from the programmes of Trotskyists to the most daring reveries of self-management (cf Castoriadis, Gramsci, to Ratgeb/Vaneigem). So leftism is not only reactionary in relation to communism, but more so, it is retrograde in relation to the movement of value, to the movement of capital!
2. On this question we refer our readers to the text "Contribution to the so-called question of the party" published in Communism No 2.

3. Some texts as fundamental as "The Jewish question", "The German Ideology", "The thesis on Feuerbach", "The Grundrisse", "The sixth chapter",... had to wait decades before being published and even then they were published only partially or were completely distorted. Revolutionaries had to wait for the important work of integral republication of the masterworks of Marx by Riazanov to see the appearance of those essential texts (work that gave Riazanov the "privilege" of disappearing in the thirties, eliminated by Staline). For example the "Grundrisse", that had to wait until 1939 to be published is German, revealed in an irrefutable way that the masterwork of Marx constitutes an indissociable totality, while all Marxologues of yesterday and today work desperately hard to dislocate it, to cut it up, to oppose one part of it against another.

4. On this question we refer our readers to the text which replaces the Marxist problematic of alienation back to the centre of the revolutionary programme: "From the alienation of man to the human community" that appeared is our French-language review "Le Communiste" (No 14) and that we hope to publish soon in Communism.

5. On this essential question of method, we refer our readers to our text (so far only available in French) "Critical notes on dialectical materialism" published in "Le Communiste" No 13.

6. The numerous works published or republished and that pretend representing the life and work of Karl Marx are mostly popularizations, distortions, falsifications and even plagiarisms for the sake of one or another bourgeois current. However, we would like to mention the following books that distinguish themselves from the mainstream of these bourgeois ideological productions:
- "Karl Marx" by Karl Korsh
- "Marx and Engels" by D. Riazanov
- "Karl Marx" an essay of intellectual biography by Maximilien Rubel
- "Karl Marx - the history of his life" by Franz Mehring. But nothing can compare with the unwearying study of the complete works of Marx and Engels of such intrinsic value that no "summary", no "synthesis" can possibly restore the totality of the Marxist conception of this world. We therefore stress the very importance of the regular militant study of the works of Marx, each day more operational, more alive in our struggle against capital.

7. "In the same way, Marx and Engels magnificently synthetised the communist programme in the famous Manifesto of l848, which, even if it had been ordered by a formal "party" - the Communist League - has a validity, a contents that bypasses the narrow framework of this little group of communist militants to such extend that today nobody would ever think of restricting the universal significance of he Manifesto to the simple programme of the League. The Manifesto is a direct achievement of the party in its large historical acceptation." Cited from "Contribution to the so-called question of the party" - Communism No 2.

8. Of course, both terms of this contradiction class non-class should not be conceived as pure abstractions excluding one another automatically, but as a tendential movement of confrontation until victory - solution of the contradiction through the affirmation of the revolutionary pole - i.e. affirmation of the revolutionary cllass as the dominant class and negation of the proletariat - negation of the negation.

9. Bakunin and his friends in the I.W.A. (James Guillaume,...) do not have anything to do with the "anarchists" we know today in Europe. From the French Anarchist Federation (i.e. French freemasonry) to the governmental CNT in Spain: from the "anarchist" Babar in Belgium supporting the papal trade-union Solidarnosc to the green pacifists everywhere, all this libertarian shit is as remote from Bakunin as Stalinist Marxist-leninists are from Marx. If Bakunin developed wrong positions especially as far as the dictatorship of the proletariat is concerned, this was undeniably from the proletarian and revolutionary point of view, while today his many 'grandsons' flounder openly in counter-revolution.

"And now as to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society or struggles between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists the economic anatomy of the classes. What I did was to prove that 1) the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production 2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat 3) that the dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society..." (Marx)

Biography of Marx is excellent

HEY, HI! I think biography of Marx is excellent. It's witty, realistic, sympathetic, well written, easily read and thoroughly enjoyable - so read it.

Usually, Marx is caricatured as either a wild eyed revolutionary lunatic or a dry academic who spent his life in the British Museum. He was, of course, neither.

What is very clear from Wheen's book, is the fact that Marx was a practising revolutionary as well as a theorist. Marx would throw his energies into the waves of revolutionary political activity that occurred during the 1840's and again at the end of the 1860's/early 1870's. When these waves were defeated, Marx would retreat into theoretical study in order to learn the lessons and hone the theoretical understandings he hoped would enable the working class to liberate itself and, thus, humanity.

Unfortunately, I think Wheen adopts a rather mocking tone towards Marx's political activities which I think detracts from his biography.

Marx also comes out of Wheen's book as a human being with all the strengths and weaknesses present in all of us, complete with binge drinking and an illegitimate son, not at all the distorted figure at the centre of a Stalinist personality cult.

I had started reading 'Capital' and had just read the first three, apparently most difficult, chapters before feeling in need of a break by reading something else. One of my 'something elses' was Wheen's biography, which motivated me to go back to reading 'Capital'. It's a great introduction to Marx the man and to his ideas.
I cannot agree with the one and two star ratings on this book. It is definitely a five-star.

I studied Marx at University for my Philosophy degree, 20 years ago.

I found the book excellent. No, not for its explanation of Marx's theories. Those who want that are looking in the wrong place. Look to McLellean for that. This is a biography. The readers that complain about its lack of substance of Marx's theories need to note that.

Even so, it would be a useful compliment to some of McLelleans work as it puts the writings in context. I wish it was around when I was studying Marx. I would recommend it to any new Marx scholar.

It is sympathetic to Marx, which is rare, yet it revealed information which those who are sympathetic may not wish to hear, e.g. Marx's seemingly contradictory middle-class values.

Overall, an excellent book and it has rekindled my interest in Marx and Engels.

Video lecture course: Reading Marx's Capital with David Harvey

Video: Reading Marx's Capital with David Harvey

Reading Marx's Capital with David Harvey

David Harvey has taught Marx's Capital Volume I for nearly 40 years. He has taught Capital in universities, in the community, and in prison-- to students, activists, unionists, and prisoners. Now, for the first time, his entire course is being made available online at:

This free online course consists of 13 two-hour video lectures by David Harvey, sharing his famous close reading of the text of Marx's Capital, Volume I. You can watch the videos online, or subscribe to the podcast.

David Harvey is a Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York (CUNY) and author of numerous books, including The Condition of Postmodernity, The Limits to Capital, The New Imperialism and A Brief History of Neoliberalism.

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