Selected Essays by Karl Marx/Moralising Criticism and Critical Morality
|←On The King Of Prussia And Social Reform||Selected Essays by , translated by Henry James Stenning
Moralising Criticism and Critical Morality: A Polemic Against Karl Heinzen
|Translation appeared in the 1926 Selected Essays by Karl Marx|
"I cannot imagine that Mr Engels and our communists are so blind as not to see that force also dominates property, and that the injustice in the property relations is only maintained by force. I call that person a fool and a coward who cherishes animosity towards a bourgeois because he is accumulating money, and leaves a king in peace because he has acquired power," states Mr Heinzen.
"Force also dominates property." Property is likewise also a species of power. The economists call capital, for example, "the command over other labour." We are thus confronted with two kinds of force or power: on the one hand, the power of property, that is, of the property owner; on the other hand, the political power, the State power. "Force also dominates property" means that property has not yet got the political power in its hands, but is rather vexed by it, for example, by arbitrary taxes, by confiscation, by privileges, by the disturbing interference of the bureaucracy in industry and trade and the like.
In other words: The bourgeoisie is not yet politically constituted as a class. The State power is not yet its own power. In countries where the bourgeoisie has already conquered political power, and where political rule is nothing less than the rule, not of the individual bourgeois over the workers, but of the bourgeois class over the whole of society, Mr Heinzen's dictum has lost its meaning. The propertyless are, of course, not affected by political rule, so far as it relates directly to property.
Whilst, therefore, Mr Heinzen fancies he is uttering a truth as eternal as it is original, he has only recorded the fact that the German bourgeoisie must capture the political power, that is, he is saying unconsciously what Engels says, in the brave belief that he is saying the opposite.
"The injustice in the property relations," continues Mr Heinzen, "is only maintained by force." Either Mr Heinzen understands by "the injustice in the property relations" the above-mentioned pressure, which the German bourgeoisie still suffers in its "most sacred" interests from the absolute monarchy, and then he only repeats what has just been said—or he understands by "the injustice in the property relations" the economic relations of the workers, and in that case his revelation amounts to this: The existing bourgeois property relations are "maintained" by the State power, which the bourgeoisie has organized for the protection of its property relations. The proletarians must, therefore, overthrow the political power where it is already in the hands of the bourgeoisie. They must themselves attain to power, to revolutionary power. Mr Heinzen again says unconsciously what Engels says, again in the sincere conviction of having said the opposite. What he says he does not mean, and what he means he does not say.
Moreover, if the bourgeoisie politically, that is, through the agency of its State power, maintains "the injustice in the property relations," it does not create the latter. The "injustice in the property relations," conditioned by the modern division of labour, the modern form of exchange, competition, concentration, etc., does not in any way proceed from the political rule of the bourgeoisie, but, contrariwise, the political rule of the bourgeoisie proceeds from these modern relations of production, which are proclaimed by the bourgeois economists to be necessary and eternal laws.
If, therefore, the proletariat should overthrow the political rule of the bourgeoisie, its victory would be only temporary, only an episode in the service of the bourgeois revolution, so long as the material conditions which would render necessary the abolition of the bourgeois mode of production, and consequently the definitive overthrow of the political rule of the bourgeoisie, had not yet been created in the course of historical development. From this point of view, the Reign of Terror in France did no more than to clear away the feudal ruins from French soil by its hammer blows.
The anxious and cautious bourgeoisie would have taken decades to perform this work. The bloody action of the people, therefore, prepared the way. Similarly, the overthrow of the absolute monarchy would have been merely a momentary incident, if the economic conditions for the rule of the bourgeois class had not been developed to the point of ripeness.
Men built for themselves a new world, not out of earthly goods, as the bluff Heinzen superstition would have us believe, but out of the historical achievements of their shipwrecked world. In the course of development, they have first to create the material conditions for a new society themselves, and no effort of the mind or the will can save them from this destiny.
It is typical of bluff common sense that where it manages to see difference, it does not see unity, and where it sees unity, it does not see difference. If perchance it sets up distinguishing qualities, it immediately petrifies them, and sees nothing but sophistry in the notion of rubbing these slabs of ideas against each other until they catch fire.
In stating that money and force, property and rule, money-making and power-acquiring are not the same, it is merely uttering a tautology.
How "money-making" is turned into "winning power," and "property" into "political rule," and how, instead of the hard and fast distinctions drawn by Mr Heinzen, the two forces are interrelated to the point of unity, of all this he may quickly convince himself by observing how the communes purchased their municipal rights; how the citizens enticed money out of the pockets of the feudal lords by trade and industry, on the one hand, and disintegrated their landed property by bills of exchange, on the other hand; aiding absolute monarchy to triumph over the great feudatories who were thus being undermined, just as later they exploited the financial crises of absolute monarchy itself, etc.; how the most absolute monarch became dependent on the Stock Exchange barons through the national debt system—a product of modern industry and of modern commerce; and how in the international relations of peoples industrial monopoly is immediately transmuted into political rule, as in the case of the princes of the Holy Alliance in the "German liberation war," who were only the paid foot soldiers of England, etc., etc.
Mr Heinzen cannot fail to notice that even in Prussia the power of property has been raised to the point of a mariage forcé with the political power. Listen further:
"You wish to give a contemporary meaning to social questions; and yet you fail to see that there is no more important question than that of monarchy versus republic." A little while ago Mr Heinzen only saw the distinction between the money power and the political power, now he only sees unity between political questions and social questions.
The political relations of men are, of course, also social relations, as are all relations which bind men to men. All questions pertaining to the relations of men to each other are social questions at the same time.
The "social questions" which have been "discussed in our time" increase in importance in the degree that we emerge from the realm of absolute monarchy. Socialism and communism did not originate in Germany, but in England, France and North America. The first appearance of a really active communist party may be placed within the period of the middle-class revolution, the moment when constitutional monarchy was abolished. The most consistent republicans, in England the Levellers, in France Babeuf, Buonarotti, etc., were the first to proclaim these "social questions." The "Conspiracy of Babeuf," written by his friend and comrade Buonarotti, shows how these republicans derived their social insight from the "historical movement." It also demonstrates that when the social question of princedom versus republic is removed, not a single social question of the kind that interests the proletariat has been solved.
The property question as it presents itself in "our time" cannot be recognized under the form in which Mr Heinzen clothes it, i.e. "whether it is right that one man should possess everything and another nothing, whether man as an individual need possess anything at all," and suchlike simple questions of conscience and pious phrases.
The question of property assumes different forms according to the successive stages of development of industry in general and according to its particular stages of development in various countries.
For the Galician peasant, for example, the property question reduces itself to the transformation of feudal landed property into small middle-class holdings. It has for him the same meaning as it had for the French peasants of 1789. On the other hand, the English agricultural labourer does not stand in any relation to the landed proprietor. He comes into contact merely with the farmer, that is, the industrial capitalist who carries on agriculture upon factory lines. This industrial capitalist, on his part, who pays a rent to the land owner, stands in a direct relationship to the latter. The abolition of landed property is therefore the most important property question that exists for the English industrial bourgeoisie, and the struggle against the Corn Laws had no other meaning. The abolition of capital, on the other hand, is the property question as understood equally by the English agricultural labourer and by the English factory worker.
Both in the English and in the French Revolutions the property question presented itself in such wise that it seemed to be imperative to enforce free competition and to effect the abolition of all feudal property relations, such as manorial rights, guilds, monopolies, which had been transformed into fetters upon the industry which was developing between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Lastly, in "our time" the property question means the abolition of the antagonisms which are produced by the great industry, the development of the world market and of free competition.
The property question, according to the successive stages in the development of industry, has always been the life question of a particular class. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when the point at issue was the abolition of feudal property relations, the property question was the life question of the bourgeois class. In the nineteenth century, when the point at issue is the abolition of bourgeois property relations, the property question is a life question for the working class.
The property question, which in "our time" is a world-historical question, has therefore a meaning only in the modern bourgeois society. The more developed this society is, the more therefore the bourgeoisie develops itself economically in a country, and consequently the more the State power has assumed a bourgeois expression, all the more acutely does the social question obtrude itself, in France more acutely than in Germany, in England more acutely than in France, in the constitutional monarchy more acutely than in the absolute monarchy, in the Republic more acutely than in the constitutional monarchy. Thus, for example, the crises in the credit system and in speculation, etc., are nowhere more acute than in North America. Nowhere, too, does social inequality obtrude itself more harshly than in the Eastern States of North America, because it is nowhere less glossed over by political inequality. If pauperism has not yet developed here to the extent that it has in England, this is due to economic conditions which need not be further discussed at this place. Meanwhile pauperism is making the most delightful progress.
"In a country where there is no privileged class, where all classes of society have equal rights" (but the difficulty lies in the existence of classes), "and where our population is far from pressing on the means of subsistence, it is in fact alarming to see pauperism growing with such rapidity." (Report of Mr Meredith to the Pennsylvanian Congress.) "It is proved that pauperism in Massachusetts has increased by 60 per cent, in twenty-five years." (From Miles' Register.)
As in England under the name of Chartists, so in North America under the name of National Reformers, the workers are forming a political party, whose slogan is not—monarchy versus republic, but rule of the working class versus rule of the bourgeois class.
While therefore it is just in the modern bourgeois society, with its corresponding political forms of the constitutional or the republican representative state, that the "property question" has become the most important "social question," it is the peculiar situation of the German middle-class man which prompts him to assert that the question of princedom is the most important social question of the time.
"The princes," Mr Heinzen tells us, are the "chief authors of all poverty and all distress." Where princedom has been abolished, this explanation is of course out of place, and the slavery system upon which the ancient republics broke down—the slavery system which will lead to the most terrible collisions in the southern states of republican North America, the slavery system may exclaim with Jack Falstaff: and if reasons were as plentiful as blackberries!
Once upon a time the people were obliged to place at their head the most eminent personalities to conduct public affairs. Later these positions were transmitted through families. And lastly the stupidity and depravity of mankind have tolerated this abuse for centuries. If a conference were convened of all the native pot-house politicians of Europe, they could answer nothing different. And if one went through Mr Heinzen's entire works, they would yield no other answer.
Bluff commonsense believes that it explains princedom by declaring itself to be the latter's opponent. But the difficulty which confronts this normal method of reasoning is to show how the opponent of healthy commonsense and of moral dignity came to be born, and to drag out a remarkably tenacious life for centuries. Nothing simpler. For centuries healthy commonsense and moral dignity were non-existent. In other words, the sense and the morality of centuries answered to the institution of princedom, instead of contradicting it. And even this sense and this morality of bygone centuries are not understood by the "healthy commonsense" of to-day. The latter does not grasp it, and therefore despises it. It flees from history to morality, which allows it full play to the heavy artillery of its moral indignation.
In the same fashion as political "healthy commonsense" here explains the rise and continuance of princedom as the work of unreason, in the same way religious "healthy commonsense" explains heresy and unbelief as the work of the devil. In the same manner irreligious "healthy commonsense" explains religion as the work of the devil, of the parsons.
But once Mr Heinzen has explained the origin of princedom by means of moral commonplaces, the "connection of princedom with social conditions" follows quite naturally. Listen: "An individual sequestrates the state, and more or less sacrifices a whole people, not only materially, but also morally, to his person and his supporters, institutes a graduated series of ranks, divides the people, as if they were fat and lean cattle, into various classes, and, solely on the ground of affection for his own person, makes every member of the State the official enemy of the other."
Mr Heinzen has in mind the princes upon the top of the social structure in Germany. He does not doubt for a moment that they have made and are daily renewing their social foundation. Can a simpler explanation be afforded of the connection of the monarchy with social conditions, of which it is the official political expression, than by making this connection the work of the princes? What is the connection between representative chambers and the modern middle-class society which they represent? The former have made the latter. Similarly political divine right with its apparatus and its gradations has made the profane world, of which it is the holy of holies. By a parity of reasoning religious divine right has made the secular conditions of which it constitutes a fantastic and glorified reflexion.
Bluff commonsense, which proffers such homely wisdom with beseeming pathos would of course be morally indignant at the opponent who attempted to show that the apple did not make the apple tree.
Modern historical research has shown how absolute monarchy appeared in the period of transition, when the old feudal classes were decaying and the medieval burgher class was evolving into the modern bourgeois class, without either of the disputing parties being able to settle accounts with the other.
The elements out of which absolute monarchy builds itself up cannot in any way be its product: they rather form its preliminary condition, the historic origin of which is too well known to be repeated here. That absolute monarchy in Germany developed later and is lasting longer is to be explained by reference to the distorted course of development of the German middle class. The solution to the riddle of this course of development is to be found in the history of commerce and industry.
The decay of the German free towns, the destruction of the Order of Knighthood, the defeat of the peasants—the local supremacy of the princes which arose therefrom—the decay of German industry and of German commerce, which were based on entirely medieval conditions, at the same time as the modern world market was being opened up and large-scale manufacture was thriving—the depopulation and the barbarous condition that followed in the wake of the Thirty Years War—the character of the reviving national branches of industry, such as the small linen industry, which are adapted to patriarchal conditions and relations—the nature of the articles of export, the greater part of which belonged to agriculture, and therefore almost alone increased the material sources of life of the landed nobility, and consequently the power of the latter over the citizens—the depressed position of Germany in the world market in general, whereby the subsidies paid by foreigners to the princes became a chief source of national income, the consequent dependence of the citizens upon the Court, etc. etc.,—all these conditions, within which German society and a political organization corresponding thereto developed, are transformed by Heinzen's bluff common sense into a few pithy sayings, the pith of which consists in the assertion that "German princedom" made and daily remakes "German society."
The optimistic delusion which enables healthy common sense to find in princedom the source of German society, instead of seeing the source of princedom in German society, is susceptible of an easy explanation.
It sees truly enough at first glance, and its first glance is always keenest, that the German princes maintain and consolidate the old German social condition, upon which their existence stands or falls, and forcibly react against the dissolving elements. It likewise sees, on the other hand, the dissolving elements striving with the princely power. All the healthy five senses testify at once that princedom is the foundation of the old society, its gradations, its prejudices, and its antagonisms.
Regarded more closely, however, this phenomenon only contradicts the rough and ready opinion for which it furnished the innocent occasion.
The powerful reactionary rôle which princedom assumed only proves that in the pores of the old society a new society has evolved, which feels the political husk—the appropriate covering of the old society—to be an unnatural fetter which it must burst. The more immature these new elements are, the more conservative appears to be even the most vigorous reaction of the old political power. The reaction of princedom, instead of proving that it makes the old society, rather proves that it is at the end of its tether so soon as the material conditions of the old society are obsolete. Its reaction is at the same time the reaction of the old society, which is still the official society.
If the material conditions of life of society have so far developed that the transformation of their official political shape has become a vital necessity for it, the entire physiognomy of the old political power undergoes a transformation. Thus absolute monarchy now aims at decentralization, instead of at centralization, wherein consists its proper civilizing activity.
Itself the product of the defeat of the feudal orders, and even taking the most active part in their destruction, it tries now to retain at least the semblance of feudal distinctions. Formerly favouring commerce and industry and also the rise of the burgher class, as being necessary conditions both of the national power and of its own brilliance, absolute monarchy now puts all kinds of obstacles in the way of commerce and industry, which have become more and more dangerous weapons in the hands of a powerful bourgeoisie. From the town, which fostered its rise, it casts an anxious and dulled glance over the countryside, which is fertilized with the corpses of its old heroic foes.
But what Mr Heinzen understands by the "connection of politics with social conditions" is really only the connection of German princedom with German distress and German poverty.
The monarchy, like every other State, exists externally for the working class only in the form of taxes. Taxes constitute the existence of the State economically expressed. Officials and parsons, soldiers and ballet dancers, schoolmasters and beadles, Greek museums and Gothic towers, civil list and army list—the communal seeds wherein all these fabulous existences embryonically slumber are—the taxes.
And what reasoning citizen would not refer the starving people to the taxes, to the ill-gotten gains of the princes, as the source of their poverty? German princes and German distress! In other words, the taxes on which the princes live in opulence and which the people pay with the sweat of their blood! What inexhaustible material for declamatory human saviours!
No doubt the monarchy is very expensive. One has only to glance at the North American budget and compare it with what our thirty-eight duodecimo fatherland has to pay in order to be administered and over-disciplined.
The blustering outbreaks of this conceited demagogy are answered not by the communists, but by such middle-class economists as Ricardo, Senior, etc., in a few words.
The economic existence of the State is the taxes. The economic existence of the worker is wages. What has to be settled is the relation between wages and taxes.
The average wage is necessarily reduced by competition to the minimum, that is, to a wage which allows the workers and their race to drag out a scanty existence. Taxes form a part of this minimum, for the political business of the worker just consists in paying taxes. If the whole of the taxes that fall on the working class were drastically cut down, the necessary consequence would be that wages would be reduced by the whole amount of the taxes now included in them. Either the profit of the employer would thereby be increased to the same extent, or a change in the method of raising taxes would have taken place. Instead of the capitalist advancing to-day in wages the taxes which the worker must pay, he would no longer pay them in this roundabout fashion, but directly to the State. If wages are higher in North America than in Europe, this is by no means due to its lighter taxation. It is the consequence of its territorial, commercial, and industrial situation. The demand for workers in relation to the supply of workers is considerably greater than in Europe. And this truth is known already to every pupil of Adam Smith.
On the other hand, so far as the bourgeoisie is concerned, both the incidence and the nature of the taxes, as well as the spending of the money, are a vital question, both on account of their influence upon commerce and industry, and because taxes are the golden cord with which absolute monarchy is strangled.
After vouchsafing such profound explanations about the "connection of politics with social conditions" and the "class relations" with the State power, Mr Heinzen exclaims triumphantly: "The 'communistic narrow-mindedness' which divides men into classes, or antagonizes them according to their handicraft, has been avoided by me. I have left open the 'possibility' that 'humanity' is not always determined by 'class' or the 'length of one's purse.'" Bluff common sense transforms the class distinction into the "length of the purse" and the class antagonism into trade quarrels. The length of the purse is a purely quantitative distinction, which may perchance antagonize any two individuals of the same class. That the medieval guilds confronted each other on the basis of handicraft is well known. But it is likewise well known that the modern class distinction is by no means based on handicraft; rather the division of labour within the same class produces very different methods of work.
It is very 'possible' that particular individuals are not always influenced in their attitude by the class to which they belong, but this has as little effect upon the class struggle as the secession of a few nobles to the tiers état had on the French Revolution. And then these nobles at least joined a class, the revolutionary class, the bourgeoisie. But Mr Heinzen sees all classes melt away before the solemn idea of 'humanity.'
If he believes that entire classes, which are based upon economic conditions independent of their will, and are set by these conditions in a relation of mutual antagonism, can break away from their real relations, by virtue of the quality of 'humanity' which is inherent in all men, how easy it should be for a prince to raise himself above his 'princedom', above his 'princely handicraft' by virtue of 'humanity'? Why does he take it amiss when Engels perceives a 'brave Emperor Joseph' behind his revolutionary phrases?
But if, on the one hand, Mr Heinzen obliterates all distinctions, in addressing himself vaguely to the 'humanity' of Germans, so that he is obliged to include even the princes in his admonitions, on the other hand, he finds himself obliged to set up at least one distinction among Germans, for without a distinction there can be no antagonism, and without an antagonism, no materials for political Capuchinian sermons.
Mr Heinzen therefore divides Germans into princes and subjects.
The 'narrow-minded' communists see not only the political distinction of prince and subject, but also the social distinction of classes.
It is well known that, shortly after the July Revolution, the victorious bourgeoisie, in its September laws, made "the incitement of class against class," probably also out of 'humanity,' a criminal offence, to which imprisonment and fines were attached. It is further well known that the English bourgeois newspapers could not denounce the Chartist leaders and Chartist writers more effectively than by reproaching them with setting class against class. It is even notorious that, in consequence of inciting class against class, German writers are incarcerated in fortresses. Is not Mr Heinzen this time talking the language of the French September laws, the English bourgeois newspapers, and the German penal code?
But no. The well-meaning Mr Heinzen only fears that the communists "are seeking to assure the princes a revolutionary Fontanelle." Thus the Belgian liberals assure us that the radicals are in secret alliance with the catholics; the French liberals assure us that the democrats have an understanding with the legitimists. And the liberal Mr Heinzen assures us that the communists have an understanding with the princes.
As I once pointed out in the Franco-German Annuals, Germany has her own Christian-Germanic plague. Her bourgeoisie was so retarded in its development that it is beginning its struggle with absolute monarchy and seeking to establish its political power at the moment when in all developed countries the bourgeoisie is already engaged in the most violent struggles with the working class, and when its political illusions are already obsolete so far as the intellect of Europe is concerned.
In this country, where the political poverty of absolute monarchy still exists with a whole appendage of decayed semi-feudal orders and conditions, there exist on the other hand, partly in consequence of the industrial development and Germany's dependence on the world market, the antagonisms between the bourgeoisie and the working class, and the struggle arising therefrom, an instance of which are the workers' revolts in Silesia and Bohemia. The German bourgeoisie therefore finds itself in a relation of antagonism to the proletariat before it has yet constituted itself politically as a class. The struggle among the subjects has broken out before ever princes and nobles have been got rid of, in spite of all Hambach songs.
Mr Heinzen does not know how to explain these contradictory relations, which of course are also reflected in German literature, except by putting them on to his opponents' conscience and interpreting them as the consequence of the counter-revolutionary activities of the communists.
Meanwhile the German workers are quite aware that the absolute monarchy does not and cannot hesitate one moment to greet them with a whiff of grapeshot in the service of the bourgeoisie. Why then should they prefer the direct rule of the bourgeoisie to the brutal oppression of absolute government, with its semi-feudal retinue? The workers know that the bourgeoisie must not only make them wider concessions than absolute monarchy, but that in the interests of its commerce and industry, the bourgeoisie must create against its will the conditions for the unity of the workers, and the unity of the workers is the first requisite for their victory. The workers know that the abolition of bourgeois property relations is not brought about by the maintenance of feudal property relations. They know their own revolutionary movement can only be accelerated through the revolutionary movement of the bourgeoisie against the feudal orders and the absolute monarchy. They know that their own struggle with the bourgeoisie can only break out on the day the bourgeoisie triumphs. In spite of all, they do not share Mr Heinzen's middle-class illusions. They can and must take part in the middle-class revolution as a condition preliminary to the Labour revolution. But they cannot for a moment regard it as their objective.
That the attitude of the workers is as above described, of this the English Chartists have furnished us with a brilliant example in the recent Anti-Corn Law League movement. Not for a moment did they believe the lies and delusions of the middle-class radicals, not for a moment did they abandon their struggle against the latter, but fully conscious of what they were doing, the Chartists assisted their enemies to triumph over the Tories, and the day after the abolition of the Corn Laws, it was no longer Tories and Free Traders who faced each other at the hustings, but Free Traders and Chartists. And they captured seats in Parliament from these middle-class radicals.
Mr Heinzen understands the middle-class liberals just as little as he understands the workers, however unconsciously he labours in their service. He believes it necessary to repeat to them the old platitudes anent German "laziness" and humility. But the honest man takes quite seriously what are only servile phrases in the mouth of a Camphausen or a Hansemann. The bourgeois gentry will laugh at this simplicity. They know that the mob is bold and aggressive in revolutions. Consequently, the bourgeois gentry try as far as possible to transform the absolute monarchy into a middle-class monarchy by amicable means.
But absolute monarchy in Prussia, as formerly in England and France, does not lend itself to peaceful transformation into a middle-class monarchy. It does not gracefully abdicate. In addition to personal prejudices, the princes are bound hand and foot by a whole civil, military, and parsonic bureaucracy—constituent parts of absolute monarchy which do not by any means desire to exchange their ruling position for a serving position under the bourgeoisie.
On the other hand, the feudal orders hold aloof, as what is at stake is their existence or non-existence, that is, property or expropriation. It is clear that absolute monarchy, in spite of all the servile homage of the bourgeoisie, perceives its true interest to lie on the side of these orders.
As little, therefore, as the sweet persuasions of a Lally Tollendal, a Mounier, a Malouet, or a Mirabeau could induce a Louis XVI. to cast in his lot with the bourgeoisie, in opposition to the feudalists and the remnants of absolute monarchy, just as little will the siren songs of a Camphausen or a Hansemann convince Friedrich Wilhelm IV.
But Mr Heinzen has no concern either with the bourgeoisie or with the proletariat in Germany. His party is the "party of humanity," that is the honest and warmhearted enthusiasts who champion middle-class interests under the disguise of "human" objects, without being clear as to the connection of the idealistic phrase with its realistic content.
To his party, the party of man, or the crowd of humanity in Germany, the State builder Karl Heinzen offers the "best republic," the best republic devised by him, "the federal republic with social institutions." Rousseau once sketched the best political world for the Poles and Mably for the Corsicans. The great Genevese citizen has found a still greater successor.
"I submit that just as a flower can only be made out of petals, so a republic can only be composed of republican elements." A man who knows how to make flowers out of petals, even if it is only a daisy, cannot fail to devise the best republic, whatever an ill-natured world might say.
In spite of all slanderous tongues, the brave state builder takes the example of the Charter of Republican North America. What seems offensive to him, he brushes aside with his common sense. Thus he accomplishes a revised edition—in usum delphini, that is for the use and edification of "German humanity." The colossal picture of the world devised by him he has in fact hung up with his own hand on the highest summit of the Swiss Alps.
Cacatum non est pictum, hisses the voice of the "small" impenitent snake. And the republican Ajax angrily lets the communistic Thersites fall to the ground, and blurts out in a deep-throated voice the fearful words: "You carry the ridiculous too far, Mr Engels!"
And really, Mr Engels? Do you not believe that the American federal system is the best political form which statecraft has so far devised? You shake your head? What? You deny that the American federal system has ever been devised by statecraft at all? And that there are "best political social forms" in abstracto? But that is the last straw.
You are shameless enough to point out to us that the honest German who would benefit his true fatherland by conferring on it the North American constitution, beautified and improved, resembles the idiotic merchant who copied the ledgers of his rich rival, and imagined that being in possession of this copy, he had also come into possession of the coveted wealth.
Barbaroux, and other persons who had made much noise in the world, were made shorter by a whole head because they happened to claim the "American federal system" to be the "best political form." And thus it will befall all other Goliaths to whom it may occur, in the midst of any democratic revolution in Europe, and especially in still quite feudal and dismembered Germany, to put the "American federal system" in place of the one and indivisible republic and its levelling centralization.
The state-founding Hercules indeed does not copy slavishly the North American federal republic. He decorates it with "social institutions"; he would regulate the property relations "according to rational principles," and the seven great measures wherewith he would abolish the old bourgeois society are by no means wretched flimsy recipes collected from modern, objectionable communist and socialist cookshops.
To the "Incas" and "Campe's books for children" the great Karl Heinzen is indebted for his recipe for the "humanizing of society," just as he is indebted for the latter pompous phrase not to the philosopher and Pomeranian Ruge, but rather to a "Peruvian" grown grey in wisdom. And Mr Engels calls all this arbitrarily-contrived, commonplace enthusiasm for world improvement.
Take for instance any well-meaning citizen and ask him on his conscience: What is the difficulty under which the existing property relations labour? And the worthy man will place his index finger at the tip of his nose, draw two deep breaths of thought, and then give it out as his opinion, that it is a shame for many to possess "nothing," not even the most absolute necessities, while others roll in shameless millions, not only to the detriment of the propertyless masses, but also to that of honest citizens. Aurea mediocritas. Golden mediocrity, the worthy member of the middle class will exclaim. It is only extremes that should be avoided. What rational state constitution would be compatible with these extremes, these highly objectionable extremes?
And now take a look at the Heinzen "federal republic," with "social institutions" and seven measures for the "humanizing of society." There a minimum of property is assured to every citizen, below which he cannot fall, and a maximum of property is prescribed which he must not exceed. Has Mr Heinzen then not solved all difficulties inasmuch as he has repeated in the form of State decrees and thereby realized the pious desire of all worthy citizens, that none should have too little and none too much?
And in the same equally simple and generous fashion Mr Heinzen solves all the economic problems. He has regulated property according to reasonable principles corresponding to honest cheapness.
And do not raise the objection that the "rational rules" of property are just those "economic laws" on whose cold-blooded necessity all cheap "measures," whether or not recommended by Incas and Campe's books for children and held in great esteem by the most sturdy patriots, must come to grief.
How unkind it is to raise economic objections against a man who, unlike others, does not boast of his "studies of political economy," but has rather out of modesty managed to give the impression in all his works, that he has still to make his first studies in political economy.
Whereas private property is not a simple relation, or even an abstract concept, a principle, but consists in the totality of middle-class production relations—we are concerned here not with subordinate and decaying, but with existing, middle-class private property—whereas all these middle-class productive relations are class relations, a connection which is obvious to every pupil of Adam Smith or Ricardo—an alteration in these conditions can only be brought about by an alteration of these classes in their reciprocal connection, and an alteration in the position of classes is—a historical change, a product of the total social activity, the product of a specific "historical movement."
For example, in order to explain the abolition of middle-class property relations, modern historians would have to describe the movement in which the bourgeoisie progressed to the point where it had developed its conditions of life far enough to be able to abolish the whole of the feudal orders and the feudal mode of existence, and consequently the feudal relations of production within which these feudal orders had been producing. The abolition of feudal property relations and the foundation of modern middle-class society was therefore not the result of a certain action which proceeded from a particular theoretical principle pressed to its logical conclusion. The principles and theories which the writers of the bourgeoisie put forward during the latter's struggle with feudalism were rather nothing but the theoretical expression of the practical movement. How this expression was more or less Utopian, dogmatic, or doctrinaire, according as it related to a more or less developed phase of the real movement can be clearly traced.