Circular Letter from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels 1879 marxists.catbull.com

Submitted by mofongo in LeftCommunism


It is an inevitable manifestation, and one rooted in the process of development, that people from what have hitherto been the ruling class also join the militant proletariat and supply it with educative elements. We have already said so clearly in the Manifesto. But in this context there are two observations to be made:

Firstly, if these people are to be of use to the proletarian movement, they must introduce genuinely educative elements. However, in the case of the vast majority of German bourgeois converts, this is not the case. Neither the Zukunft nor the Neue Gesellschaft has contributed anything that might have advanced the movement by a single step. Here we find a complete lack of genuinely educative matter, either factual or theoretical. In place of it, attempts to reconcile superficially assimilated socialist ideas with the most diverse theoretical viewpoints which these gentlemen have introduced from the university or elsewhere, and of which each is more muddled than the last thanks to the process of decay taking place in what remains of German philosophy today. Instead of first making a thorough study of the new science, each man chose to adapt it to the viewpoint he had brought with him, not hesitating to produce his own brand of science and straightaway assert his right to teach it. Hence there are, amongst these gentlemen, almost as many viewpoints as there are heads; instead of elucidating anything, they have only made confusion worse — by good fortune, almost exclusively amongst themselves. The party can well dispense with educative elements such as these for whom it is axiomatic to teach what they have not learnt.

Secondly, when people of this kind, from different classes, join the proletarian movement, the first requirement is that they should not bring with them the least remnant of bourgeois, petty-bourgeois, etc., prejudices, but should unreservedly adopt the proletarian outlook. These gentlemen, however, as already shown, are chock-full of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideas. In a country as petty-bourgeois as Germany, there is certainly some justification for such ideas. But only outside the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party. If the gentlemen constitute themselves a Social-Democratic petty-bourgeois party, they are fully within their rights: in that case we could negotiate with them and, according to circumstances, form an alliance with them, etc. But within a workers’ party they are an adulterating element. Should there be any reason to tolerate their presence there for a while, it should be our duty only to tolerate them, to allow them no say in the Party leadership and to remain aware that a break with them is only a matter of time. That time, moreover, would appear to have come. How the Party can suffer the authors of this article to remain any longer in their midst seems to us incomprehensible. But should the Party leadership actually pass, to a greater or lesser extent, into the hands of such men, then the Party will be emasculated no less, and that will put paid to its proletarian grit.

As for ourselves, there is, considering all our antecedents, only one course open to us. For almost 40 years we have emphasised that the class struggle is the immediate motive force of history and, in particular, that the class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat is the great lever of modern social revolution; hence we cannot possibly co-operate with men who seek to eliminate that class struggle from the movement. At the founding of the International we expressly formulated the battle cry: The emancipation of the working class must be achieved by the working class itself. Hence we cannot co-operate with men who say openly that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves, and must first be emancipated from above by philanthropic members of the upper and lower middle classes. If the new party organ is to adopt a policy that corresponds to the opinions of these gentlemen, if it is bourgeois and not proletarian, then all we could do — much though we might regret it — would be publicly to declare ourselves opposed to it and abandon the solidarity with which we have hitherto represented the German Party abroad. But we hope it won’t come to that.


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