In Defense of Engels

by Arthur Felberbaum

What follows is a series of short polemical essays written by Arthur Felberbaum in preparation for his lectures on the rise of Social Democracy in the United States and its theoretical underpinnings. Arthur died before he could complete his analysis of the subject.

The strength of his arguments and insights make these unfinished "working papers" a valuable contribution to the debate around what recently has been called the two Marxisms.

Our attention here is on the counterposition of idealism and materialism insofar as the latter can explain the former expressed as Mysticism, Religion and Ideology (false consciousness which bolsters a class system of domination). Idealism is not seen as good or bad but as serving a function in social development, reaching its limits and being eroded at the level of ideas by science, and at the level of social practice by the revolutionary consequences of liberation, which require no blinders on reality but which flourish in the bathing light of clarity. However, this clarity cannot be wished into existence but must emerge out of the process of development itself. The role of the human subject in unearthing and revolutionizing reality is the analog of the interaction of emerging and evolving nature and society. This, rather than detracting from the significance of the conscious actor, gives the actor that significance—his stage and the materials out of which he forges his tools and weapons. Another key aspect of this question is the possibilities of science in clarifying our relation to nature and in aiding us to supplant the function of religion in reconciling us to change, catastrophe and death.

In relation to the study of capitalism, this methodology enables us to pierce through the opacity of commodity fetishism which turns our relation to each other and nature topsy‑turvy. The effects of de‑fetishization enable us to see the real power of the working class as the producer and universal scientist who projects that power onto the capitalist, and to see the real social relations which, under capitalism, are expressed indirectly, through things that are presented as the conditions and instruments of our domination.

The "Germ of a New World Outlook"

The basic questions of philosophy have been reduced to (1) Being (ontology) (2) Knowing (cognition) and (3) Epistemology (the history or development of thought).

The basic questions of Marxism are ones which comprehend and [69/70] negate all of these through the great "epistemological break" represented by the Theses on Feuerbach. This break consists of satisfactorily positioning human beings within nature and society, not as outside observers and speculators (mechanical materialism—Feuerbach) or as simply actors and knowers who create themselves and the world through the thought process (idealism—Hegel), but as a dialectical unity, and as such, the outcome of all previous philosophy "which only described the world." The germ of the new world outlook referred to by Engels must be grasped, not simply as the end product of philosophy or as a stage on the road to the Absolute, but as an historical crisis.

The point, says Marx, is to "change the world." This is because humanity has developed to a certain point the technical possibilities of liberation and, according to Marx and Engels' theory of history, the outcome of the revolutionary period of all societies is either the emancipation produced by the conquest of power by the progressive class (and in this case, the proletariat has the historical task of destroying class oppression forever, as well) or, the mutual destruction of the contending classes (and in our own historical moment this also holds in the balance the fate of humanity as a whole if not all life on earth).

Thus, the new world outlook is of the greatest historical relevance for all of us as human beings and as proponents of revolutionary change through the agency of proletarian revolution. This new world outlook is summed up in the phrase: active sensuous knowing and conscious, scientific practice.

Theses in Defense of Friedrich Engels

I.

Mechanical materialism as exemplified by the Second International and the Third International after Lenin, is the ideology of false disciples of Marx. It is also the hobgoblin of neo‑Kantian and Hegelian Marxist "dualism" which cannot grasp the dialectical totality (i.e. the Theses on Feuerbach).

Lukacs and Gramsci do not think dialectical materialism applies to nature. Thus, for them, there is no abstraction which can grasp the totality of existence as a premise, as a materially‑based starting point for action. This gap is filled by the subjectivity of the actor, thereby reaffirming a dualism between subject and object which Marx, on the other hand, filled with sensuous, practical knowing and revolutionary scientific practice: (1) We know by acting, and (2) We act by knowing. The neo‑Kantians and Hegelian Marxists who emphasize the first part are at a previous stage of development, and are inclined to infantile (leftism), simple‑voluntarist, adventuristic behavior, just like that of the Left Communists of the 1920s of which Lukacs was an important example. [70/71]

II.

While pre‑Marxian idealist philosophy developed the active side of knowing, "neo­Kantian dualism" of the 1970s is a philosophical ideology (i.e. a form of false­consciousness clothed in philosophical language) of the petty bourgeois intelligentsia that shrinks in special horror at the crimes of Stalinism, projecting its own identity as the answer to the social crisis, believing the working class to be incapable of a solution. . . at least, not in time.

The Marcuses, all New Leftists and Maoists, utopians, anarchists—who over­emphasize the role of social relations and cannot submit human affairs to the ultimate test of universal evolutionary entropy—relegate the forces of nature and its laws to stage scenery for their own egos. This can only mean one more form of anti‑working class politics—from putschism, guerilla‑ism and anarchism to Maoism and even a mystical, ritualistic, totemistic so‑called Trotskyism.

III.

The distinction and unity between nature and society was understood and a solution was proposed by Marx and Engels. They extracted consciousness from practice and revolutionizing practice from sensuous knowing. They overthrew philosophy's previous historical function as speculative adviser in human affairs, introduced proletarian and scientific revolution to the center of human history, and proclaimed that philosophy's lasting contribution to our own practice was necessarily and magnanimously one‑sided: it bequeathed humanity a logic—both formal and dialectical.

IV.

The opponents of Engels only succeed in crediting faithful Fred with the contributions that Marx and Engels made together. Marx said:

Darwin has interested us in the history of Nature's technology, i.e., in the formation of the organs of plants and animals, which organs serve as instruments of production for sustaining life. Does not the history of the productive organs of man, or organs that are the material basis of all social organization, deserve equal attention? And would not such history be easier to compile, since, as Vico says, human history differs from natural history in this, that we have made the former but not the latter? (Capital, Volume I, p. 352)

Intrinsically, it is not a question of the higher or lower degree of the social antagonisms that result from the natural laws of capitalist production. It is a question of these laws themselves, of these tendencies working with iron necessity towards inevitable results. ("Preface to the First German Edition," Capital, Volume I, p. 8) [71/72]

My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he [she] socially remains, however much he [she] may subjectively raise himself [herself] above them. ("Preface to the First German Edition," Capital, Volume I, p. 10)

Castes and guilds arise from the action of the same natural law that regulates the differentiation of plants and animals into species and varieties, except that, when a certain degree of development has been reached, the heredity of castes and the exclusiveness of guilds are ordained as a law of society. (Capital, Volume I, p. 321)

Marx also worked with Engels on his scientific writings such as Anti‑Dühring, offered to dedicate Volume II of Capital to Darwin, used a biological analogy to give literary unity to his categories ("cell", "organ", "circulation", "reproduction", "metabolism") and was himself in any definition of the term a fully integrated scientist within the community of scholars of nature and society. The record of this work is in Capital above all and in the Marx-Engels Correspondence.

Therefore, the refusal of neo‑Kantian dualism and so‑called "Hegelian Marxists" to accept Marx's own well‑known views or to see his approval of Engels' scientific contributions with which he collaborated, takes the matter outside the realm of scholarship and intellectual discourse into the realm of psychology, ideology and above all into a practical and political war against revolutionary Marxism to produce a new ideological basis for reformist practice.

V.

Dialectical idealism is ultimately undialectical just as vulgar materialism always manifests a metaphysical idealism, the former because all idealism must place the fixity of categories (thought) prior to nature (being), which is their necessary precondition, and the latter because all nondialectical materialism must take motion out of matter and replace it with the fixity (either this or that) of their own metaphysical thought.

The epigones think that splitting Engels from Marx rids them of metaphysical or mechanical or vulgar materialism; in fact, all it does is expose their own blindness to the indifferent laws of extinguishing nature ("all that exists deserves to perish"—Engels says after Goethe!). This self‑imposed blindness constitutes the simple fare of bourgeois ideology and especially agnosticism and opens the doors to the goblins of mysticism and indeterminacy. These epigones are like frightened children hiding their heads beneath the covers to make the world (the universe!) go away. If they peek outside, however, they will find Engels arm‑in‑arm with Marx and the working class fully capable of ridding itself of its bureaucratic and reformist excrescence (as well as its academic [72/73] speculative advisors) and of acting in concert—guided by revolutionary scientific proletarian consciousness.

The task of unifying in thought nature and society is the precondition for unifying the working class party with Revolutionary science in practice.

Appendum

The overemphasis on social relations and the negation of increasing productiveness of labor through the forces of production sets the stage for overthrowing scientific communism. The latter sees that capital has created for humanity the pre­conditions in production for revolutionizing social relations and materially establishing the potential for "Freedom." It has done this by ridding mankind from slavery to natural forces through scientific knowing, by reducing the labor necessary for human reproduction to a minimum, and by creating potential disposable time for the true development of each person's creative powers.

Potential disposable time is only brought forth by capital as surplus labor. This historically results in capital's contradictory and ultimately reactionary character, in so far as it impedes the full development of the human species capacity with respect to nature and individual creativity.

If a mode of production is not the unified dialectic of forces of production in contradictory connection with "social intercourse," then human will (ultimately, a "higher consciousness, " or ego or deity or great man or dictator) must be held responsible for the movement of history. We are then back to the point at which Marx sheared the Gordian Knot of philosophical idealism which held that consciousness creates conditions and not conditions that consciousness. Thus, the struggle against "dualism" as well as "mechanical materialism" is the struggle against one‑sided retrograde philosophical idealism . . . not dialectical at all but static and ultimately reactionary.

March 3, 1977

Discursive and Analytical Discussion of Theses on Engels

The attack on Marxism which is attempting to split Marx from Engels has been basing itself upon several key features: (a) that the writings of Korsch, Lukacs, Gramsci and other "Hegelian" Marxists, as well as those of the early Frankfurt School, fought for the voluntarist component in Marxism which came from its conquest of Hegel. What the latter means is that in embracing Hegel one gets back a logic which can appreciate matter in motion (dialectics); (b) that these writings were in reaction to the mechanical Marxism of Bernstein and Kautsky, leaders of the Second International, who alleged to have based themselves upon [73/74] Engels' Dialectics of Nature, Anti‑Dühring and other writings; * (c) that the rise of Stalin was justified by making Dia‑Mat into a state religion. **

There is a significant danger of an automatic or mechanistic approach to history in which the subjective element is downplayed and in which consciousness seems to be mechanically produced by the level of the forces of production. This is especially true because the objective conditions for the victorious proletarian revolution have been ripe for almost a century but revolutionary consciousness has not been equal to the task of fusing with the working class and successfully giving birth to the new society which is waiting to be born. An adequate world social material basis exists—but the capitalists continue to control it privately. Kautsky was hypnotized by this socializing element, but he downplayed its polar opposite—the private appropriation of the means of the productive forces by a powerful, nationally‑based capitalist class—powerful in material and military, as well as in ideological terms. Similarly, Stalin's justification of Bureaucracy was on the basis of the unripe character of the productive forces. ***

The fear of this danger has its own trap: by proclaiming vulgar materialism to be the demon and so‑called Hegelian Marxism to be the savior, one drags in the reactionary baggage of retrograde idealism and dualism along with the dialectic. This is in fact what Lukacs, Korsch and Gramsci have done. The unashamed neo-


* It is important to note that the Bernstein‑Kautsky epigones and traitors of the working class suppressed the publication of Dialectics of Nature for many years while one of the great followers of Engels, Lenin, was at the same time and increasingly a great proponent of the voluntarist side of politics, as well as a student and teacher of dialectics. (Volume 38 Philosophical Notebooks).

** Our present day opponents of Dialectical Materialism have discovered a proxy for Engels, namely, Stalin, (c.f. Bettelheim's self‑confession in Class Struggles in the U.S.S.R.). Stalin saw a mechanical relation between the development of the forces of production somehow automatically promoting new social relations, divorcing from science any trace of history.

*** Bettelheim charges Trotsky with this as well. It is interesting to see Bettelheim's failure to discern the cancer from the surgeon. For the period of nascent capitalism in Russia, the legal Marxists and Lenin agreed that capitalism was coming. They had a slight difference, however: the former were for it while Lenin was the deadly enemy of capitalism who understood the "necessity" of its existence. Lenin neither was gladdened nor was he saddened—he understood! And thus, he was able to give conscious leadership to the working class. Bettelheim simply re‑produces his bafflement with the events because he imposes his idealistic categories in such a conscientious French academic style. [74/75]


Kantianism of Lukacs, his distortion of dialectics and his attack on Marx and Engels via attacking Engels and Hegel(!!!), we find in History and Class Consciousness as follows:

Marx said: "In the study of economic categories, as in the case of every historical and social science, it must be borne in mind that . . . the categories are therefore but forms of being, conditions of existence . . . " It is of the first importance to realize that the method is limited here to the realms of history and society. The misunderstandings that arise from Engels' account of dialectics can in the main be put down to the fact that Engels—following Hegel's mistaken lead—extended the method to apply also to nature. However, the crucial determinants of dialectics, the interaction of subject and object, the unity of theory and practice, the historical changes in the reality underlying the categories as the root cause of changes in thought, etc.—are absent from our knowledge of nature. . . (p. 24) *

But we then look at the Philosophical Notebooks of Lenin, Volume 38 and we find this:

Philosophical idealism is only nonsense from the standpoint of crude, simple, metaphysical materialism. From the standpoint of dialectical materialism, on the other hand, philosophical idealism is a one‑sided exaggerated . . . development (inflation, distension) of one of the features, aspects, facets of knowledge into an absolute, divorced from matter, from nature, apotheosized. (On the Question of Dialectics, p. 357)

In my opinion the essence of the argument is: (1) in Kant, cognition demarcates (divides) nature and man, actually it unites them; (p. 81)

Here is the approximate counterposition: on the one side, the tendency to introduce a dualistic conception of the universe in the name of the possibilities of action and the need for understanding motion in general and history in particular; and on the other side, the complete lack of any need to make such a division but to see as a presupposition the unity of thought and action within the sensuous‑thought process and active‑knowing process, as Marx and Engels suggest in the Theses on Feuerbach.


* It is difficult to tell the sincerity of Lukacs' self criticism, however, he does clearly show the argument and consequences of this Marxist critique of History and Class Consciousness: "although this evolution of the species Man is accomplished. . . at the expense of the majority of individual human beings and of certain human classes, it finally overcomes this antagonism and coincides with the evolution of the particular individual. This higher development of individuality is only purchased by a historical process in which individuals are sacrificed." (Theories of Surplus Value, Part 1, Marx) [75/76]


Engels' Crimes

I have called this talk "In Defense of Engels'' because I believe that through the effort to separate Marx and Engels there is a basic attack being made on Marxism. What are Engels' crimes?

An article in the January, 1977, Monthly Review by Donald Weiss is called "Philosophy of Engels Vindicated". Without review of the title which proposes that Engels had a philosophy when all readers of the pamphlet before us must shudder at the thought, we find a fairly complete list of Engels' crimes:

Under the influence of Engels, an entire generation of Social Democrats had imbibed the doctrines that (a) there is nothing in the universe but matter; (b) therefore man is material, i.e. a collection of atoms and molecules which are in motion solely in accordance with the laws of physics; (c) therefore man is not and could never become free; and (d) since capitalism will collapse anyway, we socialist politicians shall await that event, await the rein of government falling into our hands . . . (F. L. Bender, The Betrayal of Marx, New York, 1975, pp. 41-42)

It is stated in this article that "variants of this viewpoint have been defended by Lukacs, Lichtheim, Avineri, Dupre, Tucker, Z. A. Jordan and others." A bibliography of their writings to this effect is given. We can, however, also find prominent opposition to Engels in the writings of the leader of today's Social Democracy, Michael Harrington, who writes:

Its [Marxist] philosophy was transformed, too, and sad to relate, Friedrich Engels played a significant role in the process . . . Engels proclaimed its basic tenet at Marx's funeral: "As Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature," he said, "so Marx discovered the developmental law of human history."

But Marx himself made no such claim. Indeed, in an analysis of Russian history and possibilities of socialist revolution there, he specifically rejected such a notion. Engels, however, has always been concerned to stress the analogy between the natural and social sciences, the political and biological processes. Marx, to be sure, approved the text of Anti‑Dühring, which contained more than a little of the Darwinist interpretation of his method, but that book was regarded by him as a popularization, not a work of theoretical precision. In their division of labor at the time, Engels commented, his own work was more polemical, Marx's scientific.

But Engels' scientistic version of Marxism could not have had such enormous impact if history had not been waiting for it. It coincided perfectly with the inexorable progress of the social democracy. (Socialism. New York, 1970.)

The social democrat Harrington (who makes common cause with the U.S. capitalist class in the Democratic Party to whom he pleads on behalf of the working class for reforms) substitutes in place of [76/77] the working class himself and his trade union bureaucratic friends. Here this same "theorist" uses his scholastic efforts to accuse Engels of erecting a theory of history which operates in an automatic fashion without necessitating the conscious intervention of the working class. In his subsequent analysis, he makes common cause with Lukacs, Gramsci and Rosa Luxemburg to show that this conception was shared by both Kautsky (quoting a letter to Adler in 1901, p. 88) and Lenin in What is to be Done? who argued that the working class vanguard had to fuse itself with the scientists of Marxism.

How did we get into this muddle and how do we get out? We got into it by stating that it is important to defend Engels because Marxism is being attacked. Now it should be clear that that is so, especially when such ideas are being peddled to justify the politics of Harrington & co. Why is Harrington making these statements? Allowing for his fascination with the integrity of Marxism and allowing for his brilliant coquetry with its phraseology there is only one reason: to be able to substitute a subjective conception of Marxism for Marxism as a science! And we do not have to use our imagination to know whose subjective conception is being substituted!

Now, how do we get out of this? Well, it might help to actually read what Engels wrote, and what Marx wrote and what Lenin and Trotsky wrote and to clear up the record. While this does not prove their statements to be true, it is a very elementary and necessary part of science to go beyond phrasemongering and falsification.

Let us hear from an important new voice on this subject, Hal Draper. He is a veteran socialist from the same tradition as Michael Harrington (the Schactman‑led Independent Socialist League) but who did not follow Schactman into the Socialist Party in the late 50s; rather, he subsequently founded the predecessor organization to the International Socialists. His new book is intriguingly called: Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution and promises to run to five volumes. He writes:

Back to Marx, then. But what about Engels? There is a persistent effort to put a wall between them [which]. . . has a massively crippling effect on any attempt to understand Marx. . . For the period of their joint work, up to 1883, it is especially difficult to believe that Engels published any writing of significance that is basically different in viewpoint from Marx's. Such a claim also entails the subclaim that Marx could read such a piece without realizing that a substantial disagreement was involved, a phenomenon that at least calls for explanation. (Draper, H., New York; Monthly Review, 1977. pp. 23‑24)

On the case of Anti‑Dühring, Draper certifies that this key work which systematizes Marxism "and therefore covers much that Marx never got around to treating under his own name" was issued under a blanket "endorsement of the book for party publication" [77/78] written by Marx in a letter to Bloch of November 10, 1877. Unfortunately the Selected Correspondence has excerpted other parts of that letter but not the relevant passage. However, Marx's extensive correspondence concerning this matter stands us in good stead. Draper finds that Engels has both a greater facility for writing and as a possible consequence, a greater capacity for superficiality and errors. He concludes, however, that Marx and Engels were united in their basic conceptions of society and nature.

Harrington has asserted that only after Marx's death was a ''Marxism" systematized. In a sense this is true, namely, that many of Marx's writings, especially important, five out of the six volumes of Capital, were published after his death. But if we take Anti‑Dühring as a systematic presentation of Marxism, which it is in good part, and if Marx collaborated in this work even to the point of writing its chapters on political economy, then we have refuted Harrington on this point.

Harrington's second assertion is that Marx never claimed to have discovered the developmental law of human history. This is simply untrue. Is this not precisely what we mean by the conception of "historical materialism?" Lenin takes up this exact question in his polemic against the Legal Marxists in What are the ''Friends of the People" and How They Fight the Social-Democrats. He extensively quotes Marx's Preface to the Critique of Political Economy as well as his Preface to Capital. Lenin states: "It is obvious that Marx's basic idea that the development of the economic formations of society is a process of natural history cuts the ground from under this childish morality which claims to the title of sociology. " But Harrington may ask: Did Marx claim this? Lenin replies: Yes! He then quotes Marx: "It is the ultimate aim of this work [Capital] to lay bare the economic law of development of modern society." And: ''From my standpoint . . . the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history." * And in what does this evolution consist? In the contradictory movement of the forces of production and the relations of production. This is a famous statement and requires that we append a quote from the Preface to the Critique of Political Economy in which it is specified (and subsequently referred to in Capital: thus, Marx did not change his mind).


* These quotes are intentionally taken from Lenin for three reasons: 1. Because we attribute our own approach to Capital to the encouragement of our own impulses found in his writings; 2. to clear up the fact that Lenin's conception of the relation of nature and society is not his original theory, but one of Marx's to which he gave great emphasis; and 3. to show the unity of Marx‑Engels‑Lenin on this theoretical starting point. [78/79]


Harrington's third assertion is that Marx had no law that could be compared with Darwin's law and that it is Engels who gave Marx a "Darwinian" twist. This point is very interesting since the recent work of Stephen Jay Gould, published in Natural History, and in the book edited by Ronald Meek, bringing together Marx and Engels' writing on population, gives a very different picture than Harrington paints. The key elements of this are: (a) Marx offered to dedicate Vol. II of Capital to Darwin; (b) in correspondence with Engels, Marx refers to Darwin's discovery as a confirmation of the historical view of nature which they had anticipated as well as the dialectical movement which is here being expressed in its particular form; in addition to which, fundamental differences with Darwin are expressed concerning his cloaking this scientific discovery in the form of British morality and prejudice; (c) throughout Capital is an interlocked, dialectical movement of growth and development which is held together through the language of biological analogy: “cell form,” “germ of the money form,” “social circulation of matter,” “metabolism,” “organic composition,” “reproduction,” “birth of a new society from the womb of the old,” etc. (To accuse Engels of analogies with nature is to hold Marx up as his mentor.); (d) the development of particular categories in Capital takes the expression of the natural selection of social forms: in particular, the treatment of the development of money.

Very provocative statements are made which link the two theories even closer, such as the following:

Castes and guilds arise from the action of the same natural law that regulates the differentiation of plants and animals into species and varieties, except that, when a certain degree of development has been reached, the heredity of castes and the exclusiveness of guilds are ordained as a law of society. (Capital, Volume I, p. 321)

And in the same section, Marx quotes Darwin as follows:

Darwin in his epoch‑making work on the origin of species, remarks, with reference to the natural organs of plants and animals, "So long as one and the same organ has different kinds of work to perform, a ground for its changeability may possibly be found in this that natural selection preserves or suppresses each small variation of form less carefully than if that organ were destined for one special purpose alone. Thus knives that are adapted to cut all sorts of things, may, on the whole, be of one shape; but an implement destined to be used exclusively in one way must have a different shape for every different use. " (Capital Volume I, Moscow, p. 323 n.)

This passage footnotes an assertion of the "differentiation of the instruments of labor. . . " and thus, at least on this point there is a virtual convergence.

Harrington's fourth assertion is a substantiation of his second one [79/80] that "(Marx) specifically rejected such a notion" . . . of a "developmental law of human history." He refers us to a debate on "Russian history and possibilities of socialist revolution there." This is very important because it shows how one can say something true but insufficient and therefore wrong at the same time. This is typical whenever a person is thinking in a one‑sided fashion, as is Harrington's "natural" bent.

In his letter to "Otechestvenniye Zapiski" of November, 1877, Marx argues not against the "notion of a developmental law of human history" but against a mechanical imposition of categories upon reality. He rejects the mechanical use of historical examples of one people to prove that another will necessarily take the same path.

The events strikingly analogous but taking place in different historical surroundings led to totally different results. By studying each of these forms of evolution separately and then comparing them one can easily find the clue to this phenomenon, but one will never arrive there by using as one's master key a general historico‑philosophical theory, the supreme virtue of which consists in being super‑historical. (Correspondence, p. 313)

Harrington overlooks: "forms of evolution" require the "content of evolution" (Darwin) and a general theory that discovers that form and content.

But on the other side of this same question, Marx tells the Germans in the Preface of Vol. I of Capital that Britain is showing them their future because:

One nation can and should learn from others. And even when a society has got upon the right track for the discovery of the natural laws of its movement—and it is the ultimate aim of this work, to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society—it can neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments, the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development. But it can shorten and lessen the birthpangs . . .

We have thus learned that Marx's theory of history has as essential aspects both the general and the particular, while Harrington claims faithfulness to the particular eschewing the general. Why?

Marx speaks the language of science—and not of agnosticism that Harrington and Company are preaching. They preach "we cannot know for sure" so that they can introduce doubt in the minds of others. Are the Democrats really capitalists? and is supporting them all that bad? and is the United States the same as Germany after all or England, to which Marx's writings apply? William Domhoff in the latest Socialist Revolution (#31) reaches the logical conclusions that Harrington omits from his own writings: that the exceptional situation of the U.S. lays the basis for socialists to enter the Democratic Party and run in its primaries [80/81] as socialists, subsequently voting for the Party's candidates. Harrington's argument is thus American exceptionalist—to give himself a free hand to make a deal with the capitalist Democratic Party.

Having introduced such doubts, however, the Harringtons then move with unerring and pre‑determined exactitude to the right—guided by laws of opportunism and hypocritical compromise which work with precision and iron necessity whether the opportunist acknowledges their workings or not. Those laws are general laws of history expressed through the specific class struggle. The individual Harrington represents a class which vacillates between the two principal classes, namely the petty‑bourgeoisie. Left to its own devices, the petty bourgeoisie unfortunately betrays itself by making common cause with the bourgeoisie. In the form of Harrington, a Social Democrat, the petty bourgeoisie also makes common cause with the labor bureaucracy to betray the working class, as he and his fellow members of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee such as Victor Gotbaum are busily doing. Like Kautsky, the mechanical materialist, Harrington compromises with imperialism in the name of. . . democracy, the shabby form of which has no reference to the elegant phraseology of agnosticism: with unerring exactitude and certainty Harrington supported "abstract democracy" as the U.S. imperialists battered the Vietnamese and invaded Cuba—democratically!

Interestingly enough, Harrington places Lenin and Kautsky in the same camp as blind followers of the mechanical materialist Engels, while, in fact, the Dialectics of Nature was never published in Engels' lifetime. Upon his death, the manuscript was kept in the archives of [Harrington's political soulmates] the German Social-Democratic Party for thirty years. . . " (Preface by Institute of Marxism-Leninism, Central Committee of the CPSU, Dialectics of Nature, Moscow 1972, p. 15) Why were the mechanistic thinkers, Harrington's forebears, afraid of the writings of Engels if he was allegedly the source of their justification and legitimacy?


SOURCE: Felberbaum, Arthur. "In Defense of Engels," in: Working Papers on Marxism and Science (New York: Science Task Force, New York Marxist School, Winter 1981), pp. 69-81.


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