"Engelsism" - between a rock and a hard place?

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Marin Jensen
"Engelsism" - between a rock and a hard place?
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In post #96 on the discussion on the "1914 commemoration", Lbird brings up another of his regular preoccupations, that of "Engelsism/Leninism", which he claims is nothing to do with marxism. He claims that there is no "Scientific socialism of the positivist sort" (whatever that means), and that "the opposition of idealism to materialism" is an idea of Engels not Marx. In another post, he approvingly cites Marx's Theses on Feuerbach to show that Marx saw a value in certain forms of idealism (notably Hegelian idealism of course).

But where on earth does he get the idea that Engels and Marx disagreed on this? Here for example is Engels, in the Dialectics of Nature:

"It is an old postulate of dialectics, which has passed into popular consciousness, that extremes touch. We will hardly go wrong in searching for the most extreme grade of phantasmagoria, credulity and superstition, not in that scientific direction which, as in the German natural philosophy, tries to force the objective world into the framework of its subjective thinking, but rather in the opposite direction, that which, insisting on mere experience, treats thought with sovereign contempt, and which has really gone the furthest in its thoughtlessness. This school rules in England."

As for "Engelsian" scientific socialism, Engels' pamphlet "Socialism, Utopian and scientific", which one would think was a pretty definitive statement of Engels views on the question, is drawn from his Anti-Dühring, which was prepared in close collaboration with Marx, who contributed the chapter on economics. Marx also wrote the preface to the French edition of "Socialism..." - which to me is pretty conclusive evidence that Marx and Engels were in complete agreement on the meaning they gave to the notion of "scientific socialism". Not only that, to write Anti-Dühring, Engels had to put to one side his scientific work on the Dialectics of Nature, and all the scientific references in Anti-Dühring are basically taken from that work. Given that Marx collaborated on Anti-Dühring, it seems safe to assume that he agreed with Engels on the scientific outlook incorporated in that work. I would encourage comrades to read this article in the series on communism, which deals specifically with Anti-Dühring.
Indeed, Marx often consulted Engels on scientific issues and was prepared to accept Engels' critiques on his ideas.
The attempt to split Marx from Engels and Lenin is neither new nor original, it is more of a hoary old chestnut beloved both by academic philosophers unable to resist the power of Marx's theoretical work but incapable of espousing its socially revolutionary implications, and (more honourably) by councilists trying to avoid the implacable organisational implications of Marx's theory, life, and practice.


LoneLondoner wrote:
...[Engels'] Anti-Dühring, which was prepared in close collaboration with Marx, who contributed the chapter on economics.

This is factually incorrect, LL. Anti-Duhring wasn't 'prepared in close collaboration with Marx'. Chapter 2.10 (pp. 211-243 of Collected Works 25) 'Kritische Geschichte' is a text on economics written by Marx earlier, but not used, and edited by Engels (he says 'shortened somewhat by me' (p. 9), and that he made 'substantial additions' (p.15)); 30 pages of 'edited and added to Marx', out of 300 pages by Engels.

This is not 'close collaboration', by any measure, comrade.

I'll leave my comments to that; I've been allowed much space by the ICC to make my position clear, and have given comrades references to follow up on, if they desire.

It's up to comrades to satisfy themselves whether 'Marx-Engels' was, in effect, a single thinker. I disagree.

our emancipation

In a way Marx-Engels was a "single thinker" because they were working class  thinkers, produced by the working class itself precisely to think about the condition of the working class, its present and its future and give verbal expression to the thought and theory  produced. And they had working class critical faculties and other comrades' critical faculties and experience to draw on;    and the experience of the whole international working class  guiding what they did. This didn't automatically stop them from making errors, but they understood that errors can be clarified and corrected. So if Engels had moments when he might be thought to sound "like a positivist" this doesn't mean that he was a positivist, which is a bourgeois type, but that he was being  mistaken about something. Within the working class mistakes  can be learned from and will be corrected, if not by the comrades  making the mistake then by other comrades This is because we are, in a way, one thinker with one aim in view: our emancipation.  This is the major difference between us as a class and the ruling class, who are a motley collection of individual thinkers with constantly conflicting aims, whose collective thoughts, in so far as they have any, must inevitably be incoherent and contradictory, rooted as they  are in the addiction to competition and the desire to exploit.  


The working class is not like this.  We're all one in our thoughts - despite occasional lapses and misunderstandings - because motivated by the same thing: the desire to express as best we can what we believe our class thinks, feels, and understands as a result of its struggles and practice, in resisting oppression;  and how it should best act to further its interests in the future, as the class which alone  has a future within its grasp.    What is thought about this is the product of the whole class and clarified verbally by those who have the talent to do this best at the moment, on behalf of the whole class who critically respond and contribute.  

This is solidarity-in- thought.  A sort of communist noosphere  which has been under creation for many years  even going back long before the Communist Manifesto, which was the first attempt to bring together under one cover the communist and proletarian  knowledge achieved by the class thus far in its history.   


Good post Fred. Communist

Good post Fred. Communist thought develops not on the basis of "woudl be universal reformers", individual geniuses, but through what might be defined as association: not an anonymous, conformist collective but the interplay of freely associated individuals. Marx and Engels saw themselves as such an association: at certain moments they were content to see just the two of them as 'the party'. When Marx lived up on Grafton Terrace Engels, liberated from his manchester drudgery, would walk up from Primrose Hill almost every day to see Marx and discuss their work, pacing Marx's study in quest of clarification. They would have laughed at some of the later attempts to present them as two opposing trends in the workers' movement.  


"According to a certain school of academic Marxologists, councilists and anarchists, marxist theory entered a period of sterility after Marx's death in 1883.  The social democratic parties and the Second International, in this view, were actually dominated by "Engelsism", an attempt by Marx's second fiddle and his camp-followers to turn Marx's method of investigation into a semi-mechanical system which falsely equates radical social criticism with the approach of the natural sciences. "Engelsism" is also attacked for being a regression to quasi-mystical Hegelian dogmas, particularly in its efforts to elaborate a "dialectics of nature". In this view, what is natural is not social, and what is social is not natural. If the dialectic exists, it can only be applied to the social sphere.

This break in continuity between Marx and Engels - which in its extreme form dismisses almost the whole of the Second International as a vehicle for integrating the proletarian movement into the needs of capital - is frequently used to reject any idea of continuity in the political history of the working class. From Marx, whose work few of our anti-Engelsists repudiate (indeed they frequently become experts on the minutiae of the value/price transformation problem or other partial aspects of Marx's critique of political economy), we are encouraged to leap over Engels, Kautsky, Lenin, and the Second and Third Internationals; and although parts of the communist left may, despite being the scions of this dubious parenthood, be grudgingly acknowledged to have hit upon a few insights, the real continuity of Marx's theory passes from Marx to....the scattering of brilliant individuals who have really understood him in the last few decades - none other, in fact, than the proponents of the "anti-Engelsist" thesis.

We can't respond to this whole ideology here. Like all myths, it is based on a certain element of truth which is then distorted and exaggerated beyond measure. During the period of the Second International, a period when the workers' movement was establishing itself as an organised force within capitalist society, there was a real tendency to schematise marxism and to turn it into a form of determinism, just as there was a real pressure on the workers' movement from the weight of reformist ideas; and even the best marxists, including Engels himself, were not immune from this.[1] But even if Engels did make some important errors during this period, to flatly dismiss Engels' work in the years after Marx's death as a negation and a perversion of Marx's real thought is an absurdity given the extremely close cooperation between the two men from the beginning to the end of their relationship. It was Engels who took on the immense task of editing and publishing Marx's Capital and it is ironic that so many of those who try to drive a wedge between Marx and Engels are perfectly happy to quote the Marx of volumes two and three of Capital, despite the fact that they only appeared in public via the allegedly uncomprehending mind of Engels".


Marin Jensen
Won't wash I'm afraid

Lbird's "correction" won't wash for me. Apart from Marx's introduction to "Scientific socialism" which Lbird doesn't mention, here is a quote from Engels' preface to Anti-Dühring:

I must note in passing that inasmuch as the mode of outlook expounded in this book was founded and developed in far greater measure by Marx, and only to an insignificant degree by myself, it was self-understood between us that this exposition of mine should not be issued without his knowledge. I read the whole manuscript to him before it was printed, and the tenth chapter of the part on economics (“From Kritische Geschichte”) was written by Marx but unfortunately had to be shortened somewhat by me for purely external reasons. As a matter of fact, we had always been accustomed to help each other out in special subjects.

Faith of our fathers' holy faith...

LoneLondoner wrote:
Lbird's "correction" won't wash for me.

No, evidence never does for 'the faithful'!

As to the Engels quote, this is precisely what is at issue, LL.

Engels tells us that he and Marx were at one, about the philosophy of science.

But Marx doesn't.

And if any comrades read Marx, it soon becomes obvious why. Try Theses on Feuerbach, comrades.

Engels is the source for Marx's alleged views

LoneLondoner wrote:
Apart from Marx's introduction to "Scientific socialism" which Lbird doesn't mention...

Here is the 'evidence' for their 'close collaboration', according to LL:

Karl Marx, Introduction to the French edition..., wrote:

The pages which form the subject of the present pamphlet, first published as three articles in the Revue socialiste, have been translated from the latest book by Engels Revolution in Science [i.e., Anti-Dühring].

Frederick Engels, one of the foremost representatives of contemporary socialism, distinguished himself in 1844 with his Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy, which first appeared in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, published in Paris by Marx and Ruge. The Outlines already formulates certain general principles of scientific socialism. Engels was then living in Manchester, where he wrote (in German) The Condition of the Working-Class in England (1845), an important work to which Marx did full justice in Capital. During his first stay in England he also contributed — as he later did from Brussels — to The Northern Star, the official journal of the socialist [i.e. Chartist] movement, and to the New Moral World of Robert Owen.

During his stay in Brussels he and Marx founded the German workers’ communist club, linked with Flemish and Walloon working men’s clubs, and, with Bornstedt, the Deutsche-Brüsseler Zeitung. At the invitation of the German committee (residing in London) of the League of the Just, they joined this society, which had originally been set up by Karl Schapper after his flight from France, where he had taken part in the Blanqui conspiracy of 1839. From then on the League was transformed into an international League of Communists after the suppression of the usual formalism of secret societies. Nevertheless, in those circumstances the society had to remain a secret as far as governments were concerned. In 1847 at the International Congress held by the League in London, Marx and Engels were instructed to draft the Manifesto of the Communist Party, published immediately before the February Revolution and translated [at once] into almost all the European languages.[1]

In the same year they were involved in founding the Democratic Association of Brussels, an international and public association, where the delegates of the radical bourgeois and those of the proletarian[2] workers met.

After the February Revolution, Engels became one of the editors of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (Nouvelle Gazette Rhénane), founded in 1848 by Marx in Cologne and suppressed in June 1849 by a Prussian coup d'état. After taking part in the rising at Elberfeld Engels fought in the Baden[3] campaign against the Prussians (June and July 1849) as the aide-de-camp of Willich, who was then colonel of a battalion of francs-tireurs.

In 1850, in London, he contributed to the Review of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung edited by Marx and printed in Hamburg. There Engels for the first time published The Peasant War in Germany, which 19 years later appeared again in Leipzig as a pamphlet and ran into three editions.

After the resumption of the socialist movement in Germany, Engels contributed to the Volksstaat and Vorwarts his most important articles, most of which were reprinted in the form of pamphlets such as On Social Relations in Russia, The Prussian Schnapps in the German Reichstag, The Housing Question, The Cantonalist Rising in Spain,[The Bakunists at Work] etc.

In 1870, after leaving Manchester for London, Engels joined the General Council of the International, where he was entrusted with the correspondence with Spain, Portugal and Italy.

The series of final articles which he contributed to the Vorwärts under the ironic title of Herr Dühring’s Revolution in Science (in response to the allegedly new theories of Mr. E. Dühring on science in general and socialism in particular) were assembled in one volume and were a great success among German socialists. In the present pamphlet we reproduce the most topical excerpt from the theoretical section of the book, which constitutes what might be termed an introduction to scientific socialism.

[my bold]


No mention by Marx of their 'close collaboration' on Anti-During. In fact, Marx says the book is 'by Engels' and Engels contributed Anti-Duhring, rather than Marx claiming co-authorship (or, indeed, any part in it).

historical materialism

Not sure that i am that worried about who collaborated with whom or not.  I am not sure it is that important that Marx and Engels were as one or had disagreements on some issues.   I would be interested in whether there is a difference between Marx and Engels in their view of historical materialis however.  

That being said i can find one.  Ive read some letter by Engels from th 1890s on the  topic and they seem to be saying exactly the same thing as Marx did in 18th Brumaire for example (in fact same words if i remember correctly)    However i have come across a couple of suggestions (Loren Goldner and Erich Fromm) who seem to be suggsted there is a difference between Marx's view and the late Engels

Lbird clearly is widely read on the topics so does he have a point anywhere here?  He effectively is saying Marx was a bit of an idealist rather than a materialist isnt he?  On an SPGB forum,  Lbird himself is i think suggesting that communist consciousness is a product of an idea not the class struggle  -  (https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/comments/role-workers-councils...)    (hash 20)

Lbird. I know you rejected contributing here already but please id be interested to read through what you are saying.  Please do explain your view straightforwardly or copy something across.  As long as i dont have to read you another of your arguments  - very unconstructive and very uninstructive.

More unconstruction and uninstruction

link wrote:
Lbird. I know you rejected contributing here already but please id be interested to read through what you are saying. Please do explain your view straightforwardly or copy something across. As long as i dont have to read you another of your arguments - very unconstructive and very uninstructive.

I'm losing the will to live, Link!

If you're not interested in 'reading another of my arguments', what hope is there?

I'm providing structured arguments, producing evidence, exposing my ideological axioms, even giving quotes from books recommended by the ICC, unlike my opponents...

If you think I'm being 'unconstructive and very uninstructive', perhaps that's more to do with your ideological axioms?

Link wrote:
Lbird clearly is widely read on the topics so does he have a point anywhere here? He effectively is saying Marx was a bit of an idealist rather than a materialist isnt he?
[my bold]

I could weep, because I'm going round in circles, answering the same questions, on different sites, over different threads... you might as well read my contributions to the 'materialism' thread on the SPGB site, if you want further explanation.

But, once again: why do you think idealism and materialism are opposed, Link?

I can answer the questions for you (yet again). Engels told you so, in the quote given by LoneLondoner, earlier (Ludwig Feuerbach etc. 1888). And I've given quotes from Marx's Theses on Feurbach to show that he praises idealism in some ways and denigrates materialism in others, and unites them in an IDEA of 'theory and practice'. So, FFS, Marx was 'a bit of an idealist', comrade! And a 'bit of a materialist', too. What the f*ck do comrades think 'theory and practice' is? It's human creative ideas and their material implementation. Humans change the world, and in doing so, change themselves.

If comrades are not going to engage, and simply keep saying the same things, again and again...

If you already know Marx was a 'materialist', then stick with it! Don't bother to read my arguments. Have Faith, comrade!

Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy

Here's the quote, Link.

Engels wrote:
The answers which the philosophers gave to this question split them into two great camps. Those who asserted the primacy of spirit to nature and, therefore, in the last instance, assumed world creation in some form or other — and among the philosophers, Hegel, for example, this creation often becomes still more intricate and impossible than in Christianity — comprised the camp of idealism. The others, who regarded nature as primary, belong to the various schools of materialism.

These two expressions, idealism and materialism, originally signify nothing else but this; and here too they are not used in any other sense. What confusion arises when some other meaning is put to them will be seen below.

[my bold]


hoist on your own petard?

You’ve disproved your own argument haven’t you?

Surely the issue for you isn’t the extent to which Marx and Engels physically collaborated on this or that particular work, but whether there is a fundamental opposition between their views on idealism and materialism?

So why would Marx write such an approving introduction to Engels’ own work on scientific socialism? Why did he not even mention the fact that he was in disagreement with the theoretical basis of Engels’ views?

If you do have any evidence for your claim, then surely this is an issue of such iconoclastic significance for the whole revolutionary movement that you have a responsibility to publish it, so we can all have a proper, open, informed debate.

Hic Rhodus hic salta comrade…

PS The online version of Marx’s Introduction that you linked to says: "The last page of the manuscript contains a postscript in Marx’s handwriting: “Dear Lafargue, here is the fruit of my consultation (of yesterday evening) with Engels. Polish the phrases, leaving the gist intact.

Triumph and defeat, but for whom?

MH wrote:
You’ve disproved your own argument haven’t you?

Yes, I can see that quite clearly, now! Thank god for that. I've seen the light. I don't need to argue anymore!

Onwards and upwards, ICC!


And your serious (non-sarcastic) response to my straightforward question is...?

If you can't defend your arguments when challenged, or produce more convincing evidence for them, then comrades here will not unreasonably conclude that you are avoiding open debate of your views. Isn't that what you accuse the ICC of doing?

I'm serious; publish your evidence online, send us a link, let's all see what you think and subject it to the scrutiny it deserves. Your views are surely too important to restrict to discussion threads; this is of crucial importance to the working class movement.

Here is Rhodes, dance here!

The Engelsian Rhodes to Socialism

What's the point?

You've decided already. This is not a genuine request for information, because the arguments have been available for a century.

I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting you haven't read Marx, Pannekoek, Gramsci, Hook, Lichtheim, Avineri, Kolakowski, Schmidt, Ball, Thomas, Farr, Carver, let alone the whole school of Critical Realism, including Bhaskar, Collier and Archer.

If, having read these commentators, you're convinced Engels and Marx were 'close collaborators' on ontological and epistemological issues, nothing I have to say will change your mind, comrade.


Pure bluster.

If you really have read so much about this then it should be very easy to answer my question shouldn’t it?

So why would Marx write such an approving introduction to Engels’ own work on scientific socialism? Why did he not even mention the fact that he was in disagreement with the theoretical basis of Engels’ views?

Did it really not occur to you, after all your reading, and if it's all so obvious, that quoting Marx' own introduction supposedly to rebut LL, might apparently be so problematic for your argument?

And even if you don’t convince me, don’t you owe it to all the other interested comrades who might read this thread and want to know the answer? 

More Bluster

MH wrote:
And even if you don’t convince me, don’t you owe it to all the other interested comrades who might read this thread and want to know the answer?

I'll let them listen to you, MH.

And let you answer your own difficult questions. The one's that 'haven't occurred to me', or any other thinker, in the last hundred years.

Its good to get involved in an interesting discussion

When I said ‘argument’ I meant your rather ridiculous ‘disputes’ you created with other comrades  because its those ‘disagreements’ they were so uninformative.   Now look though, all I done however was set you off on one again.  My apologies for misleading you.

If you can come down low enough to communicate with me properly,  I did in fact say I was interesting in reading your views and ask you for an explanation.   I don’t really give a shit if you done it before because I am not omniscient and I don’t know where that is!! 

If you do have a structured argument prepared (if you see what I mean?) put up a link please and save yourself the effort of explaining yourself rationally a second time!   Hope thats ok but i would rather work out for myself whether I agree with you or not

No answer then?

Sorry, I’m not even sure what that means. So you’re not going to answer the question then?

Why, if there was such a fundamental opposition between their views on idealism and materialism, did Marx write an approving introduction to Engels’ own work on scientific socialism in 1880, with no mention of the fact that he was in disagreement with the theoretical basis of Engels’ views?

If you are unwilling or unable to answer this question here then invitably it's going to look like you are unable to back up your claims and are avoiding a debate when challenged, and we'll all draw the appropriate conclusions.

Lack of motivation?

Link wrote:
If you do have a structured argument prepared (if you see what I mean?) put up a link please and save yourself the effort of explaining yourself rationally a second time! Hope thats ok but i would rather work out for myself whether I agree with you or not.

Well, the 'prepared structured arguments' are in the list of authors I gave before, comrade!

I'm trying to simplify them, to help you and others avoid the years of reading required to 'work it out for yourself'.

But this requires some desire to learn. If you already know that 'Marx is a materialist', there's no point reading any further.

I looked further because I couldn't make sense of Marx if I followed Engels, Lenin, et al., and their argument that 'Marx was a materialist'. So, my lack of comprehension and understanding was the driver behind my reading - I was open to considering alternative viewpoints about Marx.

Now I can. Marx is an 'idealist-materialist'. There are several threads on here, with probably dozens (a hundred?) posts from me about these issues, and, quite frankly, I can't be arsed repeating myself again, to no apparent end.


A pedagogue that feels the need to insult and abuse all around when the inferiors don’t understand immediately or, even worse don’t agree, is a failing pedagogue  - all around simply get put off by the antics and stop listening.  

Lbird, yours is not the way forward - irrespective of the value of your arguments.

Either stop abusing and explain - or - piss everybody off.  Which has more value to you? (thats a rhetorical question!)

Insults, abuse... or failure to read?

I'll tell you what, Link. You read this thread, and give me your opinion, based upon the evidence presented so far (not on speculation by you or other posters), on whether Marx and Engels were 'close collaborators' or not.

This doesn't have to be a final opinion, of course, more 'evidence' can be presented by all sides later, but, for now, read this thread again, please, and give me your opinion, based on what's here, now.

Marin Jensen
Still not washing

LBird wrote:

No, evidence never does for 'the faithful'!

This is precisely the kind of ad hominem argument that Lbird complains is applied to him. Lbird assumes (on the basis of no evidence whatever) that I reject his argument because I have "faith" not because I have acually done some thinking and reading of my own... and disagree with him.

Lbird then quotes in extenso the introduction to "Socialism, Utopian or Scientific" (which saves me the bother), and claims that there is no mention of their "close collaboration" in it. Well of course, the introduction says that Engels wrote Anti-Dühring, something that nobody here has disputed (unless maybe it was Christopher Marlowe, who didn't really die in a pub brawl but all the time was.....). The point of quoting the introduction is to show Marx, apparently with no hesitation, endorsing Engels' work as an "Introduction to scientific socialism". If you have any awareness at all of Marx's character, his absolutely uncompromising intellectual rigour (try reading the Marx/Engels correspondance, or Nicolaevski's biography for example), it is simply unimaginable that he would endorse in such a way a work with which he was not in fundamental agreement. Just as it is equally unimaginable that Engels would have read the whole work to Marx, as he did (unless Lbird wants to label Engels a liar), and that Marx would have failed to criticise or correct anything he thought wrong, or that Engels would not have acted on Marx's criticism.

In fact, it seems to me there are two different issues here: the first is a historical issue of the degree of collaboration between Marx and Engels - did they agree on their approach to science and scientific knowledge; the second is whether there was a fundamental split - perhaps after Marx's death - by Engels from Marx's thinking (and what that thinking actually was). The second question is more difficult and complex. The first in my view is relatively straightforward.


Several points I can see

Several points I can see here:

1. On Marx's materialism, Marx was a materialist. It really is as simple as that. Assuming that we don't make up our own definitions of words, Marx believed that the material world had an existence entirely independent of human thought. That's materialism. Idealism posits the opposite - that the world is a product of consciousness or spirit, either in terms of being created by God, or being the product of human thought (another extreme example being Buddhism but some strands of modern social sciences essentially take this tack as well).

Of course, if one can only see materialism as the mechanical materialism of positivism, then we have a problem. Fortunately, anyone with any knowledge of materialism realises that even in Marx's day mechanical materialism wasn't the only game in town. Indeed, Marx's attraction to the ideas of Epicurus was based on the idea that materialism was opposed to teleological systems and thus provided a basis for the freedom of human beings against determinism.

Marx's attraction to the idealist dialectic of Hegel was both its rejection of determinism and its capacity to enable an understanding of process and progress. Not to mention the overcoming of alienation of thought.

2. On the differences between Marx and Engels and their collaboration. Like MH, I think the key point is whether there was a shared underlying method and not how many exact words Marx contributed to Anti-Duhring. Is there any evidence that Marx made a critique of Engels ideas of science? We do know that he trusted Engels to annihilate Duhring and encouraged the effort; and endorsed Engels scientific studies as published to Bracke and thought not only workers but even scientists could learn a thing or two from them. He also considered himself Engels' inferior when it came to understanding the philosophy of science. If there is a Marxist critique of Engelsism it was one that Marx himself felt hesitant to make.

The real question here is not whether Marx and Engels had identical views on all subjects. We know they didn't. Nor is there any question that in some areas one or other (usually Marx) would go far deeper into the analysis of a question and make the views of the other look crude to the point of contradiction.

For example, on the economic question, Engels initiated Marx's interest in economics, in particular connecting crisis with the anarchy of the market which in turn linked to the fundamental basis of capitalism in private property. Marx, however, developed a far deeper analysis which was able to explain a dynamic that went beyond the descriptive to explain why these phenomena developed on the basis of not simply the empirical facts of private property, overproduction, disproportionality, etc. but on the contradictions of use- and exchange-value, surplus and necessary labour, etc. The fact that Marx's analyses go deeper and sometimes makes Engels look merely descriptive in comparison doesn't necessarily mean there isn't an underlying unity to their thought because Marx still thought all those empirical facts were important (and he usually seems to pose the concrete question of crisis in terms of disproportionality, etc.).

The ultimate point being that Marxism is not a product of a single man, but a method. Practitioners of a method can make errors, propagate falsities, lack sufficient depth and yet still not be considered to be in fundamental opposition to that method they proclaim. When properly understood, Newton is not in contradiction with Einstein. Neither should Marx be considered in contradiction with Engels.

Alice in Duhringland

LoneLondoner wrote:
Lbird then quotes in extenso the introduction to "Socialism, Utopian or Scientific" (which saves me the bother), and claims that there is no mention of their "close collaboration" in it. Well of course, the introduction says that Engels wrote Anti-Dühring, something that nobody here has disputed ... The point of quoting the introduction is to show Marx, apparently with no hesitation, endorsing Engels' work as an "Introduction to scientific socialism".

This discussion is now moving into the realms of Lewis Carroll.

The phrase you used, LL, 'close collaboration', has now become 'endorsement'.

But one 'endorsing' someone else's work doesn't mean that one 'closely collaborated' in its production.

So, you can't find evidence from Marx of their alleged 'close collaboration', and now present evidence of Marx 'endorsing' Engels' work.

Perhaps it's me, LL, but I have to assume what you write is what you mean. Of course, in the rush to complete a post, we can misquote, forget a 'un-' or 'a-' or 'not' and change the intended meaning of our words for the opposite, or miss a link in a logical chain of argument.

But all these can be put right by a following post, and I'm sure we're all generous enough to accept a well-meant correction.

But this whole thread has been following the argument that Marx and Engels 'closely collaborated' on Anti-Duhring. This hasn't been corrected, and so we must assume that it was meant. But there is no evidence from Marx that this is so, only from Engels.

That 'fact' has to be the basis for any development within the thread.

Otherwise, I'm going to assert that the Jabberwocky wrote Anti-Duhring!

If you're going to use the

If you're going to use the word, "collaborate" in its strictest sense, i.e. a joint work, then no, Marx and Engels did not collaborate on Anti-Duhring in the way they did on The German Ideology for example. Now we've got that out of the way, how about answering the real question: were the positions of Marx and Engels fundamentally at variance? And you might also expand on your idea that Marx was an "idealist-materialist", too.

On Anti-Duhring you have offered no positive evidence that Marx disagreed with Engels on the content. At best, your argument is one of absence ... there's no evidence of endorsement, therefore there must be a difference. Well, there's no proof that God doesn't exist either but I'm not planning to attend Church this evening. Your argument is therefore logically flawed and factually incorrect.

It's factually incorrect because Marx did endorse Anti-Duhring. He wrote to Bracke (11th April 1877) concerning the publication of the book in Vorwarts, stating that "not only simple workers but scientifically educated people can learn from Engels’s positive explanations". As has already been pointed out, Marx wrote an introduction for the book in one of its editions in which he appears to endorse the expression "scientific socialism".

So we do have some direct evidence of endorsement. In addition, it's worth considering that Marx had 6 years before his death to critique AD. He never did. It itself, this doesn't prove no disagreement existed ... but this negative evidence combined with positive endorsement earlier strongly suggests there was no significant divergence.

Now, it is possible that Marx wasn't actually aware of underlying methodological differences between himself and Engels on this point. Marx, as I mentioned above, considered his own understanding of the question to be inferior to Engels and he may not have grasped the significance of some points. In which case, a case needs to be made at the methodological level, which is far more complex than arguing over the dictionary definition of "collaborate".

working together

I agree with Demo that the key thing is an agreed (theoretical-practical) method, which is in turn based on adherence to a tradition of fundamental principles.

The method would not work if there was not disagreement and debate between comrades, just as there was in Marx's study, and in their letters. I don't of course share Demo's criticisms of the so-called underconsumptionism (or is it overproductionism) of Engels and Marx. I don't really agree on his reading of Buddhism either. But if we approach both these, or other divergences. on the basis of a shared method, the debate can bear fruit, even if the fruition sometimes take rather a long time.   

Marx - what kind of materialist was he?

I made a point about this on the 'Theses on Feuerbach' thread I started. Marx wanted to go beyond all the old forms of materialism and help develop a new one which would incorporate the positive elements from idealist philosophies; a materialism no longer formed from the market place of individual atoms, ie from bourgeois society, but one which takes as its starting point "social humanity".  

Much agreement with Demo

Demogorgon, just a quick post to let you know that I'm not ignoring your contribution, and in fact agree with most of it, especially:

Demogorgon wrote:
Now, it is possible that Marx wasn't actually aware of underlying methodological differences between himself and Engels on this point. Marx, as I mentioned above, considered his own understanding of the question to be inferior to Engels and he may not have grasped the significance of some points. In which case, a case needs to be made at the methodological level ...

This is certainly the line I would take:

that it's arguable that 'Marx wasn't actually aware of the underlying methodological differences between himself and Engels', perhaps for the suggestions you make, Demogorgon, and perhaps because of the immense prestige of positivist science, which made so much real progress for humans;

and that, as a consequence, 'a case needs to be made at the methodological level'.

I've tried to do this on several threads, but the problem seems to be that to discuss 'at the methodological level' requires us to introduce the advances made by subsequent thinkers about ontology/metaphysics, epistemology, and method, during the later 20th century, and not just rely on quotes from the 'masters' of the late 19th/ early 20th centuries.

Since Alf has introduced another thread on the Theses, I suppose this one will now best be left alone.

Metaphysical Horror


The same ‘practical’ viewpoint is dominant in Marx’s conception of the cognitive functions of the mind and its role in the historical process; ‘practical’ is always regarded as implying ‘social’, and ‘social life is practical by its very essence’.So is the task of philosophy as defined in the eleventh Thesis, in what are perhaps Marx’s most-quoted words: ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.’

It would be a caricature of Marx’s thought to read this as meaning that it was not important to observe or analyse society and that only direct revolutionary action mattered. The whole context shows that it is a formula expressing in a nutshell the viewpoint of ‘practical philosophy’ as opposed to the ‘contemplative’ attitude of Hegel or Feuerbach – the viewpoint which Hess, and through him Cieszkowski, suggested to Marx and which became the philosophical nucleus of Marxism.

To understand the world does not mean considering it from outside, judging it morally or explaining it scientifically; it means society understanding itself, an act in which the subject changes the object by the very fact of understanding it.

Main Currents of Marxism Vol I (pp. 143-4) : Kolakowski 1978

Now this is not unadjacent to my understanding of Marx's Material Conception of History and possibly yours also (on other threads)

One things for sure: his writings are a vast resource: from breadth to grim detail; ruthlessly critical:

This is 'open thinking' as much as any can be -  that specific quote resonates,...he later smugly diminishes rather dismissively Rosa Luxemburg with words like 'slavish submission to authority' which for a young revolutionary woman, who was in jail by the time she was 18 is hard to swallow :and then ' her belief that in such submission the values of scientific thought can be preserved ' which doesn't make sense to me either logically or as a 'character depiction': nor do I quite fathom his basis for such a deduction.

Her writings and letters that I know have always given me the impression that she - if anything - was concerned to affirm -in 'debate' with Lenin for example- the little mentioned 'intuitive/emotional/non-robot' nature of human beings : constantly reminding as it were the 'overly-certain' 'organizers' that the whole point of the whole enterprise was precisely to liberate the repressed/oppressed richness of humanity.

In all honesty one would need a ten thread forum for pretty nearly every book if one really wanted to do them justice: but then that is also true of the 'Founders'

That's for another day : best leave it there.


And as I'm sure you know very artfully humourous -both on the light side and the dark....I mean:

“A Comment on Heidegger’s Comment on Nietzsche’s Alleged Comment on Hegel’s Comment on the Power of Negativity.”

Nuff said

(as soon as you mentioned his name I thought :'Ah... of course : 'My Correct Views On Everything' : LBird Kolakowski 1974 )



just do it!

About  Rosa  Luxemburg AS wrote

Her writings and letters that I know have always given me the impression that she - if anything - was concerned to affirm -in 'debate' with Lenin for example- the little mentioned 'intuitive/emotional/non-robot' nature of human beings : constantly reminding as it were the 'overly-certain' 'organizers' that the whole point of the whole enterprise was precisely to liberate the repressed/oppressed richness of humanity.

Good stuff AS. I like "intuitive/ emotional/ non-robot" as a hardly-ever-mentioned aspect of human thought. (I was going to say "consciousness" but am confused now as to whether that would be consciousness with a small or capital "c")   And also "overly-certain" "organizers" - which made me wonder where would we be these days on this forum without the indispensable and oh so significant and indicative of something unnamed inverted commas that aren't actually quoting anything?  (I'm not getting at you AS. I am besotted with them too!)  And finally the phrase to liberate the repressed/oppressed richness of humanity - which, interestingly, you don't place between  inverted commas at all. I wonder why?  Perhaps because it's such a lovely  phrase in itself (for itself even?) And liberating the richness of humanity  is to be the final triumphant goal of communism and doesn't require anything special in typographical terms to make its point, does it?  We just want it.   JUST DO IT! A final point. If what is meant when some comrades talk about "idealism" is actually "idea-ism" as I think you suggest AS,  then I have no complaints. 

Death Row

As a very junior member of Engels' legal team (although I haven't been paid for over 100 years ) I submit the below as a plea to give some reprieve to his poor corpse, before you send it's already lethally injected remains to the electric chair for a third execution.

This isn't specific to the Anti-Durhring but it seemed the most appropriate place to post it, rather than disrupting the progressive flow on the Feuerbach thread.

In 1886 Engels wrote and published 'Ludwig Feuerbach and The End of German Classical Philosophy' . Three years after Marx's death it was a reflective summary of the key steps on the way to Marx's radical theory of social development.

It has 4 simple chapter headings:

Hegel : Materialism : Feuerbach : Marx 

Chapter 4 : Marx . Engels describes how the ruling idea -especially since Hegel's time - 'this great thought ........ that the world can be comprehended as a complex of processes, in which the things apparently stable no less than their mind images in our heads, the concepts, go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away...... this great fundamental thought has so thoroughly permeated ordinary consciousness that in this generality it is now scarcely ever contradicted. 

Adding immediately:

but everything which sets men in motion must go through their minds; but what form it will take in the mind will depend very much upon the circumstances. The workers have by no means become reconciled to capitalist machine industry, even though they no longer simply break the machines to pieces... [my bold AS]

I would submit (m'lud) that the defendent is not only stating clearly that rocks did not 'tell' Neolithic man what to think, but that even advanced machine technology could not 'tell' Capital's workers what to think.


.... in Germany in the sphere of the sciences, philosophy included, the old fearless zeal for theory has now disappeared completely, along with classical philosophy.

Inane eclecticism and an anxious concern for career and income, descending to the most vulgar job-hunting, occupy its place. The official representatives of these sciences have become the undisguised ideologists of the bourgeoisie and the existing state — but at a time when both stand in open antagonism to the working class ....

I would therefore further submit that the defendent is irrebuttably stating that the Professors of Chemistry, the most prominent Medical Consultants, are revealed as nothing other than the undisguised ideologists of the bourgeoisie and the existing state.

Which is precisely the view of the prosecution.

Finally, with regard to joint effort with Marx. I draw the jury's attention to a footnote to this chapter (which almost seems to show a Nostradamus like prescience on the part of Herr Engels : ' and in the twenty first of the centuries, a wingéd comrade will break every bone of Frodorik's body') 

Engels writes:

(1) Here I may be permitted to make a personal explanation. Lately repeated reference has been made to my share in this theory, and so I can hardly avoid saying a few words here to settle this point. 

I cannot deny that both before and during my 40 years’ collaboration with Marx I had a certain independent share in laying the foundation of the theory, and more particularly in its elaboration.

But the greater part of its leading basic principles, especially in the realm of economics and history, and, above all, their final trenchant formulation, belong to Marx.

What I contributed — at any rate with the exception of my work in a few special fields — Marx could very well have done without me.

What Marx accomplished I would not have achieved. Marx stood higher, saw further, and took a wider and quicker view than all the rest of us. Marx was a genius; we others were at best talented. Without him the theory would not be by far what it is today. If therefore rightly bears his name. 

I rest my case ...(whatever any later horrendous protagonists said or did on the basis of a report of what someone erroneously thought or said Engels thought or wrote)



Red Hughs
The topic of "Engelism" is

The topic of "Engelism" is quite interesting.

One thing I've noted in comtemporary Marxist theory is the tendency for theorists to consider "Marx's idea" as a thing seperate from the historical process that Marx was a part of.

I don't think all of the particular insights of these tendencies are useless the overall approach of "just trying to understand Marx", as a technical enterprise contrasted to being a part of the overall project of creating communism, is a very flawed approach.

The following article is rather telling in this regard - it sketches a history of various communist theories but labeled as "Ways of Reading Marx’s Theory".


I think Theses on Feuerbach, actually, is a fine andidote to this implicit "history as a product of great ideas" view. .

An especially, uh, interesting approach is the theory of "esoteric Marx" - the idea that Marx's real idea were secret, despite the fact that Marx worked his entire life to propagate and clarify his ideas.

This isn't to say that all of Marx's comrades were always on the same page as him but assumption of secret ideas seems especially counter-intuitive.



Thank you comrades Simpleton

Thank you comrades Simpleton and Red Hughes for your excellent posts above, which I agree with and therefore find...excellent!  


Good point Red Hughes about Marx's ideas  being removed  from their historical context and also I guess from their proletarian and political significance.  The bourgeoisie will like that.  And I love  and adore the idea of "the esoteric Marx" hiding what he really thought from the all prying  eyes of those he was actually writing for.  


SECRET IDEAS is  an especially bourgeois concept. This is because the bourgeoisie don't actually have any ideas any more, except about war, and are thus forced to keep the ideas they haven't got secret so that  nobody'll  find out they haven't got any.  And that's why they police the web and tap the phones.  

Yet they still can't locate a jet plane with 239 passengers and crew that disappeared, just like that, somewhere in S.East Asia more than a week ago.  Or is this some new SECRET?