Selected Essays by Karl Marx/On The King Of Prussia And Social Reform
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On The King Of Prussia And Social Reform
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No. 60 of "Vorwärts" contained an article entitled "The King of Prussia and Social Reform," signed "A Prussian."
In the first place, the so-called Prussian refers to the contents of the Royal Prussian Cabinet Order touching the Silesian weavers' revolt and the opinion of the French journal La Reforme upon the Prussian Cabinet Order. La Reforme considers that "the fears and the religious feeling of the King" are the source of the Cabinet Order. It even finds in this document a foreshadowing of the great reforms which are in prospect for bourgeois society. "Prussian" instructs La Reforme as follows:
"The King and German society have not reached the stage of foreshadowing their reform, and even the Silesian and Bohemian revolts have not created this state of mind. It is impossible to regard the partial distress of the factory districts as a general question for an unpolitical country like Germany, let alone as a blot upon the whole civilized world. For the Germans the incident has the same significance as any local drought or famine. Consequently the King regards it in the light of a defect of administration or a lack of charity. For the same reason, and because a few soldiers settled accounts with the weak weavers, the destruction of factories and machines caused no fears to the King and the authorities. Even religious feeling did not dictate the Cabinet Order, which is a very sober expression of Christian statecraft, and a doctrine which puts no obstacle in the way of the acceptance of its medicine: the good feeling of Christian hearts. Poverty and crime are two great evils; who can remedy them? The State and the authorities? No, but the union of all Christian hearts."
The so-called Prussian denies the existence of the King's "fears" on the ground, amongst others, that a few soldiers settled accounts with the weak weavers.
In a country then where festivals accompanied by liberal toasts and liberal champagne froth—the Dusseldorf festival will be recalled in this connection—provoke a Royal Cabinet Order, not a single soldier being required, for the purpose of crushing the longing of the whole liberal bourgeoisie for the freedom of the Press and a constitution; in a country where passive obedience is the order of the day; in such a country would the compulsory use of armed force against weak weavers be no event and no startling event? And the weak weavers triumphed at the first encounter. They were suppressed by a subsequently reinforced body of troops. Is the revolt of a crowd of workers less dangerous because it needs no army to suppress it? If the wise Prussian compares the Silesian weavers' revolt with the English labour revolts, the Silesian weavers will appear to him to be strong weavers.
From the general relation of politics to social crime we will explain why the weavers' revolt could cause no special "fears" to the King. For the moment only this need be said: the revolt was directed not immediately against the King of Prussia, but against the bourgeoisie. As an aristocrat and an absolute monarch, the King of Prussia can have no love for the bourgeoisie; he can have even less cause for apprehension when their submission and their impotence are heightened by a strained and difficult relation to the proletariat. Further: the orthodox catholic regards the orthodox protestant with more hostility than the atheist, just as the legitimist regards the liberal with greater hostility than the communist. Not because atheists and communists are related to the catholic and legitimist, but because they are more alien to him than the protestant and the liberal, because they are outside his circle. As a politician, the King of Prussia finds his immediate antagonism in politics, in liberalism.
For the King, the antagonism of the proletariat exists just as little as the King exists for the proletariat. The proletariat must attain to decisive power before it can extinguish antipathies and political antagonisms, and draw upon itself the whole enmity of politics. Lastly: it must even afford a delightful surprise to the well-known character of the King, thirsting for what is interesting and important, to find that "interesting" and "much celebrated" pauperism on his own soil, in conjunction with an opportunity of making people talk about him afresh. How smug he must have felt at the news that henceforth he possessed his "own" Royal Prussian pauperism.
Our "Prussian" is even more unlucky when he denies "religious feeling" to be the source of the Royal Cabinet Order.
Why is not religious feeling the source of this Cabinet Order? Because it is a "very sober" expression of Christian statecraft, a "sober" expression of the doctrine which places no difficulties in the way of the acceptance of its own medicine: the good feeling of Christian hearts.
Is not religious feeling the source of Christian statecraft?
Is not a doctrine which possesses its panacea in the good feeling of Christian hearts based on religious feelings? Does a sober expression of religious feeling cease to be an expression of religious feeling? In fact, it must be a religious feeling greatly infatuated with itself and very intoxicated which would seek in the "unity of Christian hearts the remedy for great evils" which it denies can be supplied by the State and the authorities. It must be a very intoxicated religious feeling which, according to "Prussian's" admission, finds the entire evil to consist in the lack of Christian sentiment, and consequently refers the authorities to the sole means of strengthening this sentiment, to "exhortation." According to "Prussian," Christian feeling is the object at which the Cabinet Order aims. When it is intoxicated, when it is not sober, religious feeling regards itself as the sole good. Where it perceives evil, it ascribes the latter to its own absence, for if it be the only good, it alone can create good.
How then does the so-called Prussian prove that the Cabinet Order is not the outcome of religious feeling? By describing the Cabinet Order everywhere as an outcome of religious feeling. Is an insight into social movements to be expected from such an illogical mind? Listen to his prattle about the relation of German society to the Labour movement and to social reform generally.
Let us distinguish, and this "Prussian" neglects to do, between the various categories that are comprised within the expression "German society": government, bourgeoisie, Press, lastly the workers themselves. These are the various divisions with which we are here concerned. "Prussian" lumps them all together, and appraises them in the lump from a superior standpoint. German society, according to him, has not yet reached the stage of foreshadowing reform.
Why does it lack this instinct?
"In an unpolitical country like Germany," answers "Prussian," "it is impossible to regard the partial distresses of the factory districts as a general question, let alone as a blot on the whole civilized world. The incident has for the Germans the same significance as any local drought or famine. Consequently, the King regards it in the light of a defect in administration or a lack of charity."
"Prussian" therefore explains this inverted conception of labour distress from the peculiarity of an unpolitical country.
It will be conceded that England is a political country. It will be further conceded that England is the country of pauperism, even the word is of English origin.
The study of English conditions is thus the surest means of becoming acquainted with the connection of a political country with pauperism. In England labour distress is not partial but universal, not confined to the factory districts, but co-extensive with the country districts. The movements are not here in their initial stages; they have recurred periodically for almost a century.
Now how does the English bourgeoisie and the government and Press which are connected with it regard pauperism?
So far as the English bourgeoisie places the responsibility for pauperism on politics, the Whig regards the Tory and the Tory the Whig as the cause of pauperism. According to the Whig, the monopoly of large landed property and the prohibitive legislation against the import of corn constitute the chief source of pauperism. According to the Tory, the whole evil is due to Liberalism, to competition, to a factory system that has been carried too far. Neither of the parties finds the cause to reside in politics generally, but each rather in the policy of its opponent; of a reform in society neither party dreams.
The most decisive expression of the English insight into pauperism—we refer always to the insight of the English bourgeoisie and government—is English political economy, that is the scientific reflexion of English economic conditions.
MacCulloch, one of the best and most famous of English political economists, who knows existing conditions and has doubtless a clear insight into the movement of bourgeois society, a pupil of the cynical Ricardo, ventured at a public lecture, amidst applause, to apply to political economy what Bacon said of philosophy: "The man who with true and untiring wisdom suspends his judgment, who progresses gradually, surmounting one after the other the obstacles which impede like mountains the course of study, will in time reach the summit of knowledge, where rest and pure air may be enjoyed, where Nature offers herself to the eye in all her beauty, and whence one may descend by a convenient path to the last details of practice." Good pure air, the pestilential atmosphere of the English cellar dwellings.
Great natural beauties, the picturesque rags of the English poor, and the shrivelled flesh of the women, ravaged by work and poverty; children lying in dirt; and the stunted creatures produced by overwork in the one-sided processes of the factories! And the most charming last details of practice: prostitution, murder and the gallows!
Middle class Englishmen who are most alive to the danger of pauperism have an inadequate idea of its causes.
For instance Dr Kay, in his pamphlet Recent Measures for the Promotion of Education in England, reduces everything to neglected education. Upon what grounds, think you? Owing to the lack of education, the worker fails to perceive the "natural laws of trade," laws which necessarily bring him to pauperism. Consequently he is up in arms against them. This is calculated to "disturb the prosperity of English manufactures and of English trade, destroy the mutual confidence of business people, weaken the stability of political and social institutions."
So great is the thoughtlessness of the English bourgeoisie and its Press with regard to pauperism, England's national epidemic.
Let us grant then that the reproaches which our "Prussian" levels at German society are well founded. Is the explanation to be sought in the unpolitical condition of Germany?
But if the bourgeoisie of unpolitical Germany cannot grasp the general significance of a partial distress, the bourgeoisie of political England, on the other hand, has managed to miss the general significance of a universal distress, which has been forced upon its attention partly by periodical recurrence in time, partly by extension in space, and partly by the failure of all efforts to remedy it.
"Prussian" further lays it to the account of the unpolitical condition of Germany that the King of Prussia finds the cause of pauperism in administrative defects or lack of benevolence, and consequently seeks the remedy for pauperism in administrative and ameliorative measures.
Is this point of view peculiar to the King of Prussia? Let us take a rapid glance at England, the only country where important political measures have been taken against pauperism.
The present English Poor Law dates from the Forty-third Act of the Government of Elizabeth. In what consisted the expedients of this legislation? In the obligation laid on parishes to support their poor workers, in the poor rate, in legal benevolence. For two hundred years this legislation—benevolence by Act of Parliament—has lasted. What is the attitude of Parliament in its Amendment Bill of 1834; after long and painful experience?
First of all, the formidable increase in pauperism is explained from a "defect in administration."
The administration of the poor rate, which consisted of officials of the respective parishes, is therefore reformed. Unions of about twenty parishes are formed, united in a single administration. A Board of Guardians, elected by taxpayers, assembles on an appointed day in the residence of the Union and decides upon the granting of relief. These boards are coordinated and supervised by officials of the Government, the Central Commission of Somerset House, the Ministry of Pauperism, Frenchman has aptly described it. The capital which this administration supervises is almost equal to the amount which the French War Office costs. The number of local administrations which it employs amounts to 500, and each of these local administrations keeps at least twelve officials busy.
The English Parliament did not stop short at the mere reform of the administration.
The chief source of the acute state of English pauperism it found in the poor law itself. Benevolence, which is the legal remedy for social crime, favours social crime. As regards pauperism in general, it is an eternal natural law, according to the theory of Malthus: "As the population unceasingly tends to overstep the means of subsistence, benevolence is folly, a public encouragement to poverty. The State can therefore do nothing more than leave poverty to its fate and at the most soften death for the poor." With this amiable theory the English Parliament combines the opinion that pauperism is poverty for which the worker is himself responsible. It should therefore not be regarded as a misfortune, but rather be suppressed and punished as a crime.
Thus the workhouse system arose, that is, the houses of the poor, whose internal arrangements deter the poverty-stricken from seeking a refuge from starvation. In the workhouse benevolence is ingeniously combined with the revenge of the bourgeoisie upon the poor who appeal to its charity.
England, therefore, at first attempted to destroy pauperism by benevolence and administrative measures. Then it perceived in the progressive increase of pauperism, not the necessary consequence of modern industry, but rather the consequence of the English poor rate. It regarded the universal distress as nothing more than a peculiarity of English legislation. What was formerly ascribed to the lack of charity was now attributed to a superfluity of charity. Finally, poverty was regarded as the fault of the poor, and punished as such.
The general significance to which pauperism has attained in political England is limited to the fact that, in course of development, in spite of the administrative measures, pauperism has grown into a national institution, and has therefore inevitably become the subject of a ramified and extensive administration, an administration, however, which no longer aims at extinguishing it, but at disciplining and perpetuating it. This administration has abandoned all thought of stopping up the source of pauperism by constructive measures; it is content to dig a grave for it with official gentleness whenever it breaks out on the surface of the official country. Instead of going beyond the administrative and charitable measures, the English State has actually gone back upon them. Its administration is confined to that pauperism which is so despairing as to allow itself to be caught and detained.
So far, therefore, "Prussian" has not demonstrated anything peculiar in the procedure of the King of Prussia. But why, exclaims the great man with rare simplicity: "Why does not the King of Prussia immediately order the education of all destitute children?" Why does he first look to the authorities and wait upon their plans and proposals?
The over-wise "Prussian" may calm himself on learning that in this respect the King of Prussia displays as little originality as in his other actions, that he has even adopted the only course that a Chief of State can adopt.
Napoleon desired to destroy mendicancy at one blow. He instructed his authorities to draw up proposals for the extirpation of mendicancy in the whole of France. The project kept him waiting; and Napoleon lost patience. Writing to his Home Secretary, Cretet, he ordered him to destroy mendicancy within one month, and said: "One should not tarry in this world without leaving behind that which would commend our memory to posterity. Do not keep me waiting another three or four months for information; you have your lawyers, your prefects, your properly trained engineers of roads and bridges, set all these to work, do not go to sleep in the usual official manner." Within a few months everything was done. On the 5th July 1808 a law was passed which put down mendicancy. How? By means of the depôts, which were rapidly transformed into penal institutions, and it was not long before the poor would only reach the harbour of these institutions by way of legal punishment. And yet M. Noailles du Gard, member of the Legislative Assembly, exclaimed at the time: "Everlasting gratitude to the hero who assures a place of refuge for the needy and sustenance to the poor: childhood will no longer be neglected, poor families will no longer be deprived of their resources, nor the workers of encouragement and employment. Our steps will no longer be dogged by the disgusting spectacle of infirmities and of shameful poverty." The last cynical passage is the single truth in this eulogy.
If Napoleon asks for the views of his lawyers, prefects, and engineers, why should not the King of Prussia address himself to his authorities?
Why did not Napoleon order the immediate extinction of mendicancy? Of equal value is "Prussian's" question: "Why does not the King of Prussia order the immediate education of neglected children?" Does "Prussian" know what the King should have ordered? Nothing less than the immediate extinction of the proletariat. Children cannot be educated unless they are fed and freed from industrial labour. The feeding and educating of neglected children is tantamount to feeding and educating the whole adolescent proletariat, and would mean the extinction of the proletariat and of pauperism.
The Convention once had the courage to order the abolition of pauperism, yet not "immediately," as "Prussian" requires of his king, but only after it had entrusted the Committee of Public Safety with the preparation of the necessary plans and proposals, and after the latter had utilized the exhaustive investigations of the Constituent Assembly into the state of French poverty and proposed through Barrère the establishment of the Livre de la bienfaisance nationale, etc. What was the result of the instructions of the Convention? That there was one more order in the world and a year later starving women besieged the Convention.
The Convention, however, represented the maximum of political energy, of political power, and of political insight.
No government in the world has ever issued peremptory orders concerning pauperism, without an understanding with the authorities. The English parliament even sent commissioners into all the countries of Europe, in order to become acquainted with the various administrative remedies for pauperism. But so far as States have been concerned with pauperism, they have either confined themselves to administrative and charitable measures, or have gone back upon such measures.
Can the State behave otherwise?
The State will never find the cause of social crime in the "State and the institution of society," as "Prussian" requires of his king. Where there are political parties, each finds the cause of every evil in the fact that its opponent, instead of itself, is at the helm of the State. Even the radical and revolutionary politicians seek the cause of the evil not in the essence of the State, but in a specific form of the State, which they aim at replacing by another State form.
From the political standpoint, the State and the institution of society are not two separate things. The State is the institution of society. So far as the State recognizes social evils, it attributes them either to natural laws, which are amenable to no human power, or to the defects of private life, which is independent of the State, or in the futility of the administration which is dependent on it. Thus England finds poverty to be grounded in the natural law according to which the population is always bound to overstep the means of subsistence. According to another side, it explains pauperism from the wicked dispositions of the poor, just as the King of Prussia explained it from the unchristian sentiment of the rich, and just as the Convention explained it from the counter-revolutionary and suspicious dispositions of the property owners. England therefore punishes the poor, the King of Prussia exhorts the rich, and the Convention decapitates the property owners.
Finally, all States seek the cause of social evil in accidental or deliberate defects of administration, and therefore look to administrative measures for the remedy. Why? Just because the administration is the organized activity of the State.
The State cannot abolish the contradiction between the intentions and the good will of the administration, on the one hand, and its expedients and its resources, on the other hand, without abolishing itself, for it is based upon this contradiction. It is based upon the contradiction between public and private life, upon the contradiction between the general interest and individual interests. The administration is therefore obliged to confine itself to a formal and negative activity, for its power ceases where middle-class life and its work begin. Yes, as against the consequences which spring from the unsocial nature of this middle-class life, this private property, this trade, this industry, this mutual plundering of various middle-class circles, as against these consequences impotence is the natural law of the administration.
For this dismemberment, this slavery of middle-class society, is the natural foundation upon which the modern State rests, just as the civil society of slavery was the natural foundation upon which the antique State rested. The existence of the State is inseparable from the existence of slavery. The antique State and antique slavery—manifest classical antagonisms—were not more intimately connected than is the modern State with the modern huckstering world—sanctimonious Christian antagonisms. If the modern State wishes to abolish the impotence of its administration, it would have to abolish the present-day mode of living. If it wishes to abolish this mode of living, it would have to abolish itself, for it exists only in opposition to the same. No living person, however, would believe that defects in his existence are due to the vital principle of his life, but would rather attribute them to circumstances outside his life. Suicide is unnatural.
The State cannot therefore believe in the innate impotence of its administration. It can only take notice of formal and accidental defects therein and attempt to remedy them. If these modifications are fruitless, social crime must be a natural imperfection independent of mankind, a law of God, or else the dispositions of private individuals are too vitiated to second the good intentions of the administration. And what perverted private individuals! They murmur against the government whenever the latter restricts freedom, and they demand that the government should provide against the necessary consequences of this freedom.
The more powerful the State, and the more political, therefore, a country is, all the less is it inclined to seek in the principle of the State, and consequently in the existing institution of society, whose self-conscious and official expression the State is, for the cause of social crime, and to grasp its general principle.
Political understanding is political understanding precisely because it thinks within the limitations of politics. The more acute, the more alert it is, the more incapable it is of perceiving social crime. The classic period of political understanding is the French Revolution. Far from perceiving the source of social defects in the principle of the State, the heroes of the French Revolution rather perceived in social defects the source of political abuses. Thus Robespierre saw in great poverty and great riches only an obstacle to pure democracy. Consequently, he desired to establish a general Spartan frugality.
The principle of politics is will-power. The more one-sided, which means the more complete, political understanding is, all the more does it believe in the omnipotence of will-power, all the more blind is it to the natural and intellectual limitations to will-power, all the more incapable is it, therefore, of discovering the source of social crime.
No further proof is needed to refute the absurd hope entertained by "Prussian", according to which "political understanding" is called upon "to discover the roots of social distress in Germany."
It was ridiculous to impute to the King of Prussia a power which the Convention and Napoleon together did not possess; it was ridiculous to credit him with an insight that went beyond the limits of all politics, an insight which the wise "Prussian" possesses no more than his king.
Let us suppose that "Prussian's" observations upon the German Government and the German bourgeoisie—the latter is of course included in "German society"—are perfectly justified. Is this section of society more perplexed in Germany than in England and France? Is it possible to be more perplexed than, for example, in England, where perplexity has been elevated into a system?
If Labour revolts are now breaking out all over England, the bourgeoisie and the Government there are no better advised than in the last third of the eighteenth century. Their sole expedient is material force, and as material force diminishes in the same degree as the spread of pauperism and the insight of the proletariat increase, English perplexity necessarily grows in geometrical proportion.
Lastly, it is in point of fact untrue that the German bourgeoisie has entirely missed the general significance of the Silesian revolt.
In several towns the masters are endeavouring to combine with the journeymen. All the liberal German newspapers, the organs of the liberal bourgeoisie, are gushing about the organization of labour, the reform of society, the criticism of monopoly and of competition, etc. All this as a result of the labour movements. The newspapers of Treves, Aachen, Cologne, Wesel, Mannheim, Breslau, even of Berlin, are constantly publishing quite intelligent articles on social affairs, from which "Prussian" may learn at any time. Yes, letters from Germany are constantly expressing astonishment at the slight opposition which the bourgeoisie offers to social tendencies.
If "Prussian" had been better acquainted with the history of the social movement, he would have put his question the other way round. Why does the German bourgeoisie itself interpret the partial distress as relatively universal? Whence the animosity and cynicism of the political bourgeoisie? Whence the supineness and the sympathies of the unpolitical bourgeoisie with respect to the proletariat?
Now to "Prussian's" oracular pronouncements concerning the German workers. "The German poor," he puns, "are not wiser than the poor Germans, that is, they can nowhere see beyond their hearth, their factory, their district: the whole question has so far been neglected by the all-comprehending political soul."
In order to be able to compare the condition of the German workers with the condition of the French and English workers, "Prussian" must compare the first manifestation, the beginning of the English and French Labour movement, with the German movement which has just begun. He neglects to do this. His reasoning therefore runs upon a triviality, such as that industry in Germany is not yet so developed as in England, or that a movement in its beginnings looks different from a movement that has made progress.
If, however, "Prussian" would place himself at the correct standpoint, he would find that not any of the French and English Labour revolts possessed such a theoretical and conscious character as the Silesian weavers' revolt.
In the first place, let us recall the song of the weavers, those bold accents of the struggle, wherein hearth, factory, and district are not once mentioned, but the proletariat immediately gets into the stride of its opposition to the society of private property in the most vigorous, ruthless, and powerful fashion. The Silesian revolt begins just where the French and English Labour revolts end, with the consciousness of the being of the proletariat. The action itself bears this superior character. Not only the machines, these rivals of the worker, were destroyed, but also the ledgers, the title of property, and while all other movements have been directed in the first place against the visible enemy, the lords of industry, this movement was simultaneously directed against the bankers, the concealed foe.
Lastly, no single English Labour revolt has been conducted with equal bravery, circumspection, and persistence.
As regards the state of education or the capacity for education of the German workers generally, I may recall Weitling's excellent writings, which frequently represent an advance upon Proudhon in a theoretical respect, although they may be inferior to him in finish. Where can the bourgeoisie—their philosophers and scholars included—show a work similar to Weitling's "Guarantees of Harmony and Freedom" pertaining to the emancipation of the bourgeoisie—the political emancipation? If we compare the mediocrity of German political literature with this expansive and brilliant literary début of the German worker; if we compare this giant child's shoe of the proletariat with the dwarf proportions of the worn-out political shoe of the German bourgeoisie, we must predict an athletic figure for the German Cinderella. It must be admitted that the German proletariat is the theorist of the European proletariat, just as the English proletariat is its political economist, and the French proletariat its politician. Germany possesses a classical vocation for the social revolution although she is incapable of the political revolution. For if the impotence of the German bourgeoisie is the same thing as the political impotence of Germany, the talent of the German proletariat—even apart from German theory—is the social talent of Germany. The disproportion between the philosophical and the political development in Germany is no abnormality. It is a necessary disproportion. Only by means of socialism can a philosophical people put its philosophy into practice, and only in the proletariat, therefore, can it find the active element for its emancipation.
At this moment, however, I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain to "Prussian" the relation of "German society" to the social transformation, and from this relation to explain, on the one side, the weak reaction of the German bourgeoisie to socialism, and, on the other hand, the exceptional talent of the German proletariat for socialism. The first elements for the understanding of this phenomenon he will find in my introduction to the criticism of Hegel's philosophy of right ("Franco-German Annuals"). (See pp. 11 et seq. of this book.)
The wisdom of the German poor is therefore in inverse proportion to the wisdom of the poor Germans. Thus "Prussian's" attempt to manipulate his thought in the form of antithesis on the occasion of the Silesian labour unrest had led to the greatest antithesis against the truth. What a thoughtful mind should do in connection with a first outbreak, such as the Silesian workers' revolt, is not to play the schoolmaster to this event, but to study its peculiar character. For this a certain amount of scientific insight and some goodwill is necessary, whereas for the other operation a glib phraseology, saturated in shallow egoism, fully suffices.
Why does "Prussian" judge the German workers so contemptuously? Because he finds that the "whole question,"—namely the question of labour distress—has not yet been taken up by the "all-comprehending political soul." He carries his Platonic love to the political soul so far as to say:
"All revolts which break out from the isolation of men from the community and the separation of their thoughts from the social principles will be extinguished in blood and unreason; but if the distress first creates the understanding, and if the political understanding of the Germans discovers the roots of social distress, then these incidents would also be felt in Germany as the symptom of a great transformation."
In the first half of the sentence we read: if distress creates understanding, and in the second half: if political understanding discovers the roots of social distress. Simple understanding in the first half of the antithesis becomes political understanding in the second half, just as the simple distress of the first half of the antithesis becomes social distress in the second half. Why has the artist in style so unequally endowed the two halves of the antithesis?
Had "Prussian" written: "If social distress creates political understanding, and if political understanding discovers the roots of social distress," the absurdity of this antithesis could not have escaped any impartial reader. Such a reader would have immediately wondered why the anonymous writer did not couple social understanding with social distress and political understanding with political distress, as the simplest logic dictates? Now to business.
So false is it to say that social distress creates political understanding that the truth is rather the reverse; social well-being creates political understanding. Political understanding is an intellectual quality and is given to him who already has, who lives in clover. Our "Prussian" should hear what a French political economist, M. Michel Chevalier, has to say upon this subject: "In the year 1789 when the bourgeoisie revolted, the sole thing they wanted was a share in the government of the country. Emancipation consisted in snatching the direction of public affairs, the high civic, military and religious functions, from the hands of the privileged persons who possessed the monopoly of these functions. Wealthy and enlightened, able to govern themselves, they desired to escape from the régime du bon plaisir."
How incapable political understanding is of discovering the source of social distress we have already demonstrated to "Prussian." Another word about this opinion of his. The more cultivated and general the political understanding of a people is, all the more does the proletariat—at least at the beginning of the movement—dissipate its energies in irrational, useless, and brutally suppressed revolts. Because it thinks along political lines, it perceives the cause of all evils in the wills of men, and all remedies to lie in force and the overthrow of a particular form of the State. In proof whereof we cite the first outbreak of the French proletariat. The workers in Lyons believed they were only pursuing political aims and were only soldiers of the Republic, whereas they were in truth soldiers of socialism. Thus their political understanding hid from them the roots of social distress; it distorted their insight into their real aims; their political understanding deceived their social instinct.
"Prussian" prophesies the suppression of revolts which break out owing to the "isolation of men from the community and the separation of their thoughts from social principles."
We have shown that the Silesian revolt was by no means characterized by the separation of ideas from social principles. It remains to deal with the "isolation of men from the community." By community is to be understood in this connection the political community, the State institution. It is the old story of unpolitical Germany.
But do not all revolts without exception break out from the isolation of men from the community? Does not every revolt necessarily presuppose this isolation? Would the Revolution of 1789 have taken place without the isolation of the French citizens from the community? Its aim, in fact, was to end this isolation.
But the community from which the worker is isolated is a community of quite a different nature from and of quite other dimensions than the political community. This community, from which his own labour separates him, is life itself, physical and intellectual life, human morality, human activity, human enjoyment, the human community.
Human life is the real community of men. Just as the isolation from this body is more complete, more painful, more to be feared, more contradictory than is isolation from the political community, so too the removal of this isolation, and even a partial reaction, a revolt against the same, are tasks all the more infinite as man is more infinite than the citizen, and human life than political life. However partial the industrial revolt may be, it conceals within itself a universal soul: political revolt may be never so universal but it hides a narrow-minded spirit under the most colossal form.
"Prussian" worthily closes his article with the following phrase: "A social revolution without a political soul (that is, without organized insight from the standpoint of the whole) is impossible."
We have seen that a social revolution maybe considered to be from the standpoint of the whole because, even if it only occurs in a factory district, it is a protest of men against degraded life, because it proceeds from the standpoint of the real individual, because the community against whose separation from himself the individual reacts, is the real community of men, the civic community.
The political soul of a revolution, on the other hand, consists in the endeavour of the classes without political influence to abolish their isolation from the community and from government. Their standpoint is that of the State, an abstract whole, which exists only in and through its separation from real life, which is unthinkable without the organized antagonism between the general idea and the individual existence of man. Consequently a revolution of political souls organizes a ruling clique in society, in accordance with the limited and doubly-cleft nature of these souls, at the cost of society.
We should like to confide to "Prussian" what a "social revolution with a political soul" is; we should like at the same time to suggest to him that not once has he been able to raise himself above the restricted political standpoint.
A "social" revolution with a political soul is either a composite absurdity, if "Prussian" means by "social" revolution a social revolution in contrast to a political, and yet invests the social revolution with a political, instead of a social, soul. Or a "social revolution with a political soul" is nothing but what is otherwise called a "political revolution" or a "revolution pure and simple."
Every revolution dissolves the old society; in so far it is social. Every revolution overthrows the old power; in so far it is political.
"Prussian" may choose between the paraphrase and the absurdity.
Equally ridiculous is the notion of a political revolution with a social soul. The revolution as such—the overthrow of the existing power and the dissolution of the old conditions—is a political act. But without a revolution, socialism cannot be enforced. It requires this political act, so far as it has need of the process of destruction and dissolution. But where its organizing activity begins, where its proper aim, its soul, emerges, there socialism casts away the political hull.