Wednesday, August 22, 2018

C.L.R. James (aka, J.R. Johnson)--The Communist Party’s Zigzags on Negro Policy (15 August 1939)
This is an extract from The SWP Tackles Negro Work, The Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 59, 15 August 1939, p. 3.
Republished in Scott McLemee (ed.), C.L.R. James on the “Negro Question”, Jackson (Miss.) 1996, pp. 116–117.
Transcribed by Daniel Gaido.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The CP passed through three stages in its Negro work: (a) up to 1928 when the Negro work was neglected, (b) 1929–35 when it made a drive, the period of which coincided with the period of [denouncing all other left currents as] social-fascism, and (c) 1935-39, the open abandonment of the revolutionary line by the CP and the catastrophic loss of nearly all its Negro membership.

In The Communist of September 1929, Cyril Biggs reviews the early experiences of the CP on the Negro question. For years, the Negro membership of the CP could be counted “literally” on the fingers of one hand. In 1928, the drive was initiated directly by the Comintern, which insisted at the 6th World Congress that the CP place the winning of the Negroes as one of its major tasks henceforth in America. The political line of the CP in those days was of course the line of social-fascism. Daily they went into action to make the revolution on every street corner. They formed their own red trade unions. They called Roosevelt and the New Dealers the worst enemies of the working class and the initiators of fascism in this country. They foamed at the mouth whenever they mentioned the NAACP and other petty-bourgeois Negro organizations.

That political line was false. It was nearly though not quite as bad as their present line of the Democratic Front – repudiating the revolution, making out Roosevelt and the New Deal to be the sole salvation of the American workers, grinning and smirking at Walter White and the NAACP.

Furthermore in 1929 the CP had many blunders to live down. It had opposed the migration of Negroes from the South to the North on the grounds that these newcomers would affect the economic position of the white workers in the North and result in sharpening racial antagonism. The Negro comrades who opposed this “gargantuan stupidity” were refused the five or six dollars they got weekly as postage for the news service they sent out to about 300 Negro newspapers. The CP had openly opposed social equality for Negroes at a convention in New York. This piece of stupidity was given wide publicity in the capitalist press and extensively quoted in the Negro press. Even when the turn was made to the Negroes, the party was guilty of open acts of blatant chauvinism.

In the unions there were scores of functionaries and departments for Greek, Italian, Jewish workers etc. But there was not a single Negro functionary, despite the fact that there were several thousand Negro workers in the needle trades in New York City alone. The personal behavior of whites to Negro comrades was frequently such as to damn the party in the minds of all Negroes who heard of it. One Negro comrade, Nicolai Garcia, was in Baltimore six days before he was able to get a bed. The white comrades with whom he came into contact just didn’t know what to do with him. Yet two days later when a white comrade arrived from New York and talked about going to a hotel, there were protests and offers from white comrades to put him up. Such incidents always spread like wildfire among Negroes. Here then was a false political line and a party membership many elements of which had not rid themselves of the crudest discrimination and prejudices practiced by capitalist society.

And yet, despite these handicaps, between 1929 and 1936 the party made progress. The social-fascist line at least summoned the masses to struggle. It differentiated sharply between the aims and methods of Communists on the one hand and of bourgeois politicians and vaguely “progressive” persons on the other. The CP made a revolutionary approach to the Negroes. And despite distortions of the revolutionary line, the demagogy and corruption, the bureaucratic manipulation of the Negro leaders, the chauvinism open and inverted, the party gained thousands of members and won a sympathetic if critical interest among many sections of the Negro community.

Then the line changed from one that at least attempted to be revolutionary to one which is today openly tied to American imperialism and the Roosevelt war machine. The result was immediate and unmistakable. Of their 2,000 Negro members in New York State, the CP has lost over 80% and the same thing happened all over the country.
C.L.R. James (aka, J.R. Johnson) on The SWP and Negro Work--(July 1939)
Source: SWP New York Convention Resolutions, 11 July 1939.
Proofreading: Einde O’Callaghan (March 2016).

The American Negroes, for centuries the most oppressed section of American society and the most discriminated against, are potentially the most revolutionary elements of the population. They are designated by their whole historical past to be, under adequate leadership, the very vanguard of the proletarian revolution. The neglect of Negro work and of the Negro question by the party is therefore a very disquieting sign. The SWP must recognize that its attitude to the Negro question is crucial for its future development. Hitherto the party has been based mainly on privileged workers and groups of isolated intellectuals. Unless it can find its way to the great masses of the underprivileged, of whom the Negroes constitute so important a section, the broad perspectives of the permanent revolution will remain only a fiction and the party is bound to degenerate.

The SWP proposes therefore to constitute a national Negro department which will initiate and coordinate a plan of work among the Negroes and calls upon its members to cooperate strenuously in the difficult task of approaching this work in the most suitable manner. Our obvious tasks for the coming period are (a) the education of the party; (b) winning the politically more advanced Negroes for the Fourth International; and (c) through the work of the party among the Negroes and in wider fields, influencing the Negro masses to recognize in the SWP the only party which is genuinely working for their complete emancipation from the heavy burdens they have borne so long. The winning of masses of Negroes to our movement on a revolutionary basis is, however, no easy task. The Negroes, suffering acutely from the general difficulties of all workers under capitalism, and in addition, from special problems of their own, are naturally hesitant to take the step of allying themselves with a small and heavily persecuted party. But Negro work is complicated by other, more profound, causes. For reasons which can be easily understood, the American Negro is profoundly suspicious of all whites, and recent events have deepened that suspicion.

In the past, the Negro masses have had disastrous experiences with the Republican and Democratic parties. The benefits that the Negroes as a whole are supposed to have received from the New Deal and the Democratic Party can easily be seen for the fraud that they are when it is recognized that it is the Democratic Party of Franklin Roosevelt which by force and trickery prevents the Negroes from exercising their votes over large areas in the South.

The CP of the U.S.A. from 1928 to 1935 did win a number of Negroes to membership and awakened a sympathetic interest among the politically more advanced Negro workers and intellectuals. But the bureaucratic creation of Negro "leaders," their subservience to the twists and turns of the party line, their slavish dependence on the manipulations and combinations of the CP leadership, were seen by interested Negroes not as a transference of the methods and practices of the Kremlin bureaucracy to America, but merely as another example of the use of Negroes by whites for political purposes unconnected with Negro struggles. With its latest turn beginning in 1935, the CP has become openly a party of American bourgeois democracy. Not only to expand, but merely to exist in this milieu demanded that it imbibe and practice the racial discriminations inherent in that society. The Negroes, very sensitive to all such practices, have quickly recognized the new face of the CP beneath the mask of demagogy with which it seeks to disguise the predicament in which it finds itself, and the result has been a mass departure from the party (80 percent of the New York State Negro membership) and a bitter hostility to the CP, which reached a climax when well-known former Negro members of the CP testified against it before the Dies Committee. Once more the Third International has struck a deadly blow at the American working class, this time by undermining the confidence that was being slowly forged between the politically advanced sections of the black and white workers.

Furthermore, the awakening political consciousness of the Negro not unnaturally takes the form of a desire for independent action uncontrolled by whites. The Negroes have long felt and more than ever feel today the urge to create their own organizations under their own leaders and thus assert, not only in theory but in action, their claim to complete equality with other American citizens. Such a desire is legitimate and must be vigorously supported even when it takes the form of a rather aggressive chauvinism. Black chauvinism in America today is merely the natural excess of the desire for equality and is essentially progressive while white American chauvinism, the expression of racial domination, is essentially reactionary. Under any circumstances, it would have been a task of profound difficulty, perhaps impossible, for a revolutionary party composed mainly of whites to win the confidence of the American Negro masses, except in the actual crises of revolutionary struggles. Such possibilities as existed, however, have been gravely undermined by the CP. Today the politically minded Negroes are turning away from the CP, and Negro organizations devoted to struggle for Negro rights are springing up all over the North and East, particularly in Harlem. The nationalist tendencies of the Negroes have been fortified, and in addition to the poisoning of racial relations by capitalism, the SWP has now to contend with the heritage left by the CP and the pernicious course it is still actively pursuing.

The SWP therefore proposes that its Negro members, aided and supported by the party, take the initiative and collaborate with other militant Negroes in the formation of a Negro mass organization devoted to the struggle for Negro rights. This organization will NOT be either openly or secretly a periphery organization of the Fourth International. It will be an organization in which the masses of Negroes will be invited to participate on a working-class program corresponding to the day-to-day struggles of the masses of Negro workers and farmers. Its program will be elaborated by the Negro organization, in which Negro members of the Fourth International will participate with neither greater nor lesser rights than other members. But the SWP is confident that the position of the Negroes in American society, the logic of the class struggle in the present period, the superior grasp of politics and the morale of members of the Fourth International, must inevitably result in its members exercising a powerful influence in such an organization. The support of such an organization by the SWP does not in any way limit the party's drive among Negroes for membership, neither does it invalidate the necessary struggle for the unity of both black and white workers. But that road is not likely to be a broad highway. Such an organization as is proposed is the most likely means of bringing the masses of Negroes into political action, which, though programmatically devoted to their own interests, must inevitably merge with the broader struggles of the American working-class movement taken as a whole. The SWP, therefore, while recognizing the limitations and pitfalls of a mass organization without clearly defined political program, and while retaining its full liberty of action and criticism, welcomes and supports any attempt by Negroes themselves to organize for militant action against our common oppressors, instructs its Negro members to work actively toward the formation of such an organization, and recommends to the party members to follow closely all such manifestations of Negro militancy.
Nadezhda K. Krupskaya--The Lessons of October
Source: The Errors of Trotskyism, May 1925
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/HTML Markup: Brian Reid

Two years ago, Vladimir Ilyitch, speaking at a plenary meeting of the Moscow Soviet, said that now we were treading the path of practical work, that we were no longer treating Socialism as an ikon merely to be described in glowing colours. “We must take the right road,” he said, “it is necessary to submit everything to the test; the masses and the whole population must test our methods, and say: ‘Yes, this order of things is better than the old one.’” This is the task which we have set ourselves.

Our Party, a small group in comparison to the total population, took up this task. This small group undertook to change everything, and it did change everything. That this is no Utopia, but a reality in which we live, has been demonstrated. We have all seen that it has been done. We had to do it in such a way that the great majority of working proletarians and peasants had to admit: “It is not you who praise yourselves, but we who praise you. We tell you that you have attained so much better results that no reasonable human being would ever think of returning to the old order.”

The Party works continually and unwearyingly. In 1924 the fact of the Lenin Recruitment showed us that the working masses regard the C.P. as their Party. This is an important point. This is a real and permanent achievement, and in itself no small praise. Out in the country we are praised already for many things, though these things are as yet but little. Our Party devotes much attention to the peasantry, and not only to the whole peasantry, but to the poorer and middle strata. The Party is working for the improvement of the subordinate Soviet apparatus; it aids the village nuclei in their work, and hopes to attain much. The Party accomplishes a large amount of practical work of every description, comprising an enormous field of activity, and guides the carriage of history along the road pointed out by Lenin.

The Party has devoted itself seriously to the accomplishment of practical work. Under our conditions this is an extremely difficult task, and for this reason the Party is so hostile to any discussion. For this reason Comrade Trotsky’s speech on the last barricade seemed so strange to the Thirteenth Party Conference. And for this reason great indignation has been aroused by Comrade Trotsky’s latest “literary” efforts.

I do not know whether Comrade Trotsky has actually committed all the deadly sins of which he is accused—the exaggerations of controversy are inevitable. Comrade Trotsky need not complain about this. He did not come into the world yesterday, and he knows that an article written in the tone of the “Lessons of October” is bound to call forth the same tone in the ensuing controversy. But this is not the question. The question is that Comrade Trotsky calls upon us to study the “Lessons of October,” but does not lay down the right lines for this study. He proposes that we study the role played by this or that person in October, the role played by this or that tendency in the Central Committee, etc. But this is what we must not study.

The first thing which we must study is the international situation as it existed in October, and the relations of class forces in Russian at that time.

Does Comrade Trotsky call upon us to study this? No. And yet the victory would have been impossible without a profound analysis of the historical moment, without a calculation of the actual relations of forces. The application of the revolutionary dialectics of Marxism to the concrete conditions of a given moment, the correct estimation of this moment, not only from the standpoint of the given country, but on an international scale, is the most important feature of Leninism. The international experience of the last decade is the best confirmation of the correctness of this Leninist process. This is what we must teach the Communist Parties of all countries, and this is what our youth must learn from the study of October.

But Comrade Trotsky overlooks this question. When he speaks of Bulgaria or Germany, he occupies himself but little with the correct estimation of the moment. If we regard events through Comrade Trotsky’s spectacles, it appears exceedingly simple to guide events. Marxist analysis was never Comrade Trotsky’s strong point.

This is the reason why he so under-estimates the role played by the peasantry. Much has already been said about this.

We must further study the Party during October. Trotsky says a great deal about the Party, but for him the Party is the staff of leaders, the heads. But those who really wish to study October, must study the Party as it was in October. The Party was a living organism, in which the C.C. (“the staff”) was not cut off from the Party, in which the members of the lowest Party organisations were in daily contact with the members of the C.C. Comrades Sverdlov and Stalin knew perfectly well what was going on in every district in Petrograd, in every province, and in the army. And Lenin knew all this as well, though living illegally. He was kept well informed and received letters about everything which occurred in the life of the organisation. And Lenin did not only know how to listen, he also knew very well how to read between the lines. The victory was made possible by precisely the fact that there was a close contact between the C.C. and the collective organisation.

A Party whose upper stratum had lost contact with the organisation would never have been victorious. All Communist Parties must impress this upon themselves, and organise themselves accordingly.

Where the Party is so organised, where the staff knows the will of the collective organisation—and not merely from the resolutions—and works in harmony with this will, the vacillations or errors of individual members of the staff do not possess the decisive significance ascribed to them by Comrade Trotsky. When history confronts the Party with an entirely new and hitherto unexampled emergency, it in only natural that the situation is not uniformly estimated by everyone, and then it is the task of the organisation to find the right common line.

Lenin invariably attached enormous importance to the collective organisation of the Party. His relations to the Party Conferences were based upon this. At every Party Conference he brought forward everything which he had thought out since the last Party Conference. He held himself to be chiefly responsible to the Party Conference, to the organisation as a whole. In cases of differences of opinion he appealed to the Party Conference (for instance in the question of the Brest Peace).

Trotsky does not recognise the part played by the Party as a whole, as an organisation cast in one piece. For him the Party is synonymous with the staff. Let us take an example: “What is the Bolshevisation of the Communist Party?”—he asks in the “Lessons of October.” It consists in so educating the Parties, and so choosing their leaders that they do not go off the tracks when their October comes.

This is a purely “administrative” and utterly superficial standpoint. Yes, the personalities of the leaders is a point of the utmost importance. Yes, it is necessary that the most gifted, the best, the firmest in character of our members are selected for our staff: but it is not merely a question of their personal capacities, but a question of whether the staff is closely bound up with the whole organisation.

There is another factor thanks to which we have accomplished our victory in October, and that is the correct estimation of the role and importance of the masses. If you will read all that Lenin wrote on the role played by the masses in the revolution and in the development of Socialism, you will see that Lenin’s estimation of the part played by the masses is one of the corner-stones of Leninism. For Lenin the masses are never a means, but the decisive factor. If the Party is to lead millions, it must be in close contact with these millions, is must be able to comprehend the life, the sorrows, and aspirations of the masses. Bela Kun relates that when he began to speak to Lenin about a revolutionary war against Germany, Lenin replied “I know that you are not a mere chatterbox—take a journey to the front to-morrow and see whether the soldiers are ready for a revolutionary war.” Bela Kun took the journey to the front, and saw that Lenin was in the right.

We do not find any appeal for the study of this side of the October revolution in the “Lessons of October.” On the contrary. When forming his estimate of the German events, Comrade Trotsky under-estimates the passivity of the masses.

A certain Syrkin has put a very foolish interpretation on John Reed’s book. Many people are of the opinion that we should not put John Reed’s book into the hands of young people. It contains inaccuracies and legends. The history of the Party is not to be learnt from Reed. Why then did Lenin recommend this book so warmly? Because in the case of John Reed’s book this question is not the main point. The book gives us an excellent and artistic description of the psychology and trends of feeling among the masses of the soldiery and the workers who accomplished the October revolution, and of the clumsiness of the bourgeoisie and its servants. John Reed enables even the youngest Communist to grasp the spirit of revolution much more rapidly than the perusal of dozens of protocols and resolutions. It does not suffice for our youth to merely know the history of the Party, it, is of equal importance that they feel the pulse of the October revolution. How can our youth become Communists if they know nothing more than Party conditions in their narrower import, and do not feel what war and revolution have been?

Comrade Trotsky approaches the study of October from the wrong side. The incorrect estimate of October is only one step removed from a wrong estimate of actuality and from the wrong estimates of a number of phenomena of immense significance. The wrong estimate of actuality leads to wrong decisions and actions. Anyone can comprehend this. What has happened cannot be undone. Since the “Lessons of October” have seen the light of day, they must be fully discussed in the press and in the Party organisation. This must be done in a form accessible to every member of the Party.

Our Party has now greatly increased in numbers. Broad masses of workers are joining the Party, and these workers are insufficiently enlightened on the questions raised by Comrade Trotsky. Things perfectly clear to an old Bolshevist, who has fought determinedly for the Leninist line, are not clear to the young Party member. The Leninist must learn, above all, not to say that: “The discussion of this question disturbs us in our learning.” On the contrary, the discussion of this question will enable us to gain an even profounder comprehension of Leninism.

Comrade Trotsky devoted the whole of his powers to the fight for the Soviet power during the decisive years of the revolution. He held out heroically in his difficult and responsible position. He worked with unexampled energy and accomplished wonders in the interests of the safeguarding of the victory of the revolution. The Party will not forget this.

But the achievements of October have not yet been fully consummated. We must continue to work determinedly for their fulfilment. And here it would be dangerous and disastrous to deviate from the historically tested path of Leninism. And when such a comrade as Trotsky treads, even unconsciously, the path of revision of Leninism, then the Party must make a pronouncement.
Nadezhda K. Krupskaya--Young Pioneers, How Women Can Help
Source: Workers’ Weekly, July 3, 1925
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate

The bourgeoisie of all countries understands to a nicety what a great power the experiences of childhood have over people, and for this reason it endeavours to bring the children up in the bourgeois spirit from their earliest years.

The clergy, the teachers servile to the bourgeois Government, the unprincipled penny-a-line children’s authors and the grasping cinema proprietors all work feverishly in this direction.

During recent years the bourgeoisie has resorted to the Boy Scouts system for organising the children in detachments faithful to the old order, Camping, bivouacs, amusing games, sports—all these interests so engross the children that they do not know that in these organisations they are being quietly caught in the net of bourgeois ideas, and that they are being trained as the servile slaves of capitalism. The Fascist children’s organisation in Italy, the “Belilla,” is based on the same principles as the Boy Scouts.

A Million Russian Pioneers

On the other hand we see the Young Communist International, aided by the Communist Parties, striving to organise a Communist Children’s Movement.

In Germany the children’s groups are very well organised. The children do not let themselves be caned in the schools, refuse to say prayers, help the workers on strike, collect money for hungry children, and for all these things they are often taken to the police station, where they conduct themselves manfully. The Children’s Movement organises them and trains them in manliness and the will to struggle.

Here in Russia the Children’s Movement has also begun to grow. The participants in this Movement, aged from eleven to fourteen, are called the “Young Pioneers,” of which there are now already about a million.

It is important that the Children’s Movement be as closely as possible connected with the workers’ organisations, especially the women’s.

What can the working women do for the Young Pioneers? Conscious working women can, above all, carry on wide agitation among the women workers and peasants, who are not class conscious, explaining to them what are the “Young Pioneers.”

Explaining the Movement

Participation in the “Young Pioneers” organisation gives workers’ children friendship with their comrades, many happy experiences and a knowledge of the working-class struggle. It also arouses their curiosity. This must all be explained to those working and peasant women who do not like their children joining the Pioneers and scold them for it.

It must be explained to them that it is no less important for the girls than for the boys to join the Pioneers. The girls must not be tied down to the home, but from the early years should be accustomed to being together, in one organisation with the boys—to be with them on a comradely footing.

Young Pioneers desire, to work, they want to have industrious hands; in fact, they want to be able to do a great deal, and they are prepared to learn from whoever can teach them. The working women are capable of a great deal, let them transmit their knowledge to the Pioneers.

The working women can find a thousand ways in which to help the Young Pioneers to grow up as steadfast fighters, capable workers for the future, and good Communists.
Nadezhda K. Krupskaya--On Communist Ethics--Written: 1924-1936
Source: Communist Morality, compiled by N. Bychkova, R. Lavrov and V. Lubisheva, Progress Publishers, 1962;
Transcribed and HTML Markup: Sally Ryan for, September, 2002.

From the Speech at the Sixth Congress of the Russian Leninist Young Communist League
July 12, 1924

...We should try to link our personal lives with the cause for which we struggle, with the cause of building communism.

This, of course, does not mean that we should renounce our personal life. The Party of communism is not a sect, and so such asceticism should not be advocated. At a factory, I once heard a woman addressing her work-mates say: "Comrades working women, you should remember that once you join the Party you have to give up husband and children."

Of course, this is not the approach to the question. It is not a matter of neglecting husband and children, but of training the children to become fighters for communism, to arrange things so that the husband becomes such a fighter, too. One has to know how to merge one's life with the life of society. This is not asceticism. On the contrary, the fact of this merging, the fact that the common cause of all working people becomes a personal matter, makes personal life richer. It does not become poorer, it offers deep and colourful experiences which humdrum family life has never provided. To know how to merge one's life with work for communism, with the work and struggle of the working people to build communism, is one of the tasks that face us. You, young people, are only just starting out on your lives, and you can build them so that there is no gap between your personal life and that of society....

From the Article "Lenin as a Man"

Lenin was a revolutionary Marxist and collectivist to the depths of his being. All his life and work was devoted to one great goal--the struggle for the triumph of socialism. This left its imprint on all his thoughts and feelings. He had none of the pettiness, petty envy, anger, revengefulness and vanity so much to be found in small-property-minded individualists.

Lenin fought, he put questions sharply; in argument he introduced nothing personal but approached questions from the point of view of the matter in question, and, because of this, comrades were not usually offended at his sharp manner. He observed people closely, listened to what they had to say, tried to grasp the essential point, and so he was able, out of a number of insignificant points, to catch the nature of the person, he was able to approach people with remarkable sensitivity, to find in them all that was good and of value and could be put to the service of the common cause.

I often noticed how after meeting Ilyich people became different, and for this the comrades loved Ilyich and he himself gained as much from his meetings with them, as very few people could gain. Not everyone can learn from life, from other people. Ilyich knew how to. He never used artifice or diplomacy in dealing with people, never hoodwinked them, and people sensed his sincerity and candour.

Concern for his comrades was characteristic of him. He was concerned about them when he was in prison, at liberty, in exile, in emigration and when he became Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars. He was concerned not only about his comrades, but even about people complete strangers who needed his help. The only letter to me from Ilyich which I have preserved contains this phrase: "The letters for help which sometimes come to you I read and try to do what is possible." This was in the summer of 1919, when Ilyich had more than enough other concerns. The civil war was at its height. In the same letter he wrote: "It seems the Whites are in control of the Crimea again. There were more than enough things to see to, but I never heard Ilyich say he had no time, when it was a matter of helping people.

He was always telling me that I should be more concerned about the comrades I worked with and once, when during a party purge one of my workers from the People's Commissariat for Education was unjustly attacked, he found time to look through back numbers of publications in order to find material confirming that the worker, even before October, when still a member of the Bund, had defended the Bolsheviks.

Lenin was kind, some people say. But the word "kind" from the old language of "virtue" hardly suits Ilyich, it is somehow inadequate and inaccurate.

The family or group clannishness so characteristic of the old days was alien to Ilyich. He never separated the personal from the social. With him it was all merged into one. He could never have loved a woman whose views differed from his own, who was not his comrade in work. He had a habit of becoming passionately attached to people. His attachment to Plekhanov from whom he got so much, was typical in this respect, but it never prevented him from fighting hard against Plekhanov when he saw that Plekhanov was wrong, that his point of view harmed the cause; it did not prevent him from breaking completely with him when Plekhanov became a defencist.

Successful work delighted Ilyich. Work for the cause was the mainspring of his life, what he loved and what carried him away. Lenin tried to get as close as he could to the masses and he was able to do so. Association with workers gave him a very great deal. It gave him a real understanding of the tasks of the struggle of the proletariat at every stage. If we attentively study how Lenin worked as a scholar, a propagandist, a man of letters, an editor and organiser, we shall also understand him as a man. ...

From the Article "Lenin on Communist Morality"

Lenin was of the generation that grew up under the influence of Pisarev, Shchedrin, Nekrasov, Dobrolyubov and Chernyshevsky, of the revolutionary-democratic poets of the sixties. The Iskra poets mercilessly ridiculed the survivals of the old serfdom, they flayed depravity, servility, toadying, double-dealing, philistinism and bureaucratic methods. The writers of the 1860's advocated making a closer study of life and disclosing the survivals of the old feudal system. From his earliest years Lenin loathed philistinism, gossip, futile time-wasting, family life "separated from social interests", making women a plaything, an amusement, or a submissive slave. He despised the sort of life that is full of insincerity and easy adaptation to circumstances. Ilyich was particularly fond of Chernyshevsky's novel What Is to Be Done?; he loved the keen satire of Shchedrin, loved the Iskra poets, many of whose verses he knew by heart, and he loved Nekrasov.

For many long years Vladimir Ilyich had to live in emigration in Germany, Switzerland, England and France. He went to workers' meetings, looked closely at the lives of the workers, saw how they lived at home and spent their leisure hours in cafes or out walking.....

...Abroad we lived pretty poorly, for the most part lodging in cheap hired rooms where all kinds of people lived; we were bearded by a variety of landladies and ate in cheap restaurants. Ilyich was very fond of the Paris cafes, where in democratic songs singers sharply criticised bourgeois democracy and the day-to-day aspect of life. Ilyich particularly liked the songs of Montegus, the son of a Communard, who wrote good verses about life in the faubourgs (city outskirts). Ilyich once met and talked with Montegus at an evening party, and they conversed long after midnight about the revolution, the workers' movement and how socialism would create a new, socialist way of life.

Vladimir Ilyich always closely associated the questions of morality with those of the world outlook....

...In his speech on October 2, 1920, at the Third Congress of the Young Communist League, Vladimir Ilyich dwelt on communist morality, gave simple, concrete examples to explain the essence of communist morality. He told his audience that feudal and bourgeois morality is downright deception, the hoodwinking and befooling of workers and peasants in the interests of the landlords and capitalists; and that communist morality derives from the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat. He said that communist morality should aim at raising human society to a higher level, getting rid of the exploitation of labour. At the root of communist morality lies the struggle to strengthen and finally achieve communism. Lenin gave concrete examples to show the importance of solidarity, the ability to master oneself, to work tirelessly for what is needed to consolidate the new social system, the need for great and conscious discipline to this end, the need for strong solidarity in the fulfilment of set tasks. Ilyich told the young people that it was necessary for them to devote all their work, all their efforts to the common cause.

And Lenin's own life was a model of how this should be done. Ilyich could not live any other way, he did not know how to. But he was not an ascetic; he loved skating and fast cycling, mountain-climbing and hunting; he loved music and life in all its many-sided beauty; he loved his comrades, loved people in general. Everyone knows of his simplicity, his merry, infectious laughter. But everything about him was subordinated to the one thing--the struggle for a bright, enlightened, prosperous life of meaning and happiness for all. And nothing gladdened him so much as the successes achieved in this struggle. The personal side of him merged naturally with his social activity....

From a Letter to A. M. Gorky
1 September 20, 1932

...To build socialism means not only building gigantic factories and flour mills. This is essential but not enough for building socialism. People must grow in mind and heart. And on the basis of this individual growth of each in our conditions a new type of mighty socialist collective will in the long run be formed, where "I" and "we" will merge into one inseparable whole. Such a collective can only develop on the basis of profound ideological solidarity and an equally profound emotional rapprochement, mutual understanding.

And here, art, and literature in particular, can play a quite exceptional role. In Capital, Marx has a marvellous chapter [Ed. note--Ch. XI] which I want to translate into the simplest language that even the semi-literate can understand, the chapter on co-operation, where he writes that the collective gives birth to a new force. It is not just the sum-total of people, the sum-total of their forces, but a completely new, much more powerful, force. In his chapter on co-operation Marx writes about the new material force. But when, on its basis, unity of consciousness and will springs up, it becomes an indomitable force....

Letter to Working Men and Women at the Trekhgornaya Manufaktura Mills

It is to be welcomed in every way that the Trekhgornaya Manufaktura Mills has seriously taken up the question of educating children. It is a highly important question.

Much attention has recently been devoted to universal education, strengthening the schools and improving teaching methods. But not everything, by a long way, has yet been done. Working men and women need to get closer to the school, to take a deeper interest in its work. They can help a great deal in the teaching work and in communist education.

Children spend the greater part of their time outside the school. Here they come under the influence of the street and frequently of hostile hooligan elements. Questions concerning the organisation of the children's out-of-school hours, the Young Pioneer movement, the provision of libraries and workshops and social work for the children, are of tremendous importance, Here, working men and women can do a very great deal. I firmly trust that this discussion of school and out-of-school education by the working people of the Trekhgornaya Manufaktura Mills will provide an impetus to this work.

N. Krupskaya

From a Letter
to the Party and Komsomol Members,
the Factory Committee, the Management
and the Entire Collective
of the Clara Zetkin Factory

...The woman today is not simply a man's wife, she is a social worker, she wants to educate her children in the new way, she wants her whole day-to-day life to be rearranged of new lines. At every step she feels she lacks knowledge.

It is necessary that at your factory, which bears the name of the great revolutionary Clara Zetkin, a woman who fought passionately for the emancipation of women-workers, it should be a matter of honour for all factory organisations to see to it that not a single person remains illiterate at the factory, that every working woman should become more literate.

It is not only the youth that is studying today; everyone for whom the cause of Marx, Engels and Lenin is dear is studying. All politically-conscious working people in our Land of Soviets which has travelled such a hard road of struggle and has trained in this struggle self-sacrificing fighters who have achieved tremendous successes, are studying hard....

Letter to a Budding Writer
July 3, 1936

Dear Comrade!

It seems to me that you are not on the right road. If you wish to become a real poet, a writer, whom the masses would love and appreciate, you have to work a great deal on yourself. Here no universities, no writers' unions will help.

I cannot see from your letter what grieves your heart, what--apart from your own literary career--disturbs you. He who looks with indifference on life all round him "from the writer's carriage window" will never become a real writer. You have been in the Mining Institute, but have you any idea about the life of the miners, about their state of mind? They are one of the leading sections of the proletariat, and you are not interested in them ... so far, I hope.

In my opinion, you will not make an engineer, that needs a different make-up, a different training.

I would advise you to go to work in a pit, to make use of the knowledge you have acquired, to work side by side with ordinary workers, to take a look at the way they live, their home conditions. Then the themes for poems will come true to life, and there will be something that would stir you.

There is often a great deal of snobbish conceit in budding writers--and even frequently in workers' children, but [it] has to be thoroughly washed away.

With comradely greetings,

N. Krupskaya
Condition of the Working Class in England, by Engels, 1845--The Attitude of the Bourgeoisie Towards the Proletariat
In speaking of the bourgeoisie I include the so-called aristocracy, for this is a privileged class, an aristocracy, only in contrast with the bourgeoisie, not in contrast with the proletariat. The proletarian sees in both only the property-holder – i.e., the bourgeois. Before the privilege of property all other privileges vanish. The sole difference is this, that the bourgeois proper stands in active relations with the manufacturing, and, in a measure, with the mining proletarians, and, as farmer, with the agricultural labourers, whereas the so-called aristocrat comes into contact with the agricultural labourer only.

I have never seen a class so deeply demoralised, so incurably debased by selfishness, so corroded within, so incapable of progress, as the English bourgeoisie; and I mean by this, especially the bourgeoisie proper, particularly the Liberal, Corn Law repealing bourgeoisie. For it nothing exists in this world, except for the sake of money, itself not excluded. It knows no bliss save that of rapid gain, no pain save that of losing gold. In the presence of this avarice and lust of gain, it is not possible for a single human sentiment or opinion to remain untainted. True, these English bourgeois are good husbands and family men, and have all sorts of other private virtues, and appear, in ordinary intercourse, as decent and respectable as all other bourgeois; even in business they are better to deal with than the Germans; they do not higgle and haggle so much as our own pettifogging merchants; but how does this help matters? Ultimately it is self-interest, and especially money gain, which alone determines them. I once went into Manchester with such a bourgeois, and spoke to him of the bad, unwholesome method of building, the frightful condition of the working-peoples quarters, and asserted that I had never seen so ill-built a city. The man listened quietly to the end, and said at the corner where we parted: "And yet there is a great deal of money made here, good morning, sir." It is utterly indifferent to the English bourgeois whether his working-men starve or not, if only he makes money. All the conditions of life are measured by money, and what brings no money is nonsense, unpractical, idealistic bosh. Hence, Political Economy, the Science of Wealth, is the favourite study of these bartering Jews. Every one of them is a Political Economist. The relation of the manufacturer to his operatives has nothing human in it; it is purely economic. The manufacturer is Capital, the operative Labour. And if the operative will not be forced into this abstraction, if he insists that he is not Labour, but a man, who possesses, among other things, the attribute of labour-power, if he takes it into his head that he need not allow himself to be sold and bought in the market, as the commodity "Labour", the bourgeois reason comes to a standstill. He cannot comprehend that he holds any other relation to the operatives than that of purchase and sale; he sees in them not human beings, but hands, as he constantly calls them to their faces; he insists, as Carlyle says, that "Cash Payment is the only nexus between man and man." Even the relation between himself and his wife is, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, mere "Cash Payment". Money determines the worth of the man; he is "worth ten thousand pounds". He who has money is of "the better sort of people", is "influential", and what he does counts for something in his social circle. The huckstering spirit penetrates the whole language, all relations are expressed in business terms, in economic categories. Supply and demand are the formulas according to which the logic of the English bourgeois judges all human life. Hence free competition in every respect, hence the regime of laissez-faire, laissez-aller in government, in medicine, in education, and soon to be in religion, too, as the State Church collapses more and more. Free competition will suffer no limitation, no State supervision; the whole State is but a burden to it. It would reach its highest perfection in a wholly ungoverned anarchic society, where each might exploit the other to his hearts content. Since, however, the bourgeoisie cannot dispense with government, but must have it to hold the equally indispensable proletariat in check, it turns the power of government against the proletariat and keeps out of its way as far as possible.

Let no one believe, however, that the "cultivated" Englishman openly brags with his egotism. On the contrary, he conceals it under the vilest hypocrisy. What? The wealthy English fail to remember the poor? They who have founded philanthropic institutions, such as no other country can boast of! Philanthropic institutions forsooth! As though you rendered the proletarians a service in first sucking out their very life-blood and then practising your self-complacent, Pharisaic philanthropy upon them, placing yourselves before the world as mighty benefactors of humanity when you give back to the plundered victims the hundredth part of what belongs to them! Charity which degrades him who gives more than him who takes; charity which treads the downtrodden still deeper in the dust, which demands that the degraded, the pariah cast out by society, shall first surrender the last that remains to him, his very claim to manhood, shall first beg for mercy before your mercy deigns to press, in the shape of an alms, the brand of degradation upon his brow. But let us hear the English bourgeoisie's own words. It is not yet a year since I read in the Manchester Guardian the following letter to the editor, which was published without comment as a perfectly natural, reasonable thing:

"MR. EDITOR,– For some time past our main streets are haunted by swarms of beggars, who try to awaken the pity of the passers-by in a most shameless and annoying manner, by exposing their tattered clothing, sickly aspect, and disgusting wounds and deformities. I should think that when one not only pays the poor-rate, but also contributes largely to the charitable institutions, one had done enough to earn a right to be spared such disagreeable and impertinent molestations. And why else do we pay such high rates for the maintenance of the municipal police, if they do not even protect us so far as to make it possible to go to or out of town in peace? I hope the publication of these lines in your widely- circulated paper may induce the authorities to remove this nuisance; and I remain,– Your obedient servant,
"A Lady."

There you have it! The English bourgeoisie is charitable out of self-interest; it gives nothing outright, but regards its gifts as a business matter, makes a bargain with the poor, saying: "If I spend this much upon benevolent institutions, I thereby purchase the right not to be troubled any further, and you are bound thereby to stay in your dusky holes and not to irritate my tender nerves by exposing your misery. You shall despair as before, but you shall despair unseen, this I require, this I purchase with my subscription of twenty pounds for the infirmary!" It is infamous, this charity of a Christian bourgeois! And so writes "A Lady"; she does well to sign herself such, well that she has lost the courage to call herself a woman! But if the "Ladies" are such as this, what must the "Gentlemen" be? It will be said that this is a single case; but no, the foregoing letter expresses the temper of the great majority of the English bourgeoisie, or the editor would not have accepted it, and some reply would have been made to it, which I watched for in vain in the succeeding numbers. And as to the efficiency of this philanthropy, Canon Parkinson himself says that the poor are relieved much more by the poor than by the bourgeoisie; and such relief given by an honest proletarian who knows himself what it is to be hungry, for whom sharing his scanty meal is really a sacrifice, but a sacrifice borne with pleasure, such help has a wholly different ring to it from the carelessly-tossed alms of the luxurious bourgeois.

In other respects, too, the bourgeoisie assumes a hypocritical, boundless philanthropy, but only when its own interests require it; as in its Politics and Political Economy. It has been at work now well on towards five years to prove to the working-men that it strives to abolish the Corn Laws solely in their interest. But the long and short of the matter is this: the Corn Laws keep the price of bread higher than in other countries, and thus raise wages; but these high wages render difficult competition of the manufacturers against other nations in which bread, and consequently wages, are cheaper. The Corn Laws being repealed, the price of bread falls, and wages gradually approach those of other European countries, as must be clear to every one from our previous exposition of the principles according to which wages are determined. The manufacturer can compete more readily, the demand for English goods increases, and, with it, the demand for labour. In consequence of this increased demand wages would actually rise somewhat, and the unemployed workers be re-employed; but for how long? The “surplus population” of England, and especially of Ireland, is sufficient to supply English manufacture with the necessary operatives, even if it were doubled; and, in a few years, the small advantage of the repeal of the Corn Laws would be balanced, a new crisis would follow, and we should be back at the point from which we started, while the first stimulus to manufacture would have increased population meanwhile. All this the proletarians understand very well, and have told the manufacturers to their faces; but, in spite of that, the manufacturers have in view solely the immediate advantage which the repeal of the Corn Laws would bring them. They are too narrow-minded to see that, even for themselves, no permanent advantage can arise from this measure, because their competition with each other would soon force the profit of the individual back to its old level; and thus they continue to shriek to the working-men that it is purely for the sake of the starving millions that the rich members of the Liberal party pour hundreds and thousands of pounds into the treasury of the Anti-Corn Law League, while every one knows that they are only sending the butter after the cheese, that they calculate upon earning it all back in the first ten years after the repeal of the Corn Laws. But the workers are no longer to be misled by the bourgeoisie, especially since the insurrection of 1842. They demand of every one who presents himself as interested in their welfare, that he should declare himself in favour of the Peoples Charter as proof of the sincerity of his professions, and in so doing, they protest against all outside help, for the Charter is a demand for the power to help themselves. Whoever declines so to declare himself they pronounce their enemy, and are perfectly right in so doing, whether he be a declared foe or a false friend. Besides, the Anti-Corn Law League has used the most despicable falsehoods and tricks to win the support of the workers. It has tried to prove to them that the money price of labour is in inverse proportion to the price of corn; that wages are high when grain is cheap, and vice versa, an assertion which it pretends to prove with the most ridiculous arguments, and one which is, in itself, more ridiculous than any other that has proceeded from the mouth of an Economist. When this failed to help matters, the workers were promised bliss supreme in consequence of the increased demand in the labour market; indeed, men went so far as to carry through the streets two models of loaves of bread, on one of which, by far the larger, was written: “American Eightpenny Loaf, Wages Four Shillings per Day”, and upon the much smaller one: “English Eightpenny Loaf, Wages Two Shillings a Day”. But the workers have not allowed themselves to be misled. They know their lords and masters too well.

But rightly to measure the hypocrisy of these promises, the practice of the bourgeoisie must be taken into account. We have seen in the course of how the bourgeoisie exploits the proletariat in every conceivable way for its own benefit! We have, however, hitherto seen only how the.single bourgeois maltreats the proletariat upon his own account. Let us turn now to the manner in which the bourgeoisie as a party, as the power of the State, conducts itself towards the proletariat. Laws are necessary only because there are persons in existence who own nothing; and although this is directly expressed in but few laws, as, for instance, those against vagabonds and tramps, in which the proletariat as such is outlawed, yet enmity to the proletariat is so emphatically the basis of the law that the judges, and especially the Justices of the Peace, who are bourgeois themselves, and with whom the proletariat comes most in contact, find this meaning in the laws without further consideration. If a rich man is brought up, or rather summoned, to appear before the court, the judge regrets that he is obliged to impose so much trouble, treats the matter as favourably as possible, and, if he is forced to condemn the accused, does so with extreme regret, etc., etc., and the end of it all is a miserable fine, which the bourgeois throws upon the table with contempt and then departs. But if a poor devil gets into such a position as involves appearing before the Justice of the Peace – he has almost always spent the night in the station-house with a crowd of his peers – he is regarded from the beginning as guilty; his defence is set aside with a contemptuous “Oh! we know the excuse”, and a fine imposed which he cannot pay and must work out with several months on the treadmill. And if nothing can be proved against him, he is sent to the treadmill, none the less, “as a rogue and a vagabond”. The partisanship of the Justices of the Peace, especially in the country, surpasses all description, and it is so much the order of the day that all cases which are not too utterly flagrant are quietly reported by the newspapers, without comment. Nor is anything else to be expected. For on the one hand, these Dogberries do merely construe the law according to the intent of the farmers, and, on the other, they are themselves bourgeois, who see the foundation of all true order in the interests of their class. And the conduct of the police corresponds to that of the Justices of the Peace. The bourgeois may do what he will and the police remain ever polite, adhering strictly to the law, but the proletarian is roughly, brutally treated; his poverty both casts the suspicion of every sort of crime upon him and cuts him off from legal redress against any caprice of the administrators of the law; for him, therefore, the protecting forms of the law do not exist, the police force their way into his house without further ceremony, arrest and abuse him; and only when a working-men's association, such as the miners, engages a Roberts, does it become evident how little the protective side of the law exists for the working-man, how frequently he has to bear all the burdens of the law without enjoying its benefits.

Down to the present hour, the property-holding class in Parliament still struggles against the better feelings of those not yet fallen a prey to egotism, and seeks to subjugate the proletariat still further. One piece of common land after another is appropriated and placed under cultivation, a process by which the general cultivation is furthered, but the proletariat greatly injured. Where there were still commons, the poor could pasture an ass, a pig, or geese, the children and young people had a place where they could play and live out of doors; but this is gradually coming to an end. The earnings of the worker are less, and the young people, deprived of their play-ground, go to the beer-shops. A mass of acts for enclosing and cultivating commons is passed at every session of Parliament. When the Government determined during the session of 1844 to force the all monopolising railways to make travelling possible for the workers by means of charges proportionate to their means, a penny a mile, and proposed therefore to introduce such a third class train upon every railway daily, the "Reverend Father in God", the Bishop of London, proposed that Sunday, the only day upon which working-men in work can travel, be exempted from this rule, and travelling thus be left open to the rich and shut off from the poor. This proposition was, however, too direct, too undisguised to pass through Parliament, and was dropped. I have no room to enumerate the many concealed attacks of even one single session upon the proletariat. One from the session of 1844 must suffice. An obscure member of Parliament, a Mr. Miles, proposed a bill regulating the relation of master and servant which seemed comparatively unobjectionable. The Government became interested in the bill, and it was referred to a committee. Meanwhile the strike among the miners in the North broke out, and Roberts made his triumphal passage through England with his acquitted working-men. When the bill was reported by the committee, it was discovered that certain most despotic provisions had been interpolated in it, especially one conferring upon the employer the power to bring before any Justice of the Peace every working-man who had contracted verbally or in writing to do any work whatsoever, in case of refusal to work or other misbehaviour, and have him condemned to prison with hard labour for two months, upon the oath of the employer or his agent or overlooker, i.e., upon the oath of the accuser. This bill aroused the working-men to the utmost fury, the more so as the Ten Hours Bill was before Parliament at the same time, and had called forth a considerable agitation. Hundreds of meetings were held, hundreds of working-men's petitions forwarded to London to Thomas Duncombe, the representative of the interests of the proletariat. This man was, except Ferrand, the representative of "Young England", the only vigorous opponent of the bill; but when the other Radicals saw that the people were declaring against it, one after the other crept forward and took his place by Duncombe's side; and as the Liberal bourgeoisie had not the courage to defend the bill in the face of the excitement among the working-men, it was ignominiously lost.

Meanwhile the most open declaration of war of the bourgeoisie upon the proletariat is Malthus’ Law of Population and the New Poor Law framed in accordance with it. We have already alluded several times to the theory of Malthus. We may sum up its final result in these few words, that the earth is perennially over-populated, whence poverty, misery, distress, and immorality must prevail; that it is the lot, the eternal destiny of mankind, to exist in too great numbers, and therefore in diverse classes, of which some are rich, educated, and moral, and others more or less poor, distressed, ignorant, and immoral. Hence it follows in practice, and Malthus himself drew this conclusion, that charities and poor-rates are, properly speaking, nonsense, since they serve only to maintain, and stimulate the increase of, the surplus population whose competition crushes down wages for the employed; that the employment of the poor by the Poor Law Guardians is equally unreasonable, since only a fixed quantity of the products of labour can be consumed, and for every unemployed labourer thus furnished employment, another hitherto employed must be driven into enforced idleness, whence private undertakings suffer at cost of Poor Law industry; that, in other words, the whole problem is not how to support the surplus population, but how to restrain it as far as possible. Malthus declares in plain English that the right to live, a right previously asserted in favour of every man in the world, is nonsense. He quotes the words of a poet, that the poor man comes to the feast of Nature and finds no cover laid for him, and adds that “she bids him begone”, for he did not before his birth ask of society whether or not he is welcome. This is now the pet theory of all genuine English bourgeois, and very naturally, since it is the most specious excuse for them, and has, moreover, a good deal of truth in it under existing conditions. If, then, the problem is not to make the “surplus population” useful, to transform it into available population, but merely to let it starve to death in the least objectionable way and to prevent its having too many children, this, of course, is simple enough, provided the surplus population perceives its own superfluousness and takes kindly to starvation. There is, however, in spite of the violent exertions of the humane bourgeoisie, no immediate prospect of its succeeding in bringing about such a disposition among the workers. The workers have taken it into their heads that they, with their busy hands, are the necessary, and the rich capitalists, who do nothing, the surplus population.

Since, however, the rich hold all the power, the proletarians must submit, if they will not good-temperedly perceive it for themselves, to have the law actually declare them superfluous.. This has been done by the New Poor Law. The Old Poor Law which rested upon the Act of 1601 (the 43rd of Elizabeth), naively started from the notion that it is the duty of the parish to provide for the maintenance of the poor. Whoever had no work received relief, and the poor man regarded the parish as pledged to protect him from starvation. He demanded his weekly relief as his right, not as a favour, and this became, at last, too much for the bourgeoisie. In 1833, when the bourgeoisie had just come into power through the Reform Bill, and pauperism in the country districts had just reached its full development, the bourgeoisie began the reform of the Poor Law according to its own point of view. A commission was appointed, which investigated the administration of the Poor Laws, and revealed a multitude of abuses. It was discovered that the whole working-class in the country was pauperised and more or less dependent upon the rates, from which they received relief when wages were low; it was found that this system by which the unemployed were maintained, the ill-paid and the parents of large families relieved, fathers of illegitimate children required to pay alimony, and poverty, in general, recognised as needing protection, it was found that this system was ruining the nation, was –

“a check to industry, a reward for improvident marriages, a stimulant to population, and a blind to its effects on wages; a national institution for discountenancing the industrious and honest, and for protecting the idle, the improvident and the vicious; the destroyer of the bonds of family life; a system for preventing the accumulation of capital, for destroying that which exists, and for reducing the rate-payer to pauperism; and a premium for illegitimate children" in the provision of aliment.” (Words of the Report of the Poor Law Commissioners.)

This description of the action of the Old Poor Law is certainly correct; relief fosters laziness and increase of “surplus population”. Under present social conditions it is perfectly clear that the poor man is compelled to be an egotist, and when he can choose, living equally well in either case, he prefers doing nothing to working. But what follows therefrom? That our present social conditions are good for nothing, and not as the Malthusian Commissioners conclude, that poverty is a crime, and, as such, to be visited with heinous penalties which may serve as a warning to others.

But these wise Malthusians were so thoroughly convinced of the infallibility of their theory that they did not for one moment hesitate to cast the poor into the Procrustean bed of their economic notions and treat them with the most revolting cruelty. Convinced with Malthus and the rest of the adherents of free competition that it is best to let each one take care of himself, they would have preferred to abolish the Poor Laws altogether. Since, however, they had neither the courage nor the authority to do this, they proposed a Poor Law constructed as far as possible in harmony with the doctrine of Malthus, which is yet more barbarous than that of laissez-faire, because it interferes actively in cases in which the latter is passive. We have seen how Malthus characterises poverty, or rather the want of employment, as a crime under the title "superfluity", and recommends for it punishment by starvation. The commissioners were not quite so barbarous; death outright by starvation was something too terrible even for a Poor Law Commissioner. "Good," said they, "we grant you poor a right to exist, but only to exist; the right to multiply you have not, nor the right to exist as befits human beings. You are a pest, and if we cannot get rid of you as we do of other pests, you shall feel, at least, that you are a pest, and you shall at least be held in check, kept from bringing into the world other surplus, either directly or through inducing in others laziness and want of employment. Live you shall, but live as an awful warning to all those who might have inducements to become superfluous."

They accordingly brought in the New Poor Law, which was passed by Parliament in 1834, and continues in force down to the present day. All relief in money and provisions was abolished; the only relief allowed was admission to the workhouses immediately built. The regulations for these workhouses, or, as the people call them, Poor Law Bastilles, is such as to frighten away every one who has the slightest prospect of life without this form of public charity. To make sure that relief be applied for only in the most extreme cases and after every other effort had failed, the workhouse has been made the most repulsive residence which the refined ingenuity of a Malthusian can invent. The food is worse than that of the most ill-paid working-man while employed, and the work harder, or they might prefer the workhouse to their wretched existence outside. Meat, especially fresh meat, is rarely furnished, chiefly potatoes, the worst possible bread and oatmeal porridge, little or no beer. The food of criminal prisoners is better, as a rule, so that the paupers frequently commit some offence for the purpose of getting into jail. For the workhouse is a jail too; he who does not finish his task gets nothing to eat; he who wishes to go out must ask permission, which is granted or not, according to his behaviour or the inspectors whim; tobacco is forbidden, also the receipt of gifts from relatives or friends outside the house; the paupers wear a workhouse uniform, and are handed over, helpless and without redress, to the caprice of the inspectors. To prevent their labour from competing with that of outside concerns, they are set to rather useless tasks: the men break stones, “as much as a strong man can accomplish with effort in a day”; the women, children, and aged men pick oakum, for I know not what insignificant use. To prevent the “superfluous” from multiplying, and “demoralised” parents from influencing their children, families are broken up; the husband is placed in one wing, the wife in another, the children in a third, and they are permitted to see one another only at stated times after long intervals, and then only when they have, in the opinion of the officials, behaved well. And in order to shut off the external world from contamination by pauperism within these bastilles, the inmates are permitted to receive visits only with the consent of the officials, and in the reception-rooms; to communicate in general with the world outside only by leave and under supervision.

Yet the food is supposed to be wholesome and the treatment humane with all this. But the intent of the law is too loudly outspoken for this requirement to be in any wise fulfilled. The Poor Law Commissioners and the whole English bourgeoisie deceive themselves if they believe the administration of the law possible without these results. The treatment, which the letter of the law prescribes, is in direct contradiction of its spirit. If the law in its essence proclaims the poor criminals, the workhouses prisons, their inmates beyond the pale of the law, beyond the pale of humanity, objects of disgust and repulsion, then all commands to the contrary are unavailing. In practice, the spirit and not the letter of the law is followed in the treatment of the poor, as in the following few examples:

In the workhouse at Greenwich, in the summer of 1843, a boy five years old was punished by being shut into the dead-room, where he had to sleep upon the lids of the coffins. In the workhouse at Herne, the same punishment was inflicted upon a little girl for wetting the bed at night, and this method of punishment seems to be a favourite one. This workhouse, which stands in one of the most beautiful regions of Kent, is peculiar, in so far as its windows open only upon the court, and but two, newly introduced, afford the inmates a glimpse of the outer world. The author who relates this in the Illuminated Magazine, closes his description with the words:

"If God punished men for crimes as man punishes man for poverty, then woe to the sons of Adam!"

In November, 1843, a man died at Leicester, who had been dismissed two days before from the workhouse at Coventry. The details of the treatment of the poor in this institution are revolting. The man, George Robson, had a wound upon the shoulder, the treatment of which was wholly neglected; he was set to work at the pump, using the sound arm; was given only the usual workhouse fare, which he was utterly unable to digest by reason of the unhealed wound and his general debility; he naturally grew weaker, and the more he complained, the more brutally he was treated. When his wife tried to bring him her drop of beer, she was reprimanded, and forced to drink it herself in the presence of the female warder. He became ill, but received no better treatment. Finally, at his own request, and under the most insulting epithets, he was discharged, accompanied by his wife. Two days later he died at Leicester, in consequence of the neglected wound and of the food given him, which was utterly indigestible for one in his condition, as the surgeon present at the inquest testified. When he was discharged, there were handed to him letters containing money, which had been kept back six weeks, and opened, according to a rule of the establishment, by the inspector! In Birmingham such scandalous occurrences took place, that finally, in 1843, an official was sent to investigate the case. He found that four tramps had been shut up naked under a stair-case in a black hole, eight to ten days, often deprived of food until noon, and that at the severest season of the year. A little boy had been passed through all grades of punishment known to the institution; first locked up in a damp, vaulted, narrow, lumber- room; then in the dog-hole twice, the second time three days and three nights; then the same length of time in the old dog-hole, which was still worse; then the tramp-room, a stinking, disgustingly filthy hole, with wooden sleeping stalls, where the official, in the course of his inspection, found two other tattered boys, shrivelled with cold, who had been spending three days there. In the dog-hole there were often seven, and in the tramp-room, twenty men huddled together. Women, also, were placed in the dog-hole, because they refused to go to church and one was shut four days into the tramp-room, with God knows what sort of company, and that while she was ill and receiving medicines. Another woman was placed in the insane department for punishment, though she was perfectly sane. In the workhouse at Bacton, in Suffolk, in January, 1844, a similar investigation revealed the fact that a feeble-minded woman was employed as nurse, and took care of the patients accordingly, while sufferers, who were often restless at night, or tried to get up, were tied fast with cords passed over the covering and under the bedstead, to save the nurses the trouble of sitting up at night. One patient was found dead, bound in this way. In the St. Pancras workhouse in London (where the cheap shirts already mentioned are made), an epileptic died of suffocation during an attack in bed, no one coming to his relief; in the same house, four to six, sometimes eight children, slept in one bed. In Shoreditch workhouse a man was placed, together with a fever patient violently ill, in a bed teeming with vermin. In Bethnal Green workhouse, London, a woman in the sixth month of pregnancy was shut up in the reception-room with her two-year- old child, from February 28th to March 19th, without being admitted into the workhouse itself, and without a trace of a bed or the means of satisfying the most natural wants. Her husband, who was brought into the workhouse, begged to have his wife released from this imprisonment, whereupon he received twenty-four hours imprisonment, with bread and water, as the penalty of his insolence. In the workhouse at Slough, near Windsor, a man lay dying in September, 1844. His wife journeyed to him, arriving at midnight; and hastening to the workhouse, was refused admission. She was not permitted to see her husband until the next morning, and then only in the presence of a female warder, who forced herself upon the wife at every succeeding visit, sending her away at the end of half-an-hour. In the workhouse at Middleton, in Lancashire, twelve, and at times eighteen, paupers, of both sexes, slept in one room. This institution is not embraced by the New Poor Law, but is administered under an old special act (Gilberts Act). The inspector had instituted a brewery in the house for his own benefit. In Stockport, July 31st, 1844, a man, seventy-two years old, was brought before the Justice of the Peace for refusing to break stones, and insisting that, by reason of his age and a stiff knee, he was unfit for this work. In vain did he offer to undertake any work adapted to his physical strength; he was sentenced to two weeks upon the treadmill. In the workhouse at Basford, an inspecting official found that the sheets had not been changed in thirteen weeks, shirts in four weeks, stockings in two to ten months, so that of forty-five boys but three had stockings, and all their shirts were in tatters. The beds swarmed with vermin, and the tableware was washed in the slop-pails. In the west of London workhouse, a porter who had infected four girls with syphilis was not discharged, and another who had concealed a deaf and dumb girl four days and nights in his bed was also retained.

As in life, so in death. The poor are dumped into the earth like infected cattle. The pauper burial-ground of St. Brides, London, is a bare morass, in use as a cemetery since the time of Charles II., and filled with heaps of bones; every Wednesday the paupers are thrown into a ditch fourteen feet deep; a curate rattles through the Litany at the top of his speed; the ditch is loosely covered in, to be reopened the next Wednesday, and filled with corpses as long as one more can be forced in. The putrefaction thus engendered contaminates the whole neighbourhood. In Manchester, the pauper burial-ground lies opposite to the Old Town, along the Irk; this, too, is a rough, desolate place. About two years ago a railroad was carried through it. If it had been a respectable cemetery, how the bourgeoisie and the clergy would have shrieked over the desecration! But it was a pauper burial-ground, the resting-place of the outcast and superfluous, so no one concerned himself about the matter. It was not even thought worth while to convey the partially decayed bodies to the other side of the cemetery; they were heaped up just as it happened, and piles were driven into newly made graves, so that the water oozed out of the swampy ground, pregnant with putrefying matter, and filled the neighbourhood with the most revolting and injurious gases. The disgusting brutality which accompanied this work I cannot describe in further detail.

Can any one wonder that the poor decline to accept public relief under these conditions? That they starve rather than enter these bastilles? I have the reports of five cases in which persons actually starving, when the guardians refused them outdoor relief, went back to their miserable homes and died of starvation rather than enter these hells. Thus far have the Poor Law Commissioners attained their object. At the same time, however, the workhouses have intensified, more than any other measure of the party in power, the hatred of the working-class against the property-holders, who very generally admire the New Poor Law.

From Newcastle to Dover, there is but one voice among the workers – the voice of hatred against the new law. The bourgeoisie has formulated so clearly in this law its conception of its duties towards the proletariat, that it has been appreciated even by the dullest. So frankly, so boldly has the conception never yet been formulated, that the non-possessing class exists solely for the purpose of being exploited, and of starving when the property- holders can no longer make use of it. Hence it is that this New Poor Law has contributed so greatly to accelerate the labour movement, and especially to spread Chartism; and, as it is carried out most extensively in the country, it facilitates the development of the proletarian movement which is arising in the agricultural districts.

Let me add that a similar law in force in Ireland since 1838, affords a similar refuge for eighty thousand paupers. Here, too, it has made itself disliked, and would have been intensely hated if it had attained anything like the same importance as in England. But what difference does the ill-treatment of eighty thousand proletarians make in a country in which there are two and a half millions of them? In Scotland there are, with local exceptions, no Poor Laws.

I hope that after this picture of the New Poor Law and its results, no word which I have said of the English bourgeoisie will be thought too stern. In this public measure, in which it acts in corpore as the ruling power, it formulates its real intentions, reveals the animus of those smaller transactions with the proletariat, of which the blame apparently attaches to individuals. And that this measure did not originate with any one section of the bourgeoisie, but enjoys the approval of the whole class, is proved by the Parliamentary debates of 1844. The Liberal party had enacted the New Poor Law; the Conservative party, with its Prime Minister Peel at the head, defends it, and only alters some pettifogging trifles in the Poor Law Amendment Bill of 1844. A Liberal majority carried the bill, a Conservative majority approved it, and the "Noble Lords" gave their consent each time. Thus is the expulsion of the proletariat from State and society outspoken, thus is it publicly proclaimed that proletarians are not human beings, and do not deserve to be treated as such. Let us leave it to the proletarians of the British Empire to reconquer their human rights. [1]

Such is the state of the British working-class as I have come to know it in the course of twenty-one months, through the medium of my own eyes, and through official and other trustworthy reports. And when I call this condition, as I have frequently enough done in the foregoing pages, an utterly unbearable one, I am not alone in so doing. As early as 1833, Gaskell declared that he despaired of a peaceful issue, and that a revolution can hardly fail to follow. 1n 1838, Carlyle explained Chartism and the revolutionary activity of the working-men as arising out of the misery in which they live, and only wondered that they have sat so quietly eight long years at the Barmecide feast, at which they have been regaled by the Liberal bourgeoisie with empty promises. And in 1844 he declared that the work of organising labour must be begun at once

"if Europe, at any rate if England, is to continue inhabitable much longer."

And the Times, the “first journal of Europe”, said in June, 1844:

“War to the mansion, peace to the cottage – is a watchword of terror which may yet ring through the land. Let the wealthy beware!”

Meanwhile, let us review once more the chances of the English bourgeoisie. In the worst case, foreign manufacture, especially that of America, may succeed in withstanding English competition, even after the repeal of the Corn Laws, inevitable in the course of a few years. German manufacture is now making great efforts, and that of America has developed with giant strides. America, with its inexhaustible resources, with its unmeasured coal and iron fields, with its unexampled wealth of water-power and its navigable rivers, but especially with its energetic, active population, in comparison with which the English are phlegmatic dawdlers,– America has in less than ten years created a manufacture which already competes with England in the coarser cotton goods, has excluded the English from the markets of North and South America, and holds its own in China, side by side with England. If any country is adapted to holding a monopoly of manufacture, it is America. Should English manufacture be thus vanquished – and in the course of the next twenty years, if the present conditions remain unchanged, this is inevitable – the majority of the proletariat must become forever superfluous, and has no other choice than to starve or to rebel. Does the English bourgeoisie reflect upon this contingency? On the contrary; its favourite economist, McCulloch, teaches from his student’s desk, that a country so young as America, which is not even properly populated, cannot carry on manufacture successfully or dream of competing with an old manufacturing country like England. It were madness in the Americans to make the attempt, for they could only lose by it; better far for them to stick to their agriculture, and when they have brought their whole territory under the plough, a time may perhaps come for carrying on manufacture with a profit. So says the wise economist, and the whole bourgeoisie worships him, while the Americans take possession of one market after another, while a daring American speculator recently even sent a shipment of American cotton goods to England, where they were sold for re-exportation!

But assuming that England retained the monopoly of manufactures, that its factories perpetually multiply, what must be the result? The commercial crises would continue, and grow more violent, more terrible, with the extension of industry and the multiplication of the proletariat. The proletariat would increase in geometrical proportion, in consequence of the progressive ruin of the lower middle-class and the giant strides with which capital is concentrating itself in the hands of the few; and the proletariat would soon embrace the whole nation, with the exception of a few millionaires. But in this development there comes a stage at which the proletariat perceives how easily the existing power may be overthrown, and then follows a revolution.

Neither of these supposed conditions may, however, be expected to arise. The commercial crises, the mightiest levers for all independent development of the proletariat, will probably shorten the process, acting in concert with foreign competition and the deepening ruin of the lower middle-class. I think the people will not endure more than one more crisis. The next one, in 1846 or 1847, will probably bring with it the repeal of the Corn Laws and the enactment of the Charter. What revolutionary movements the Charter may give rise to remains to be seen. But, by the time of the next following crisis, which, according to the analogy of its predecessors, must break out in 1852 or 1853, unless delayed perhaps by the repeal of the Corn Laws or hastened by other influences, such as foreign competition – by the time this crisis arrives, the English people will have had enough of being plundered by the capitalists and left to starve when the capitalists no longer require their services. If, up to that time, the English bourgeoisie does not pause to reflect – and to all appearance it certainly will not do so – a revolution will follow with which none hitherto known can be compared. The proletarians, driven to despair, will seize the torch which Stephens has preached to them; the vengeance of the people will come down with a wrath of which the rage of 1795 gives no true idea. The war of the poor against the rich will be the bloodiest ever waged. Even the union of a part of the bourgeoisie with the proletariat, even a general reform of the bourgeoisie, would not help matters. Besides, the change of heart of the bourgeoisie could only go as far as a lukewarm juste-milieu; the more determined, uniting with the workers, would only form a new Gironde, and succumb in the course of the mighty development. The prejudices of a whole class cannot be laid aside like an old coat: least of all, those of the stable, narrow, selfish English bourgeoisie. These are all inferences which may be drawn with the greatest certainty: conclusions, the premises for which are undeniable facts, partly of historical development, partly facts inherent in human nature. Prophecy is nowhere so easy as in England, where all the component elements of society are clearly defined and sharply separated. The revolution must come; it is already too late to bring about a peaceful solution; but it can be made more gently than that prophesied in the foregoing pages. This depends, however, more upon the development of the proletariat than upon that of the bourgeoisie. In proportion, as the proletariat absorbs socialistic and communistic elements, will the revolution diminish in bloodshed, revenge, and savagery. Communism stands, in principle, above the breach between bourgeoisie and proletariat, recognises only its historic significance for the present, but not its justification for the future: wishes, indeed, to bridge over this chasm, to do away with all class antagonisms Hence it recognises as justified, so long as the struggle exists, the exasperation of the proletariat towards its oppressors as a necessity, as the most important lever for a labour movement just beginning; but it goes beyond this exasperation, because Communism is a question of humanity and not of the workers alone. Besides, it does not occur to any Communist to wish to revenge himself upon individuals, or to believe that, in general, the single bourgeois can act otherwise, under existing circumstances, than he does act. English Socialism, i.e., Communism, rests directly upon the irresponsibility of the individual. Thus the more the English workers absorb communistic ideas, the more superfluous becomes their present bitterness, which, should it continue so violent as at present, could accomplish nothing; and the more their action against the bourgeoisie will lose its savage cruelty. If, indeed, it were possible to make the whole proletariat communistic before the war breaks out, the end would be very peaceful; but that is no longer possible, the time has gone by. Meanwhile, I think that before the outbreak of open, declared war of the poor against the rich, there will be enough intelligent comprehension of the social question among the proletariat, to enable the communistic party, with the help of events, to conquer the brutal element of the revolution and prevent a "Ninth Thermidor". In any case, the experience of the French will not have been undergone in vain, and most of the Chartist leaders are, moreover, already Communists. And as Communism stands above the strife between bourgeoisie and proletariat, it will be easier for the better elements of the bourgeoisie (which are, however, deplorably few, and can look for recruits only among the rising generation) to unite with it than with purely proletarian Chartism.

If these conclusions have not been sufficiently established in the course of the present work, there may be other opportunities for demonstrating that they are necessary consequences of the historical development of England. But this I maintain, the war of the poor against the rich now carried on in detail and indirectly will become direct and universal. It is too late for a peaceful solution. The classes are divided more and more sharply, the spirit of resistance penetrates the workers, the bitterness intensifies, the guerrilla skirmishes become concentrated in more important battles, and soon a slight impulse will suffice to set the avalanche in motion. Then, indeed, will the war-cry resound through the land: "War to the mansion, peace to the cottage!" – but then it will be too late for the rich to beware.

1. To prevent misconstructions and consequent objections, I would observe that I have spoken of the bourgeoisie as a class, and that all such facts as refer to individuals serve merely as evidence of the way of thinking and acting of a class. Hence I have not entered upon the distinctions between the diverse sections, subdivisions and parties of the bourgeoisie, which have a mere historical and theoretical significance. And I can, for the same reason, mention but casually the few members of the bourgeoisie who have shown themselves honourable exceptions. These are, on the one hand, the pronounced Radicals, who are almost Chartists, such as a few members of the House of Commons, the manufacturers Hindley of Ashton, and Fielden of Todmorden (Lancashire), and, on the other hand, the philanthropic Tories, who have recently constituted themselves "Young England", among whom are the Members of Parliament, Disraeli, Borthwick, Ferrand, Lord John Manners, etc., Lord Ashley, too, is in sympathy with them. The hope of "Young England" is a restoration of the old "merry England" with its brilliant features and its romantic feudalism. This object is of course unattainable and ridiculous, a satire upon all historic development; but the good intention, the courage to resist the existing state of things and prevalent prejudices, and to recognise the vileness of our present condition, is worth something anyhow. Wholly isolated is the half-German Englishman, Thomas Carlyle, who, originally a Tory, goes beyond all those hitherto mentioned. He has sounded the social disorder more deeply than any other English bourgeois, and demands the organisation of labour.
The Housing Question by Frederick Engels--1887 Preface to the Second German Edition
The following work is a reprint of three articles which I wrote in 1872 for the Leipzig Volksstaat. Just at that time, the blessing of the French milliards was pouring over Germany: public debts were paid off, fortresses and barracks built, stocks of weapons and war material renewed; the available capital no less than the volume of money in circulation was suddenly enormously increased, and all this just at a time when Germany was entering the world arena not only a “united empire,” but also as a great industrial country. These milliards gave the new large-scale industry a powerful impetus, and above all they were responsible for the short period of prosperity, so rich in illusions, which followed on the war, and for the great crash which came immediately afterwards in 1873-74, through which Germany proved itself to be an industrial country capable of competing on the world market.

The period in which an old civilized country makes such a transition from manufacture and small-scale production to large-scale industry, a transition which is, moreover, accelerated by such favorable circumstance, is also predominantly the period of “housing shortage.” On the one hand, masses of rural workers are suddenly drawn into the big towns, which develop into industrial centres; on the other hand, the building plan of these old towns does not any longer conform with the conditions of the new large-scale industry and the corresponding traffic; streets are widened and new ones cut through, and railways run through the centre of the town. At the very time when masses of workers are streaming into the towns, workers’ dwellings are pulled down on a large scale. Hence the sudden housing shortage for the workers and for the small traders and small businesses which depend for their custom on the workers. In the towns which grew up from the very beginning as industrial centres, this housing shortage is as good as unknown – for instance, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Barmen-Elberfeld. On the other hand, in London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, the shortage took on acute forms at the time, for the most part, continued to exist in a chronic form.

It was, therefore, just this acute housing shortage, this symptom of the industrial revolution taking place in Germany, which filled the press of the day with contributions on the “housing question,” and gave rise to all sorts of social quackery. A series of such articles even found their way into the Volksstaat. The anonymous author, who revealed himself later on as Dr. A. Mülberger of Wurttemburg, considered the opportunity a favorable one for enlightening the German workers, by means of this question, on the miraculous effects of Proudhon’s social panacea. When I expressed my astonishment to the editors at the acceptance of these peculiar articles, I was called upon to answer them, and this I did. (See Part One: How Proudhon Solves the Housing Question.) This series of articles was soon followed by a second series examining the philanthropic bourgeois view of the question, on the basis of a work by Dr. Emil Sax. (See Part Two: How the Bourgeoisie Solves the Housing Question.) After a long pause, Dr. Mülberger did me the honor of replying to my articles, and this compelled me to make a rejoinder. (Part Three: Supplement on Proudhon and the Housing Question.) With this, however, both the polemic and also my special occupation with this question came to an end. This is the history of the origin of these three series of articles, which have also appeared as a reprint in pamphlet form. The fact that a new reprint has now become necessary I owe undoubtedly to the benevolent solicitude of the German imperial government which, by prohibiting the work, as usual tremendously increased the sale, and I hereby take this opportunity of expressing my respectful thanks to it.

I have revised the text for this new edition, inserted a few additions and notes, and I have corrected a small economic error in the first edition, as my opponent Dr. Mülberger unfortunately failed to discover it.

During this revision, it was borne in one me what gigantic progress the international working class movement has made during the past 14 years. At that time, it was still a fact that “for 20 years the workers of the Latin countries had no other mental nourishment than the works of Proudhon,” and, at best, the still more one-sided version of Proudhonism presented by the father of “anarchism,” Bakunin, who regarded Proudhon as “notre maitre a nous tous,” the master of us all. Although the Proudhonists in France were only a small sect among the workers, they were still the only ones who had a definitely formulated programme and who were able in the Commune to take over the leadership on the economic field. In Belgium, Proudhonism reigned unchallenged among the Walloon workers, and in Spain and Italy, with isolated exceptions, everything in the working class movement which was not anarchist was definitely Proudhonist. And today? In France, Proudhon has been completely disposed of among the workers and retains supporters only among the radical bourgeois and petty bourgeois, who, as Proudhonists, also call themselves “socialists,” but against whom the most energetic fight is carried on by the socialist workers. In Belgium, the Flemish have ousted the Walloons from the leadership, deposed Proudhonism, and greatly raised the level of the movement. In Spain, as in Italy, the anarchist high tide of the ’70s has receded and swept away with it the remnants of Proudhonism. While in Italy, the new party is still in process of clarification and formation, in Spain the small nucleus, which as the Neuva Federacion Madrilena remained loyal to the General Council of the International, has developed into a strong party which – as can be seen from the republican press itself – is destroying the influence of the bourgeois republicans on the workers far more effectively than its noisy anarchist predecessors were ever able to do. Among most Latin workers, the forgotten works of Proudhon have been replaced by Capital, The Communist Manifesto, and a series of other works of the Marxist school, and the main demand of Marx – the seizure of all means of production in the name of society by the proletariat, which has attained the monopoly of political power – is now the demand of the whole revolutionary working class in the Latin countries also.

If therefore Proudhonism has been finally supplanted among the workers of the Latin countries also, if it – in accordance with its real significance – only serves French, Spanish, Italian and Belgian bourgeois radicals as an expression of their bourgeois and petty-bourgeois desires, why bother about it today? Why combat anew a dead opponent by reprinting these articles?

First of all, because these articles do not confine themselves to a mere polemic against Proudhon and his German representatives. As a consequence of the division of labour that existed between Marx and myself, it fell to me to present our opinions in the periodical press, that is to say, particularly in the fight against opposing views, in order that Marx should have time for the elaboration of his great basic work. Thus it became my task to present our views, for the most part in a polemical form, in opposition to other kinds of views. So also here. Parts One and Two contain not only a criticism of the Proudhonist conception of the question, but also a presentation of our own conception.

Secondly, however, Proudhon played much too significant a role in the history of the European working class movement for him to fall into oblivion without more ado. Refuted theoretically and discarded practically, he still retains his historical interest. Whoever occupies himself in any detail with modern socialism must also acquaint himself with the “vanquished standpoints” of the movement. Marx’s Poverty of Philosophy appeared several years before Proudhon put forward his practical proposals for social reform. In this work Marx was able to do no more than discover and criticise the germ of Proudhon’s exchange bank. From this angle, therefore, this work of mine supplements, unfortunately imperfectly enough, Marx’s work. Marx would have accomplished all this much better and more convincingly.

And finally, bourgeois and petty-bourgeois socialism is strongly represented in Germany down to this very hour; on the one hand by professorial socialists and philanthropists of all sorts with whom the wish to turn the workers into owners of their dwellings still plays a great role and against whom, therefore, my work is still appropriate; and on the other hand, in the Social-Democratic Party itself, and even in the ranks of the Reichstag fraction, a certain petty-bourgeois socialism finds a voice. This takes the form that while the fundamental views of modern socialism and the demand for the transformation of all the means of production into social property are recognised as justified, however, the realisation of this is declared possible only in the distant future, a future which for all practical purposes is quite out of sight. Thus, for the present time, one has to have recourse to mere social patchwork, and sympathy can be shown, according to circumstances, even with the most reactionary efforts for so-called “uplifting the working classes.” The existence of such a tendency is quite inevitable in Germany, the land of philistinism par excellence, particularly at a time when industrial development is violently and on a mass scale doing away with this old and deeply-rooted philistinism. The tendency is also quite harmless to the movement, in view of the wonderful common sense of our workers which has been demonstrated so magnificently during the last eight years of the struggle against the anti-socialist law, the police and the courts. But it is necessary that it should be clearly realised that such a tendency exists. And when later on this tendency takes on a firmer shape and more clearly defined contours, as it is necessary and even desirable that it should do, it will have to go back to its predecessors in order to formulate its programme and in doing so it will hardly be able to avoid Proudhon.

The essence of both the big bourgeois and petty-bourgeois solutions of the “housing question” is that the worker should own his own dwelling. However, this is a point which has been shown in a very peculiar light by the industrial development of Germany during the past twenty years. In no other country do there exist so many wage workers who own not only their own dwellings but also a garden or field as well. Besides these workers there are numerous others who hold house and garden or field as tenants, with, in fact, fairly secure possession. Rural domestic industry carried on in conjunction with horticulture or small-scale agriculture forms the broad basis of Germany’s new large-scale industry. In the west the workers are for the most part the owners of their dwellings, and in the east they are chiefly tenants. We find this combination of domestic industry with horticulture and small-scale agriculture and therefore with secure possession of a dwelling not only wherever handweaving still fights against the mechanical loom: in the Lower Rhineland and in Westphalia, in the Saxon Erzgebirge and in Silesia, but also wherever domestic industry of any sort has established itself as a rural occupation: in the Thuringia Forest and in the Rhön. At the time of the debates on the tobacco monopoly, it was revealed to what extent cigar making was already being carried on as a rural domestic industry. Wherever any condition of distress occurs among the small peasants, as for instance a few years ago in the Eifel, the bourgeois press immediately raises an outcry for the introduction of a suitable domestic industry as the only remedy. And in fact both the growing state of want of the German small peasants and the general situation of German industry leads to a continual extension of rural domestic industry. This is a phenomenon peculiar to Germany. Only very exceptionally do we find a similar phenomenon in France, for instance in the regions of silk cultivation. In England, where there are no small peasants, rural domestic industry depends on the labour power of the wives and children of the agricultural labourers. Only in Ireland can we observe the rural domestic industry of garment making being carried on, as in Germany, by real peasant families. Naturally we do not speak here of Russia and other countries not represented on the industrial world market.

Thus as regards industry there exists today a state of affairs over widespread areas in Germany which appears at first glance to resemble that which prevailed generally before the introduction of machinery. However, this is so only at first glance. The rural domestic industry of earlier times, combined with horticulture and agriculture, was, at least in the countries in which industry was developing, the basis of a tolerable and in some cases even comfortable material situation for the working class, but at the same time the basis of its intellectual and political nullity. The hand-made product and its cost determined the market price, and owing to the insignificantly small productivity of labour, compared with the present day, the market grew faster than the supply as a rule. This held good at about the middle of the last century for England, and partly for France, and particularly in the textile industry. In Germany, however, which was at that time only just recovering from the devastation of the Thirty Years War and working its way up under most unfavourable circumstances, the situation was quite different. The only domestic industry in Germany producing for the world market, linen weaving, was so burdened by taxes and feudal exactions that it did not raise the peasant weavers above the very low level of the rest of the peasantry. But, nevertheless, at that time the rural industrial worker enjoyed a certain security of existence.

With the introduction of machinery all this was altered. Prices were now determined by the machine-made product, and the wage of the domestic industrial worker fell with this price. However, the worker had to accept it or look for other work, and he could not do that without becoming a proletarian, that is without giving up his little house garden and field, whether his own property or held by him as tenant. Only in the rarest cases was he ready to do this. And thus the horticulture and agriculture of the old rural hand weavers became the cause by virtue of which the struggle of the hand loom against the mechanical loom was so protracted and has not yet been fought to a conclusion in Germany. In this struggle it was shown for the first time, especially in England, that the same circumstance which formerly served as a basis for a comparatively comfortable material situation of the workers – the ownership by the worker of his means of production – had now become a hindrance and a misfortune for them. In industry the mechanical loom defeated the hand loom, and in agriculture large-scale methods (agriculture carried on in accordance with scientific principles and with technically perfected tools) drove small-scale cultivation from the field. However, while collective labour and the application of machinery and science became the social rule on both fields of production, the worker was chained to the antiquated method of individual production and hand labour by his little house, garden, field and hand loom. The possession of house and garden was now of much less advantage than the possession of complete freedom of movement. No factory worker would have changed places with the slowly but surely starving rural hand weaver.

Germany appeared late on the world market. Our large-scale industry dates from the ’forties; it received its first impetus from the Revolution of 1848, and was able to develop fully only after the Revolutions of 1866 and 1870 had cleared at least the worst political obstacles out of its way. But to a large extent it found the world market already occupied. The articles of mass production were supplied by England and the elegant luxury articles by France. Germany could not beat the former in price or the latter in quality. For the moment, therefore, nothing else remained but, in accordance with the tendency of German production up to that time, to squeeze into the world market with articles which were too petty for the English and too shoddy for the French. Of course the popular German custom of cheating, by first sending good samples and afterwards inferior articles, soon met with sufficiently severe punishment on the world market and was pretty well abandoned. On the other hand, the competition of overproduction is gradually forcing even the respectable English along the downward path of quality deterioration and so has given an advantage to the Germans, who are unbeatable on this field. And thus we finally came to possess a large-scale industry and to play a role on the world market. But our large-scale industry works almost exclusively for the home market (with the exception of the iron industry which produces far beyond the limits of home demand), and our mass export consists of a tremendous number of small articles, for which large-scale industry provides at most the half-finished manufactures, which small articles, however, are supplied chiefly by rural domestic industry.

And here is seen in all its glory the “blessing” of house- and land-ownership for the modern worker. Nowhere, hardly excepting even the Irish domestic industries, are such infamously low wages paid as in the German domestic industries. Competition permits the capitalist to deduct from the price of labour power that which the family earns from its own little garden or field; the workers are compelled to accept any piece wages offered to them, because otherwise they would get nothing at all, and they could not live from the products of their small-scale agriculture alone, and because, on the other hand, it is just this agriculture and landownership which chains them to the spot and prevents them from looking around for other employment. This is the basis which upholds Germany’s capacity to compete on the world market in a whole series of small articles. The whole capital profit is derived from a deduction from normal wages and the whole surplus value can be presented to the purchaser. That is the secret of the extraordinary cheapness of most of the German export articles.

It is this circumstance more than any other which keeps the wages and the living conditions of the German workers on other industrial fields also below the level of the Western European countries. The dead weight of such prices for labour, kept traditionally far below the value of labour power, depresses the wages of the urban workers also, even of the workers in the big towns, below the value of labour power; and this is all the more the case because poorly-paid domestic industry has taken the place of the old handicrafts in the towns also, and here, too, depresses the general level of wages.

Here we see clearly: that which at an earlier historical stage was the basis of relative well-being for the workers, namely, the combination of agriculture and industry, the ownership of house, garden and field, and security of tenure in the dwelling-place, is becoming today, under the rule of large-scale industry, not only the worst hindrance to the worker, but the greatest misfortune for the whole working class, the basis for an unexampled depression of wages below their normal level, and that not only for individual districts and branches of enterprise, but for the whole country. No wonder that the big bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie who live and grow rich from these abnormal deductions from wages are enthusiastic over rural industry and the workers owning their own houses, and that they regard the introduction of new domestic industries as the sole remedy for all rural distress.

That is one side of the matter, but it also has its reverse side. Domestic industry has become the broad basis of the German export trade and therefore of the whole of large-scale industry. It is thus spread over wide areas of Germany and is extending still further daily. The ruin of the small peasant, inevitable from the time when his industrial domestic production for his own use was destroyed by the cheap, hand-made and machine product, and his cattle breeding, and thus his manure production also, was destroyed by the dissolution of the old Mark system, the abolition of the common Mark and of compulsory land tillage – this ruin forcibly drives the small peasant, fallen victim to the usurer, into the arms of modern domestic industry. Like the ground rent of the landlord in Ireland, the interest of the mortgage usurer in Germany cannot be paid from the yield of the soil, but only from the wages of the industrial peasant. However, with the expansion of domestic industry, one peasant area after the other is being drawn into the present-day industrial movement. It is this revolutionisation of the rural areas by domestic industry which spreads the industrial revolution in Germany over a far wider territory than is the case in England and France; it is the comparatively low level of our industry which makes its extension in area all the more necessary. This explains why in Germany, in contrast to England and France, the revolutionary working class movement has spread so tremendously over the greater part of the country instead of being confined exclusively to the urban centres. And this further explains the steady, certain and irresistible progress of the movement. It is perfectly clear that in Germany a victorious rising in the capital and in the other big towns will be possible only when the majority of the smaller towns and a great part of the rural areas have become ripe for the change. Given anything like normal development, we shall never be in a position to win working class victories like those of the Parisians in 1848 and 1871, but for the same reason we shall not suffer defeats of the revolutionary capital by the reactionary provinces as Paris suffered them in both cases. In France, the movement always originated in the capital; in Germany, it originated in the areas of big industry, of manufacture and of domestic industry; the capital was conquered only later. Therefore, perhaps, in the future also the initiative will continue to rest with the French but the decision can be fought out only in Germany.

However, this rural domestic industry and manufacture, which in its expansion has become the decisive branch of German production and thus revolutionises more and more the German peasantry, is itself only the preliminary stage of a far-reaching revolution. As Marx has already proved (Capital, Vol. I, page 514, et seq.), at a certain stage of development the hour of its downfall owing to machinery and factory production will sound for it also. And this hour would appear to be at hand. But in Germany the destruction of rural domestic industry and manufacture by machinery and factory production means the destruction of the livelihood of millions of rural producers, the expropriation of almost half the German small peasantry; the transformation not only of domestic industry into factory production, but also of peasant agriculture into large-scale capitalist agriculture, of small landed property into big estates – an industrial and agricultural revolution in favour of capital and big landownership at the cost of the peasants. Should it be Germany’s fate also to undergo this transformation while still under the old social conditions then it will unquestionably be the turning point. If the working, class of no other country has taken the initiative by that time, then Germany will certainly strike first, and the peasant sons of the “glorious army” will bravely assist.

And with this the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois utopia which would give each worker the ownership of his own dwelling, and thus chain him in semi-feudal fashion to his own particular capitalist, takes on a very different complexion. Its realisation is seen to be the transformation of all the small rural house owners into industrial domestic workers; the destruction of the old isolation and with it the destruction of the political insignificance of the small peasants who would be dragged into the “social whirlpool”; the extension of the industrial revolution over the rural areas and thus the transformation of the most stable and conservative class of the population into a revolutionary hotbed; and, as the culmination of the whole process, the expropriation by machinery of the peasants engaged in home industry, driving them forcibly into insurrection.

We can readily allow the bourgeois-socialist philanthropists the private enjoyment of their ideal so long as they continue in their public function as capitalists to realise it in this inverted fashion to the benefit of the social revolution.

London, January 10 1887.