The Young Marx Reconsidered — Oscar J. Hammen
1840’lar uzmanı Marksolog Oscar J. Hammen’ın 1969 tarihli bu kısa makalesi, Genç Marx ile Olgun Marx’ın orta yerinde bulunan epistemolojik kopuş etrafında çevrelenen tartışmalara önemli bir katkı niteliğinde. Makale, kopuş bağlamında ‘Marx’ın devrimci siyasetinde taktik-stratejinin rolü’ bileşenini öne çıkarıyor. Sorunlu bulunabilecek ve tartışmaya oldukça açık pek çok yönü bulunuyor -bu manada pozitif bir huzursuzluk yarattığına şüphe yok ve kıymetini buradan alıyor. Hammen, 1843-46 arası dönemde Silezya Ayaklanması, Marx’ın Brüksel günleri, Prusya Devleti’nin yükselen otoriter çizgisi arasındaki delhizlerde kopuşun nedenlerine rastlamayı umuyor.
Taktiksel yönelimin rolü meselesi, 1930’lu yıllarda başlayan ‘Marx’ın hümanizmi’ tartışmaları çemberinde kendine yeteri düzeyde büyük bir alan açabilmiş değil. Zaten esas olarak, ‘kopuşun neden gerçekleştiği’ sorusu ancak müteveffanın hayat hikayesi bağlamında değer kazanabilir. Fakat kopuş gerçektir; Marksizmin ‘öğrencileri’ nezdinde değer taşıyan, Marx’ın erken dönem eserlerine içkin hümanist alfabenin hangi kanallar vasıtasıyla Marksizmin politik ekonomi bilimine yol verdiğidir. Yazıyı -gereken vakti yaratabilirsem, önümüzdeki günlerde Türkçe’ye çevireceğim. İlginize;
*İtalik ve kalın vurgular Hammen’a değil, bana aittir.*
The publication, over thirty years ago, of the early works of Karl Marx (notably of the fragments variously designated as the “Paris Manuscripts,” the “Manuscripts of 1844,” or the “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844”)’ confronted the world with the phenomenon of the “Young Marx,” who had expressed himself profusely in a more humanistic vocabulary than was to be found in the writings of the traditional, or older, Marx, who emphasized the economic factor more strongly. This discovery of the “Young Marx,” hailed by some as a revelation of the real Marx, became a veritable boon to teachers of philosophy and to others with similar philosophical inclinations. It was an equal godsend for those who wished to see their Marx divorced from some of the less humane manifestations of Marxism as professed and practised in the Soviet Union. It even helped to prepare the way for repeated conversations between theologians and Marxists, in the search for a common ground on which two worlds could meet.
The “Young Marx,” as viewed by the enthusiast, stands forth essentially as a philosopher of protest. The “Manuscripts of 1844,” studded with expressions such as “alienation,” “estranged labor,” the “transcendance of estrangement” and the “objectification of the human essence” are offered as the major exhibits. The relative rarity of such concepts in the later works of Marx (and Engels too) is cited to establish the separate identity of the “Young Marx,” or the “Ur-Marx.” Other indications, however, tend to support the view that no fundamental change occurred in Marx, with respect to his basic motives and the goals he pursued.
The controversy over the “essence” of the real Marx has been characterized by a relative failure to give due recognition to the fact that Marx was never a mere theorist, absorbed in an analysis of history and the human condition. He was equally a practitioner and promoter of revolutions in which he hoped to participate. As a revolutionary practitioner, he showed a continuing interest in the question of the proper revolutionary strategy and tactics, even of the need to adopt a given “line” to precipitate and simplify the revolutionary process. Marx’s various critiques stand out as models to demonstrate the manner in which the existing order was to be denounced and ridiculed.
This article will suggest that the transformation of the “Young Marx” into an allegedly changed product represents little more than a shift in tactics, coinciding chronologically with the adoption of the economic interetation of history, elaborated in 1845. Thereafter, the familiar philosophical concepts of the “Manuscripts of 1844” were employed very sparingly, though most judiciously. In order to establish the above contention, it is necessary to demonstrate that Marx, even in his earlier years, acted on the conviction that the adoption of suitable tactics and an appropriate “line” constituted an important factor in the process of undermining an existing order and in the energizing and consolidation of all available revolutionary potentials. It is also necessary to show that such a change in tactics did occur in the course of 1845.
The author does have to contend with a not uncommon impression that Marx, as a daring, forthright, and outspoken theorist and revolutionary critic of society, was above such tactical shifts and concealments. Henry B. Mayo, in an excellent analysis of Marxist theory, states that Marx “… wrote with a fine disregard of any consequences.” Sidney Hook seems to infer Marx opposed anything like a “party line” and the notion of “party discipline.’ H. R. Trevor-Roper, in a report on “Intellectual Marxism,”depicts a Marx who “. . . regarded revolution as inevitable, and had not bothered about its methods or details.” An ecstatic admirer of the “Young Marx,” Erich Fromm, goes the full distance when he asserts that Marx was “… a man with a complete inability to tolerate sham and deception.” Marx himself, it may be noted, frequently tried to give the impression that he disdained to hide anything. Although the above assertions can be buttressed by a show of probability, they are negated by a respectable array of contrasting evidence.
It is universally recognized that Marx initially appeared as a philosophical radical, committed to an assault on religion and the church in favor of atheism. He retained the same revolutionary militancy when he turned to politics, as an unavowed republican determined to remake thePrussian monarchist state. Marx began to show a marked respect for tactics and a disciplined attack on the status quo during the period when he was connected with the Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne, 1842-43, ultimately in the capacity of chief editor.The Rheinische Zeitung, although financed by the pro-Prussian and liberal Rhenish merchants and bankers, immediately came under the managerial and editorial control of the radical Young Hegelian sons of some of the same bourgeois stockholders, with Marx operating from behind the scenes. Marx at this time exalted the role of the philosopher who turned to journalism, thereby acting upon and interacting with the the real world.
“Philosophy then ceases to be a specific system in competition with other specific systems; it becomes the philosophy as such against the world; it becomes the philosophy of the contemporary world,” Marx asserted. This “true philosophy of the present” that illumined the columns of the paper failed, however, to get a recognition of its claims from the Prussian state. The paper immediately met with difficulties, even under the recently liberalized Prussian censorship instructions. It was allowed to continue publication because the Prussian authorities respected the stockholders, who were loyal citizens, and because they expected the paper to collapse financially. Under such circumstances, Marx showed his genius for tactics by advocating and later directing an editorial policy that criticised the existing government by indirection, interspersing the articles with praise of certain Prussian institutions without ever revealing the positive views of the newspaper. Late in August 1842, Marx warned Dagobert Oppenheim (connected with the management of the paper) against any “clear demonstration against the foundations of the existing order” that would merely provoke a tightening of censorship, perhaps even the suppression of the paper. In any event, such a “demonstration” would displease the “greatest number of the liberal practical men who had assumed the onerous role of struggling for freedom within the narrow constitutional limits,” Marx continued, “while we [the Young Hegelians], operating from the comfortable chair of abstraction, demonstrate the contradictions in their [the liberals’] views.” Any “entirely general and theoretical exposition” should be avoided. The “true theory” had to be developed and demonstrated within the context of “critiques of concrete conditions and existing circumstances.”
Although it is commonly claimed that the Rheinische Zeitung adopted an increasingly revolutionary and democratic tone after Marx became the chief editor in the fall of 1842, actually he followed a disciplined editorial course that avoided any open declaration of principles. Marx, accordingly, refused to print many articles from the Berlin correspondents, who were members of the Young Hegelian circle of “The Free,” including several of Marx’s combat companions of the near past. When that group, responding to an expanding interest in the “social question,” began to introduce an “entirely new ideology” (socialism and communism) into their articles, Marx declared that it was necessary to jettison a few “Berlin windbags” in order to preserve the “political organ” that he was editing. Even as late as January 1843 when the Prussian state acted to suppress the paper, Ludolf Camphausen, a Cologne banker, Catholic liberal, and staunch financial supporter of the paper, lamented the absence in the Rheinische Zeitung of any “clear and definite principles” because the editor refused to permit an expression of its positive political views.
When Marx resigned as editor of the Rheinische Zeitung about a week before the official date of its demise, he looked for a broader base to serve as a fulcrum to which he could apply his revolutionary and philosophical levers to move the world. It was then that he turned to the outwardly unpromising proletarian masses as the force that the dialectic demanded in its challenge of the existing order. The choice was almost inevitable because the signs of the age pointed to a “spectre of communism.” People spoke of “new barbarian invasions” coming from the lowest strata of society, of an increasing poverty in the midst of the new wealth resulting from the industrial revolution. There was a wide acceptance of socialist and communist views pointing toward a confrontation with the system of private enterprise, competition, and capitalism.
The first published presentation of Marx’s new views appeared in the German-French Yearbooks in 1844, during the Paris period. Marx there announced a new alliance between philosophy and the proletariat, with “war against the German conditions” as the order of the day. After having exposed “human alienation” along religious lines, it was now necessary to unmask the “self-estrangement [Entfremdung] in its worldly form.”” Germany, as the land of the true philosophy, was destined to experience the complete revolution. Since a “radical revolution” could only stem from “radical needs,” the Germans -who were the most retarded politically and had experienced all the sufferings of the more advanced peoples without sharing in their blessings- obviously were destined for the primary revolutionary role. In pursuit of this destiny, the Germans had to create a “class with radical chains,” a class that had experienced the “total loss of man” and that could only regain itself through the “full recovery of man.” Revolution, Marx asserted later in Paris, always resulted from the “irremediable isolation of man from society as such.” Revolution, as a political act, was necessary to end this isolation through the introduction of socialism.14 Marx claimed that a philosophical people could find its appropriate field of action only in the direction of socialism, with the proletariat as the active agent of liberation.’ Marx’s instinct for tactics, including the adoption of a needed revolution-evoking “line,” comes out clearly in the role that he assigned to the philosopher. The initial demand called for the drafting of critiques of the old order and the projecting of the revolutionary course that humanity was destined to follow. “Material power must be destroyed by material power,” Marx declared, “but theory becomes a material power as soon as it conquers the masses.”
Criticism, however, had to be pursued with an eye to its revolutionary ffectiveness. Criticism for Marx was no mere ivory-towered and detached exercise, designed to analyze objectively the existing world. Criticism, as Marx maintained, was no longer an object in itself, but merely a means. It was not an “anatomical knife; it is a weapon. Its subject is the enemy whom it does not seek to disprove but to destroy.” “Its essential pathos is that of indignation; its essential purpose is denunciation.” Marxian criticism was the equivalent of a “hand-to-hand combat”; in such a conflict one did not ask whether the enemy was a “noble, equal and interesting opponent; it is a question of killing him.”‘ In view of the above, the scholar is entitled to ask whether, and to what degree, such revolutionary mandates colored Marx’s appeal to human indignation and the denunciations of the bourgeois order in the successive critiques that he wrote. It may be possible to suggest that the tone and content of the critiques were not exclusively a product of a Marxian “moral indignation” over the condition of man.
With revolutionary success as the goal, Marx advanced additional tactical and strategic demands, grounded in a study of past revolutions and the requirements of the dialectic. The concept of the “revolutionary class” entered the picture. No class, Marx declared, could carry through a radical revolution unless it became the “general representative” of society as a whole; only in the name of the “general rights of society can a particular class justify its claim to universal power.” Beyond that, it was necessary to simplify and concentrate the process of revolutionary polarization and conflict by making another “specific class appear as the class of the general offense [Anstosses],” as the class responsible for the “notorious crime of the whole society,” so that the liberation from the rule of the latter class would seem like an act of “universal self-liberation.” In order that one class appear as the “liberating class par excellence,” the other class had to be depicted as the “undisguised enslaving class.” As Marx was wont to say, “For the initiated, no more need be said.” For all others, it may be necessary to stress that the Marxian division of society into an oppressed and an oppressing class was not merely a definition of an observed fact. It also served a revolutionary purpose. The latter may have been the decisive consideration.
It is hardly logical to separate the “Young Marx” of 1844, who defined the above tactical guidelines for revolution, from the man who drafted the “Manuscripts of 1844.” The scholar cannot avoid wondering to what degree Marx’s excessive emphasis on humanity and alienation in the “Manuscripts” reflected his stated requirement that the revolutionary class be portrayed as representing the “total loss of man,” with the victory of communism effecting the “full recovery of man.” Concurrently, the existing bourgeois order had to be made to appear responsible for the enslavement, degradation, and estrangement of man. In view of the humanist sensibilities of the age, Marx probably felt that the emphasis on “alienation” and the dehumanization of the masses represented the best means whereby he could express the desired “pathos of indignation,” together with a sweeping “denunciation” of the existing order, which he demanded in a critique.
It must be noted also that Marx focused his attention mainly on Germany at this time. He himself had just come to the conclusion that the true philosophy pointed toward a revolutionary alliance between philosophy and the proletariat. Germany, the philosophical nation, appeared therefore to be the promised land of the total revolution. The thought was not unique with Marx. Friedrich Engels (not to mention Moses Hess) had announced even earlier that the Germans were turning to communism, as the necessary consequence of the Young Hegelian philosophy. Since the Germans always placed principles above personal interest when the two collided, Engels stated, communism was encountering no serious resistance among the merchants and people with a university education.
The observations of others seemed to point to similar conclusions. Theodor Oelckers, in a widely read work published in 1844, noted that the demand for a fundamental reconstruction and improvement of social conditions had become universal. Philosophy was aiming at the perfection of society through the “organization of industry.” Man, thereby, would procure the widest opportunity for the development of his intellectual capacities, combined with the freedom to use them. The satisfaction of all human needs was in the picture. Marx himself, in commenting on the revolt of the Silesian weavers in 1844 (a favorite theme of socialist poetry and drama), stated that even the liberal German newspapers, the organs of the bourgeoisie, were filled with materials on “organization of labor, reform of society, criticism of monopoly and of competition, etc.” Yes, letters from Germany constantly expressed surprise over the small resistance put up by the bourgeoisie against “social tendencies and ideas.”
In view of the humanist sensibilities and philosophical inclinations that were current among the Germans, Marx might well conclude that a critique, couched in terms of alienation and similar concepts, represented the best device to ignite revolutionary passions against the existing order. A social revolution, “a protestation of man against a dehumanized existence,” was most likely among the Germans. Marx even claimed that the revolt of the Silesian weavers displayed a more advanced “theoretical and conscious character” along this line than had been evident in any French or English worker uprisings.
When Marx and Engels met in Paris in August 1844 and established a lasting partnership (a “company business” devoted to the promotion of revolution in the direction of communism), both were persuaded that Marx’s critique (the “Manuscripts of 1844”) needed to be completed and published. A month later Engels urged Marx to hurl the materials he had assembled out into the world. “It was damnably high time.” In January 1845 Engels again stressed the need for a “couple of bigger works” to furnish the half-informed but willing persons with a safe point of reference (Anhaltspunkt). By April, Marx evidently had given Engels the impression that the work was ready to be published. In any event, Engels stated in a report on the rapid spread of communism in Germany that Marx’s work was in print, side-by-side with his own book on the Condition of the Working Class in England. The announcement was premature.
Marx’s failure to print the “Manuscripts of 1844,” it must be noted, did not result from any publication difficulties, as he once intimated. Marx had a contract with Carl W. Leske, a Darmstadt publisher who even sent Marx an advance payment in July 1845. Only after waiting several years did Leske cancel the contract early in 1847. Marx, in all likelihood, failed to publish the “Manuscripts of 1844” because the work was no longer appropriate. They embodied a “line” (the philosophical approach, replete with references to alienation and humanity) that he was prepared to disavow as tactically outmoded and unfit. Several factors apparently caused Marx and Engels to decide to adopt a different tack.
Originally, Marx and Engels had asserted that the true philosophy logically pointed to the adoption of communism-as the conclusion resulting from a rational process. But even in 1844 their first joint undertaking was nothing but the composition of a polemic, The Holy Family, designed to ridicule and denounce Bruno Bauer and other recent Young Hegelian friends who had come to different conclusions after starting from the same philosophical premises. The manipulation of philosophical concepts manifestly could yield diverse results.
The formulation, in the spring of 1845, of the economic or materialistic interpretation of history caused Marx and Engels to adopt a different approach. The new outlook was free of any avowed philosophical premises, though both men certainly retained the dialectical turn of mind. From this point forward, they repeatedly claimed that communism was not just another of many special theories. Instead, communism and the revolutionary process which ineluctably led to communism were merely the reflection of an actual historical process-a real account of the developments of the past, of current happenings, and of the direction that the future would take. Any appeal to philosophical conclusions, concepts of alienation and humanity as such, could only weaken the case-unless they were judiciously employed. Above all, Marx and Engels apparently decided that a profuse use of the humanistic phraseology, while instrumental in evoking a demand for change, was causing their contemporaries to favor an immediate application of the human approach-in the form of a peaceful transformation of society, reconciliation of class conflicts, and the avoidance of a forceful revolution associated with violence and cruelty. The latter view commanded a general following among the countless socialists and other humanists of the age. Marx and Engels, in contrast, regarded class conflict as the midwife of social progress, with revolution as a destructive-creative necessity. Revolution was mandatory because the “ruling class could be overthrown in o other way.” Furthermore, the class that won the revolution could cast off “all the old dirt” only in the course of a violent upheaval. The creation of a massive communist consciousness, likewise, was possible only in a revolution. Again, the “massive transformation of man,” needed to make humanity fit for communism, could occur only within the context of revolution. Marx and Engels, therefore, proceeded to denounce and ridicule all humanistic and philosophical terms that tended to dilute or destroy the emphasis on class conflict and the necessity of revolution. After April 1845 Engels no longer urged Marx to complete and publish the “Manuscripts of 1844.” A new tone and terminology had entered the picture.
Since Marx published nothing during the remainder of 1845, the new approach was first demonstrated in the writings of Engels-usually submitted to Marx for corrections and amplification. In an “Introduction” and “Postscript” to a “Fragment from Fourier on Trade,” Engels led the way in deriding various German socialists who, allegedly, were spoiling communism and socialism with their philosophy. He denounced them because they limited themselves to a little bit of “humanity …realization of humanity, or, more accurately, monstrosity; a little commiseration over the lot of the proletariat together with something on the organization of labor.” In doing so, they deprived the movement of its “last drop of blood, its last sign of energy,” Engels claimed.
In the same article Engels reproached the German socialists because they found no cause to condemn the bourgeoisie, except for the question of the condition of the working class. The latter consideration, of course, was the primary one, Engels conceded. But then he cited the “Critiques” of Fourier to prove that the current bourgeois society had to be repudiated and reorganized regardless of the proletarian angle. Engels praised Fourier for disclosing the “hypocrisy of respectable society, the contradiction between its theory and practice, the monotony of its whole mode of living … its striving for perfection … its clean morals … its contemptible pleasures … its organization of cuckoldry in marriage, its general confusion.” These alone were sufficient to condemn the bourgeoisie and to call for a reorganization of society, even if the question of the proletariat were lacking. A communist revolution apparently was needed anyway, perhaps for aesthetic reasons.
The new tactics and line were portrayed most clearly in the Deutsche Ideologie, a joint work that Marx and Engels began in 1845-and in the pursuit of which Marx abandoned the “Manuscripts of 1844.” In the Ideology, Marx refers to the expression, “alienation,” in a deprecating manner. He uses the term merely to make himself intelligible to philosophers. Marx acknowledged that he himself had still used “philosophical phraseology” like “human essence” in the Deutsch-Franzisische Jahrbücher -thereby giving the German theorists the “desired excuse” to misrepresent the real developments. “Philosophy and a study of the real world,” Marx declared, “are related to each other as masturbation and sexual love.” Since the “Manuscripts of 1844” remained unpublished, he did not have to apologize for their “phraseology.”
Marx’s emphasis on specific tactics and an appropriate “line” emerged most clearly in his critique of the German socialists, notably the “True Socialists.” On the one hand, Marx gave the socialists credit for insisting, with Saint-Simon, that all men be granted the opportunity for the free development of their natural capacities and that society establish conditions that allowed the “all-sided development of the human being and the satisfaction of all needs,” Yes, the “True Socialists” also wanted work as such to become the “free expression of existence, and thereby a pleasure.” Marx, as is evident, did not question the humanistic motives and goals of the “True Socialists” and others. But he scornfully rejected the call for a union of all socialists and communists in the name of humanity. He accused the socialists of neglecting reality-the real struggles and needs of the age. The socialists were like a “coconut palm,” Marx declared, “that insisted that the world provide her with the proper soil, warmth, sun, air, and rain” needed for growth at the North Pole.
Marx disagreed with the socialists over the question of means and tactics. He demanded the omission of everything that weakened the consciousness of a total conflict between communism and the existing order. The socialists were to drop all “phrases” that disguised the conflict and gave the bourgeoisie the opportunity to approach the communists, on the basis of their “philosophical enthusiasm.” Marx denounced the “True Socialists” for appealing to “German sentiment.” They lost all revolutionary passion in the process and replaced it with a “general love of humanity.” They addressed themselves, not to the proletariat, but to the “philistines [Kleinbiirger]” and their philosophical illusions, and to the “ideologues” of the philistines, the “philosophers and the students of philosophy.” Marx continued the same attacks on the “True Socialists” in the Communist Manifesto, which ridiculed them for translating the French criticism of the economic system into “alienation of humanity.” This “enervating literature” expressed itself in the form of a “supreme and impartial contempt of all class struggles.”
Marx’s tactics and insistence on a given “line” appear also in his other occasional writings of this period. They were evident likewise in his organizational and propaganda activities in connection with the Brussels-based Communist Correspondence Committee, which is often regarded as the forerunner of the Communist League. The surviving evidence indicates that Marx insisted on a proper “line,” designed to nurture the desired revolutionary proletarian sentiment and a will to action.
This was certainly the case in a “Circular” drafted by the Committee against the then absent Hermann Kriege, a German socialist whom Engels initially had recommended to Marx. After migrating to New York, however, Kriege edited a paper, Der Volks-Tribun, in a spirit that deviated from the revolutionary style that Marx demanded. The Brussels Committee thereupon held court on Kriege’s views, with various copies of the Volks-Tribun as the major exhibits. The Committee incorporated its verdict in a “Circular” that condemned the “fantastic sentimental enthusiasm” of Kriege for compromising the position of the Communist Party and for demoralizing the worker. It accused Kriege of a “love giddiness [Liebes- duselei]” and supported the charge by citing 35 instances of the use of an expression of love, all in a single newspaper article. This, the “Circular” stated, had an enervating effect on both sexes. Kriege’s enthusiasm for the cause of “humanity” also evoked extended comment. The “Circular” then ordered Kriege to publish the full text of his own condemnation, as a public expression of his errors in the next issues of the Volks-Tribun. Marx’s instinct for tactics is illustrated especially in the condemnation of Kriege’s advocacy of the agrarian program of a “Young America” which demanded the distribution of 160 acres of public land to all needy persons. Such an approach, the “Circular” stated, would be acceptable if it were
presented as a “first necessary manifestation of the proletarian movement under given circumstances,” and, if Kriege had shown that the “Communist tendency in America initially had to present itself in this agrarian form that apparently was contradictory to all communism…”
Marx’s stress on the primacy of the proper tactics and propaganda also appeared clearly in the clash with Wilhelm Weitling and Moses Hess. Marx, with the enthusiasm of a new convert to communism, initially had acclaimed Weitling, the “first” popular communist German writer, as a living proof of the genius which lay dormant in the proletarian masses. Weitling’s mode of expression, however, was no longer acceptable by 1846. The showdown occurred in Brussels on March 30, 1846, during a meeting of the Committee attended by Marx, Engels, Philippe Gigot (a Belgian), Louis Heilberg, Sebastian Seiler, Edgar Von Westphalen (Marx’s brother-in-law), Joseph Weydemeyer, Weitling, and Marx’s guest, the Russian writer P. W. Annenkow (who in 1880 recorded his impressions of Marx). Weitling wrote a confused summary of what seems to have been a confusing melee. It appears that Marx demanded a “sifting” (Sichtung) of the Communist Party, so as to eliminate the communism of the skilled craftsmen (such as Weitling had been) and philosophical communism. Sentiment was to be rejected as a mere “giddiness” (Dusel). Weitling also charged Marx with threatening to withhold money for publication purposes from those who did not pursue a “suitable form of criticism.” (Marx just then was in an unusual position; he confidently expected to have control over considerable sums, promised by two wealthy Westphalian socialists, to be used for the purpose of financing all sorts of communist publications). Judging from Weitling’s account, Marx believed that he could enforce conformity by withholding money, thereby silencing those who dissented.
Moses Hess, an influential Rhenish Jew, who was active in the promotion of communist periodicals as well as newspapers, was too important perhaps to be censured in the same openly brusque manner. Hess, as probably the first to announce that the Hegelian philosophy pointed toward a communist conclusion, moreover, had converted Engels to communism. Hess, nevertheless, found it increasingly difficult to adhere to the fine line marked out by Marx and Engels after they turned to historical materialism and an economic foundation as the best basis for revolutionary communism. In a letter to Marx, Hess showed that he was trying to adjust himself to the demands of 1846. “As it was initially necessary to connect the communist strivings with the German Ideology,” Hess wrote, “so it is now equally necessary to base them on historical and economic premises, otherwise it is impossible to dispose of the ‘socialists’ as well as opponents of all colors.” Hess then assured Marx that he was confining himself to the study of works on economics; he eagerly awaited Marx’s own work on the subject (the “Manuscripts of 1844”) which, unknown to Hess, contained too much of the German Ideology to be published in its original form.
A review of the writings and activities of Marx between 1844 and 1846, inclusive, suggests the possibility that the excessive stress in the “Manuscripts of 1844” (unique even for the “Young Marx”) on humanity, aliena tion, and similar notions represented his conception of what was most appropriate at the moment for exciting a revolutionary spirit and for calling forth an energetic communist consciousness. After a year, Marx (and Engels also) abandoned that line when it appeared that such an approach failed to produce the expected results. It still remained possible for Marx to incorporate in his critiques the appropriate “pathos of indignation” and a “denunciation” of the existing society without bringing “alienation” and other sentimental, philosophical ideas into the picture at every turn. This does not mean that Marx and Engels abandoned a humanist vision. The sparse evidence indicates that their concept of the ultimate, the communist, society remained highly humanistic. This may have to be qualified by Marx’s assertion that the concept of the “humane” (menschlich) was relative, determined by the particular stage of production (Produktionsstufe) of each given epoch. That which would be stamped as “humane” in a communist society apparently could not be definitely certified until communism was established.
Any tendency to exalt Marx as a person with a uniquely humanist vision, in any event, seems oddly anachronistic. Humanism was a commodity which he shared with thousands of his contemporaries, including most of those whom Marx denounced in the most unsparing fashion. Moreover, could anyone in the 1840’s and thereafter advocate a revolution, to completely subvert and reorganize society, in the name of anything else but humanity!
Marx cannot be judged mainly on the basis of his good intentions, as demonstrated in the critiques of the status quo and in the sparsely revealed vision of a final communist society. Since Marx considered revolution to be vital, worked to bring it about, and hoped to participate in it as a necessary process in the pursuit of a perfected society, it is first of all necessary to inquire into the adequacy of the means that he advocated, as guaranteeing the advent of the new world. The ultimate judgment regarding Marx, in a realistic human sense, depends on the accuracy of his interpretation of history and on the question of whether revolution and all that it entails represents the only, or at least the most humane, avenue leading to a millenium. Lastly, was it realistic of Marx to assume that a revolution followed by a dictatorship of the proletariat could produce that “communist consciousness” and that perfected and versatile man without which a communist society, by Marx’s own definition, would be a chimera?