The German Ideology

Joint work of Marx and Engels written in Brussels in 1845 and 1846. MECW5.

This is the most complete version. Usual editions omit most of it (with good reason).

Effectively the first mature work of Marxism. Left to the gnawing criticism of the mice until 1924.

I am just “playing” it (and reading editorial notes and preface).

Volume 1, Chapter 1 “Feuerbach. Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlooks” was very refreshing compared with Marx’s earlier “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law” (1843). Lots of good stuff on historical materialism.

I gave up on Chapter 2 “Saint Max” (which is usually omitted) and switched to Engels on Feuerbach. Am not currently inclined to checkout “Holy Family” or “Economic and “Philosophical Manuscripts”  that are also earlier than “The German Ideology” but will just stick to “mature” works (apart from PhD on Quantum Mechanics).

Have now returned to “The German Ideology” and will try to complete listening, but am not finding much else so far, apart from excerpts below:

Once upon a time a valiant fellow had the idea that men were drowned in water only because they were possessed with the idea of gravity. If they were to knock this notion out of their heads, say by stating it to be a superstition, a religious concept, they would be sublimely proof against any danger from water. His whole life long he fought against the illusion of gravity, of whose harmful results all statistics brought him new and manifold evidence. This valiant fellow was the type of the new revolutionary philosophers in Germany.

Preface MECW5p24.

I was reminded of above when I read Cyril Smith on “Friedrich Engels and Marx’s critique of political economy”. I agree with quite a lot in that article, especially on Engels mistakes in emphasizing “transformation problem” and history of value before production prices when publishing volume 3 of Capital. But it is very clear from his “Outline of a Critique of Political Economy” (1844) that even before Marx, Engels already understood value far better than “Marxists” since. He certainly could not have imagined that the point of Marx’s analysis was to free the fish to fly by exposing their fetishistic illusions about water. (I am continuing to postpone studying the modern “dialectical” Marxists based on an impression/apprehension that this is what they are on about).

The excerpt below indicates the opposite approach taken by Marx and Engels who were revolutionaries as well as dialecticians.

(4) Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is, necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.

End of Chapter 1.2 [6 Conclusions from the Materialist Conception of History: History as a Continuous Process, History as Becoming World History, the Necessity of Communist Revolution], MECW5p53 (emphasis added).

Scholasticus knew that one has to get wet to learn to swim. We will learn to fly by flying. Dinosaurs became birds. Those who didn’t are extinct.



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