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Title: Essays on the Materialistic Conception of History
Author: Labriola, Antonio, 1843-1904
Language: English
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ESSAYS on the Materialistic Conception of History


_Professor in the University of Rome_

translated by CHARLES H. KERR




[Illustration: Logo]



On the tenth of March, 1896, the same year that the last despairing
revolt of the small producer against capitalism in America was to end in
the overwhelming defeat of Bryan, an Italian scholar published in the
city of Rome the remarkable work which is now for the first time offered
to American readers.

To publish this book in America at that time would have been an
impossibility. The American socialist movement was then hardly more than
an association of immigrants who had brought their socialism with them
from Europe. Today it numbers at least half a million adherents, and its
platform is an embodiment of the ideas first adequately stated in the
Communist Manifesto of 1848, and now first adequately explained and
elaborated in this remarkable work of Labriola.

The central and fundamental proposition of socialism is not any scheme
for reconstructing society, on a cut-and-dried programme, nor again is
it any particular mathematical formula showing to what extent the
laborer is robbed by the present system of the fruits of his labor; it
is precisely this Historical Materialism, which Labriola has so
admirably explained in the present work.

Some idea of the place accorded to this book by European socialists may
be gathered from the preface to the French edition by G. Sorel, one of
the most prominent socialists of France.

He says: "The publication of this book marks a date in the history of
socialism. The work of Labriola has its place reserved in our libraries
by the side of the classic works of Marx and Engels. It constitutes an
illumination and a methodical development of a theory which the masters
of the new socialist thought have never yet treated in a didactic form.
It is therefore an indispensable book for whoever wishes to understand
something of _proletarian ideas_. More than the works of Marx and Engels
it is addressed to that public which is unacquainted with socialist
preconceptions. In these pages the historian will find substantial and
valuable suggestion for the study of the origin and transformation of

The economic development of the United States has reached a point where
the growth of the Socialist Party must henceforth go forward with
startling rapidity. That the publication of this volume may have some
effect in clarifying the ideas of those who discuss the principles of
that party, whether with voice or pen, is the hope of the




In Memory of the Communist Manifesto            7


Historical Materialism                         93

ESSAYS on the Materialistic Conception of History




In three years we can celebrate our jubilee. The memorable date of the
publication of the Communist Manifesto (February, 1848) marks our first
unquestioned entrance into history. To that date are referred all our
judgments and all our congratulations on the progress made by the
proletariat in these last fifty years. That date marks the beginning of
the new era. This is arising, or, rather, is separating itself from the
present era, and is developing by a process peculiar to itself and thus
in a way that is necessary and inevitable, whatever may be the
vicissitudes and the successive phases which cannot yet be foreseen.

All those in our ranks who have a desire or an occasion to possess a
better understanding of their own work should bring to mind the causes
and the moving forces which determined the genesis of the Manifesto, the
circumstances under which it appeared on the eve of the Revolution which
burst forth from Paris to Vienna, from Palermo to Berlin. Only in this
way will it be possible for us to find in the present social form the
explanation of the tendency toward socialism, thus showing by its
present necessity the inevitability of its triumph.

Is not that in fact the vital part of the Manifesto, its essence and its
distinctive character?

We surely should be taking a false road if we regarded as the essential
part the measures advised and proposed at the end of the second chapter
for the contingency of a revolutionary success on the part of the
proletariat,--or again the indications of political relationship to the
other revolutionary parties of that epoch which are found in the fourth
chapter. These indications and these measures, although they deserved to
be taken into consideration at the moment and under the circumstances
where they were formulated and suggested, and although they may be very
important for forming a precise estimate of the political action of the
German communists in the revolutionary period from 1848 to 1850,
henceforth no longer form for us a mass of practical judgments for or
against which we should take sides in each contingency. The political
parties which since the International have established themselves in
different countries, in the name of the proletariat, and taking it
clearly for their base, have felt, and feel, in proportion as they are
born and develop, the imperious necessity of adopting and conforming
their programme and their action to circumstances always different and
multiform. But not one of these parties feels the dictatorship of the
proletariat so near that it experiences the need or desire or even the
temptation to examine anew and pass judgment upon the measures proposed
in the Manifesto. There are really no historic experiences but those
that history makes itself. It is as impossible to foresee them as to
plan them beforehand or make them to order. That is what happened at the
moment of the Commune, which was and which still remains up to this day
the only experience (although partial and confused because it was sudden
and of short duration) of the action of the proletariat in gaining
control of political power. This experience, too, was neither desired
nor sought for, but imposed by circumstances. It was heroically carried
through and it has become a salutary lesson for us to-day. It might
easily happen that where the socialist movement is still in its
beginnings, appeal may be made, for lack of personal direct
experience--as often happens in Italy--to the authority of a text from
the Manifesto as if it were a precept, but these passages are in reality
of no importance.

Again, we must not, as I believe, seek for this vital part, this
essence, this distinctive character, in what the Manifesto says of the
other forms of socialism of which it speaks under the name of
_literature_. The entire third chapter may doubtless serve for defining
clearly by way of exclusion and antithesis, by brief but vigorous
characterizations, the differences which really exist between the
communism commonly characterized to-day as scientific,--an expression
sometimes used in a mistaken and contradictory way,--that is to say,
between the communism which has the proletariat for its subject and the
proletarian revolution for its theme, and the other forms of socialism;
reactionary, bourgeois, semi-bourgeois, petit-bourgeois, utopian, etc.
All these forms except one[1] have re-appeared and renewed themselves
more than once. They are reappearing under a new form even to-day in the
countries where the modern proletarian movement is of recent birth. For
these countries and under these circumstances the Manifesto has
exercised and still exercises the function of contemporary criticism and
of a literary whip. And in the countries where these forms have already
been theoretically and practically outgrown, as in Germany and Austria,
or survive only as an individual opinion among a few, as in France and
England, without speaking of other nations, the Manifesto from this
point of view has played its part. It thus merely records as a matter
of history something no longer necessary to think of, since we have to
deal with the political action of the proletariat which already is
before us in its gradual and normal course.

That was, to anticipate, the attitude of mind of those who wrote it. By
the force of their thought and with some scanty data of experience they
had anticipated the events which have occurred and they contented
themselves with declaring the elimination and the condemnation of what
they had outgrown. Critical communism--that is its true name, and there
is none more exact for this doctrine--did not take its stand with the
feudalists in regretting the old society for the sake of criticising by
contrast the contemporary society:--it had an eye only to the future.
Neither did it associate itself with the petty bourgeois in the desire
of saving what cannot be saved:--as, for example, small proprietorship,
or the tranquil life of the small proprietor whom the bewildering action
of the modern state, the necessary and natural organ of present society,
destroys and overturns, because by its constant revolutions it carries
in itself the necessity for other revolutions new and more fundamental.

Neither did it translate into metaphysical whimsicalities, into a sickly
sentimentalism, or into a religious contemplation, the real contrasts of
the material interests of every day life: on the contrary, it exposed
those contrasts in all their prosaic reality. It did not construct the
society of the future upon a plan harmoniously conceived in each of its
parts. It has no word of eulogy and exaltation, of invocation and of
regret, for the two goddesses of philosophic mythology, justice and
equality, those two goddesses who cut so sad a figure in the practical
affairs of everyday life, when we observe that the history of so many
centuries maliciously amuses itself by nearly always contradicting their
infallible suggestions. Once more these communists, while declaring on
the strength of facts which carry conviction that the mission of the
proletarians is to be the grave diggers of the bourgeoisie, still
recognize the latter as the author of a social form which represents
extensively and intensively an important stage of progress, and which
alone can furnish the field for the new struggles which already give
promise of a happy issue for the proletariat. Never was funeral oration
so magnificent. There is in these praises addressed to the bourgeoisie a
certain tragical humor,--they have been compared to dithyrambics.

The negative and antithetical definitions of other forms of socialism
then current, which have often re-appeared since, even up to the present
time, although they are fundamentally beyond criticism both in their
form and their aim, nevertheless, do not pretend to be and are not the
real history of socialism; they furnish neither its outlines nor its
plan for him who would write it. History in reality does not rest upon
the distinction between the true and the false, the just and the unjust
and still less upon the more abstract antithesis between the possible
and the real as if the things were on one side and on another side were
their shadows and their reflections in ideas. History is all of a piece,
and it rests upon the process of formation and transformation of
society; and that evidently in a fashion altogether objective and
independent of our approval or disapproval. It is a dynamic of a special
class to speak like the positivists who are so dainty with expressions
of this sort but are often dominated by the new phrases which they have
put out. The different socialist forms of thought and action which have
appeared and disappeared in the course of the centuries, so different in
their causes, their aspects, and their effects, are all to be studied
and explained by the specific and complex conditions of the social life
in which they were produced. Upon a close examination it is seen that
they do not form one single whole of continuous process because the
series is frequently interrupted by changes in the social fabric and by
the disappearance and breaking off of the tradition. It is only since
the French Revolution that socialism presents a certain unity of
process, which appears more evident since 1830 with the definite
political supremacy of the capitalist class in France and England and
which finally becomes obvious, we might say even palpable, since the
rise of the International. Upon this road the Manifesto stands like a
colossal guide post bearing a double inscription: on one side the first
sketch of the new doctrine which has now made the circle of the world;
on the other, the definition of its relations to the forms which it
excludes, without giving, however, any historic account of them.

The vital part, the essence, the distinctive character of this work are
all contained in the new conception of history which permeates it and
which in it is partially explained and developed. By the aid of this
conception communism, ceasing to be a hope, an aspiration, a
remembrance, a conjecture, an expedient, found for the first time its
adequate expression in the realization of its very necessity, that is to
say, in the realization that it is the outcome and the solution of the
struggles of existing classes. These struggles have varied according to
times and places and out of them history has developed; but, they are
all reduced in our days to the single struggle between the capitalist
bourgeoisie and the workingmen inevitably forced into the ranks of the
proletariat. The Manifesto gives the genesis of this struggle; it
details its evolutionary rhythm, and predicts its final result.

In that conception of history is embodied the whole doctrine of
scientific communism. From that moment the theoretical adversaries of
socialism have no longer had to discuss the abstract possibility of the
democratic socialization of the means of production;[2] as if it were
possible in this question to rest their judgment upon inductions based
upon the general and common aptitudes of what they characterize as human
nature. Thenceforth, the question was to recognize, or not to recognize,
in the course of human events the necessity which stands over and above
our sympathy and our subjective assent. Is or is not society in the
countries most advanced in civilization organized in such a way that it
will pass into communism by the laws inherent in its own future, once
conceding its present economic structure and the friction which it
necessarily produces within itself, and which will end by breaking and
dissolving it? That is the subject of all discussion since the
appearance of this theory and thence follows also the rule of conduct
which imposes itself upon the action of the socialist parties whether
they be composed of proletarians alone or whether they have in their
ranks men who have come out from the other classes and who join as
volunteers the army of the proletariat.

That is why we voluntarily accept the epithet of scientific, provided we
do not thus confuse ourselves with the positivists, sometimes
embarrassing guests, who assume to themselves a monopoly of science; we
do not seek to maintain an abstract and generic thesis like lawyers or
sophists, and we do not plume ourselves on demonstrating the
reasonableness of our aims. Our intentions are nothing less than the
theoretical expression and the practical explanation of the data offered
us by the interpretation of the process which is being accomplished
among us and about us and which has its whole existence in the objective
relations of social life of which we are the subject and the object, the
cause and the effect. Our aims are rational, not because they are
founded on arguments drawn from the reasoning of reason, but because
they are derived from the objective study of things, that is to say,
from the explanation of their process, which is not, and which cannot
be, a result of our will but which on the contrary triumphs over our
will and subdues it.

Not one of the previous or subsequent works of the authors of the
Manifesto themselves, although they have a much more considerable
scientific leaning, can replace the Manifesto or have the same specific
efficacy. It gives us in its classic simplicity the true expression of
this situation; the modern proletariat exists, takes its stand, grows
and develops in contemporary history as the concrete subject, the
positive force whose necessarily revolutionary action must find in
communism its necessary outcome. And that is why this work while giving
a theoretical base to its prediction and expressing it in brief, rapid
and concise formulae, forms a storehouse, or rather an inexhaustible
mine of embryonic thoughts which the reader may fertilize and multiply
indefinitely; it preserves all the original and originating force of the
thing which is but lately born and which has not yet left the field of
its production. This observation is intended especially for those who
applying a learned ignorance, when they are not humbugs, charlatans, or
amiable dilettanti, give to the doctrine of critical communism
precursors, patrons, allies and masters of every class without any
respect for common sense and the most vulgar chronology. Or again, they
try to bring back our materialistic conception of history into the
theory of universal evolution which to the minds of many is but a new
metaphor of a new metaphysics. Or again they seek in this doctrine a
derivative of Darwinism which is an analogous theory only in a certain
point of view and in a very broad sense; or again they have the
condescension to favor us with the alliance or the patronage of that
positive philosophy which extends from Comte, that degenerate and
reactionary disciple of the genial Saint-Simon, to Spencer, that
quintessence of anarchical capitalism, which is to say that they wish to
give us for allies our most open adversaries.

It is to its origin that this work owes its fertilizing power, its
classic strength, and the fact that it has given in so few pages the
synthesis of so many series and groups of ideas.[3]

It is the work of two Germans, but it is not either in its form or its
basis the expression of personal opinion. It contains no trace of the
imprecations, or the anxieties, or the bitterness familiar to all
political refuges and to all those who have voluntarily abandoned their
country to breathe elsewhere freer air. Neither do we find in it the
direct reproduction of the conditions of their own country, then in a
deplorable political state and which could not be compared to those of
France and England socially and economically, except as regards certain
portions of their territory. They brought to their work, on the
contrary, the philosophic thought which alone had placed and maintained
their country upon the level of contemporary history:--this philosophic
thought which in their hands was undergoing that important
transformation which permitted materialism, already renewed by Feuerbach
combined with dialectics, to embrace and understand the movement of
history in its most secret and until then unexplored causes,--unexplored
because hidden and difficult to observe. Both were communists and
revolutionists, but they were so neither by instinct, by impulse nor by
passion. They had elaborated an entirely new criticism of economic
science and they had understood the connection and the historic meaning
of the proletarian movement on both sides of the Channel, in France and
in England, before they were called to give in the Manifesto the
programme and the doctrine of the Communist League. This had its center
in London and numerous branches on the continent; it had behind it a
life and development of its own.

Engels had already published a critical essay in which passing over all
subjective and one-sided corrections he brought out for the first time
in an objective fashion the criticism of political economy and of the
antitheses inherent in the data and the concepts of that economy itself,
and he had become celebrated by the publication of a book on the
condition of the English working class which was the first attempt to
represent the movements of the working class as the result of the
workings of the forces and means of production.[4] Marx, in the few
years preceding, had become known as a radical publicist in Germany,
Paris and Brussels. He had conceived the first rudiments of the
materialistic conception of history. He had made a theoretically
victorious criticism of the hypotheses of Proudhon and the deductions
from his doctrine, and had given the first precise explanation of the
origin of surplus value as a consequence of the purchase and the use of
labor power, that is to say the first germ of the conceptions which were
later demonstrated and explained in their connection and their details
in Capital. Both men were in touch with the revolutionists of the
different countries of Europe, notably France, Belgium and England;
their Manifesto was not the expression of their personal theory, but the
doctrine of a party whose spirit, aim and activity already formed the
International Workingmen's Association.

These are the beginnings of modern socialism. We find there the line
which separates it from all the rest.

_The Communist League_ grew out of the _League of the Just_; the latter
in its turn had been formed with a clear consciousness of its
proletarian aims through a gradual specialization of the generic group
of the refugees, the exiles. As a type, bearing within itself in an
embryonic design the form of all the later socialist and proletarian
movements, it had traversed the different phases of conspiracy and of
equalitarian socialism. It was metaphysical with Gruen and utopian with
Weitling. Having its principal seat at London it was interested in the
Chartist movement and had had some influence over it. This movement
showed by its disordered character, because it was neither the fruit of
a premeditated experience, nor the embodiment of a conspiracy or of a
sect, how painful and difficult was the formation of a proletarian
political party. The socialist tendency was not manifested in Chartism
until the movement was near its end and was nearly finished (though
Jones and Horner can never be forgotten). The _League_ everywhere
carried an odor of revolution, both because the thing was in the air and
because its instinct and method of procedure tended that way: and as
long as the revolution was bursting forth effectively, it provided
itself, thanks to the new doctrine of the Manifesto, with an instrument
of orientation which was at the same time a weapon for combat. In fact,
already international, both by the quality and differences of origin of
its members, and still more by the result of the instinct and devotion
of all, it took its place in the general movement of political life as
the clear and definite precursor of all that can to-day be called modern
socialism, if by modern we mean not the simple fact of extrinsic
chronology but an index of the internal or organic process of society.

A long interruption from 1852 to 1864 which was the period of political
reaction and at the same time that of the disappearance, the dispersion
and the absorption of the old socialist schools, separates the
International of the _Arbeiterbildungsverein_ of London, from the
International properly so called, which, from 1864 to 1873, strove to
put unity into the struggle of the proletariat of Europe and America.
The action of the proletariat had other interruptions especially in
France, and with the exception of Germany, from the dissolution of the
International of glorious memory up to the new International which
lives to-day through other means and which is developing in other ways,
both of them adapted to the political situation in which we live, and
based upon riper experience. But just as the survivors of those who in
December, 1847, discussed and accepted the new doctrine, have
re-appeared on the public scene in the great International, and later
again in the new International, the Manifesto itself has also
re-appeared little by little and has made the tour of the world in all
the languages of the civilized countries, something which it promised to
do but could not do at the time of its first appearance.

There was our real point of departure; there were our real precursors.
They marched before all the others, early in the day, with a step rapid
but sure, over this exact road which we were to traverse and which we
are traversing in reality. It is not proper to give the name of our
precursors to those who followed ways which they later had to abandon,
or to those who, to speak without metaphor, formulated doctrines and
started movements, doubtless explicable by the times and circumstances
of their birth, but which were later outgrown by the doctrine of
critical communism, which is the theory of the proletarian revolution.
This does not mean that these doctrines and these attempts were
accidental, useless and superfluous phenomena. There is nothing
irrational in the historic course of things because nothing comes into
existence without reason, and thus there is nothing superfluous. We
cannot even to-day arrive at a perfect understanding of critical
communism without mentally retracing these doctrines and following the
processes of their appearance and disappearance. In fact these doctrines
have not only passed, they have been intrinsically outgrown both by
reason of the change in the conditions of society and by reason of the
more exact understanding of the laws upon which rest its formation and
its process.

The moment at which they enter into the past, that is to say, that at
which they are intrinsically outgrown, is precisely that of the
appearance of the Manifesto. As the first index of the genesis of modern
socialism, this writing, which gives only the most general and the most
easily accessible features of its teaching, bears within itself traces
of the historic field within which it is born, which was that of France,
England and Germany. Its field for propaganda and diffusion has since
become wider and wider, and it is henceforth as vast as the civilized
world. In all countries in which the tendency to communism has developed
through antagonisms under aspects different but every day more evident
between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the process of its first
formation is wholly or partly repeated over and over. The proletarian
parties which are formed little by little have traversed anew the stages
of formation which their precursors traversed at first; but this process
has become from country to country and from year to year always more
rapid by reason of the greater evidence, the pressing necessity and
energy of the antagonisms, and because it is easier to assimilate a
doctrine and a tendency than to create both for the first time. Our
co-workers of 50 years ago were also from this point of view
international, since by their example they started the proletariat of
the different nations upon the general march which labor must

But the perfect theoretical knowledge of socialism to-day, as before,
and as it always will be, lies in the understanding of its historic
necessity, that is to say, in the consciousness of the manner of its
genesis; and this is precisely reflected, as in a limited field of
observation and in a hasty example, in the formation of the Manifesto.
It was intended for a weapon of war and thus it bears upon its own
exterior the traces of its origin. It contains more substantial
declarations than demonstrations. The demonstration rests entirely in
the imperative force of its necessity. But we may retrace the process of
this formation and to retrace it is to understand truly the doctrine of
the Manifesto. There is an analysis which while separating in theory the
factors of an organism destroys them in so far as they are elements
contributing to the unity of the whole. But there is another analysis,
and this alone permits us to understand history, which only
distinguishes and separates the elements to find again in them the
objective necessity of their co-operation toward the total result.

It is now a current opinion that modern socialism is a normal and thus
an inevitable product of history. Its political action, which may in
future involve delays and set-backs but never henceforth a total
absorption, began with the _International_. Nevertheless the Manifesto
precedes it. Its teaching is of prime importance in the light which it
throws on the proletarian movement, which movement indeed had its birth
and development independently of any doctrine. It is also more than this
light. Critical communism dates from the moment when the proletarian
movement is not merely a result of social conditions, but when it has
already strength enough to understand that these conditions can be
changed and to discern what means can modify them and in what direction.
It was not enough to say that socialism was a result of history. It was
also necessary to understand the intrinsic causes of this outcome and to
what all its activity tended. This affirmation, that the proletariat is
a necessary result of modern society, has for its mission to succeed the
bourgeoisie, and to succeed it as the producing force of a new social
order in which class antagonisms shall disappear, makes of the Manifesto
a characteristic epoch in the general course of history. It is a
revolution--but not in the sense of an apocalypse or a promised
millennium. It is the scientific and reflected revelation of the way
which our _civil society_ is traversing (if the shade of Fourier will
pardon me!).

The Manifesto thus gives us the inside history of its origin and
thereby justifies its doctrine and at the same time explains its
singular effect and its wonderful efficacy. Without losing ourselves in
details, here are the series and groups of elements which, reunited and
combined in this rapid and exact synthesis, give us the clue to all the
later development of scientific socialism.

The immediate, direct and appreciable material is given by France and
England which had already had since 1830 a working-class movement which
sometimes resembles and sometimes differentiates itself from the other
revolutionary movements and which extended from instinctive revolt to
the practical aims of the political parties (Chartism and Social
Democracy for example) and gave birth to different temporary and
perishable forms of communism and semi-communism like that to which the
name of socialism was then given.

To recognize in these movements no longer the fugitive phenomenon of
meteoric disturbances but a new social fact, there was need of a theory
which should explain them,--and a theory which should not be a simple
complement of the democratic tradition nor the subjective correction of
the disadvantages, thenceforth recognized, of the economy of
competition: although many were then concerned with this. This new
theory was the personal work of Marx and Engels. They carried over the
conception of historical progress through the process of antitheses from
the abstract form, which the Hegelian dialectic had already described
in its most general features, to the concrete explanation of the class
struggle; and in this historic movement where it had been supposed that
we observed the passage from one form of ideas to another form they saw
for the first time the transition from one form of social anatomy to
another, that is from one form of economic production to another form.

This historic conception, which gave a theoretic form to this necessity
of the _new social revolution_ more or less explicit in the instinctive
consciousness of the proletariat and in its passionate and spontaneous
movements, recognizing the intrinsic and imminent necessity of the
revolution, changed the concept of it. That which the sects of
conspirators had regarded as belonging to the domain of the will and
capable of being constructed at pleasure, became a simple process which
might be favored, sustained and assisted. The revolution became the
object of a policy the conditions of which are given by the complex
situation of society; it therefore became a result which the proletariat
must attain through struggles and various means of organization which
the old tactics of revolts had not yet imagined. And this because the
proletariat is not an accessory and auxiliary means, an excrescence, an
evil, which can be eliminated from the society in which we are living
but because it is its substratum, its essential condition, its
inevitable effect and in turn the cause which preserves and maintains
society itself; and thus it cannot emancipate itself without at the
same time emancipating every one, that is to say, revolutionizing
completely the form of production.

Just as the _League of the Just_ had become _The Communist League_ by
stripping itself of the forms of symbolism and conspiracy and adopting
little by little the means of propaganda and of political action from
and after the check attending the insurrection of Barbès and Blanqui
(1839), so likewise the new doctrine, which the _League_ accepted and
made its own, definitely abandoned the ideas which inspired the action
of conspiracies, and conceived as the outcome and objective result of a
process, that which the conspirators believed to be the result of a
pre-determined plan or the emanation from their heroism.

At that point begins a new ascending line in the order of facts and
another connection of concepts and of doctrines.

The communism of conspiracy, the Blanquism of that time, carries us up
through Buonarotti and also through Bazard and the "Carbonari" to the
conspiracy of Baboeuf, a true hero of ancient tragedy who hurled himself
against fate because there was no connection between his aim and the
economic condition of the moment, and he was as yet incapable of
bringing upon the political scene a proletariat having a broad class
consciousness. From Baboeuf and certain less known elements of the
Jacobin period, past Boissel and Fauchet we ascend to the intuitive
Morelly and to the original and versatile Mably and if you please to
the chaotic _Testament_ of the _curé_ Meslier, an instinctive and
violent rebellion of "good sense" against the savage oppression endured
by the unhappy peasant.

These precursors of the socialism of violence, protest and conspiracy
were all equalitarians; as were also most of the conspirators. Thus by a
singular but inevitable error they took for a weapon of combat,
interpreting it and generalizing it, that same doctrine of equality
which developing as a _natural right_ parallel to the formation of the
economic theory, had become an instrument in the hands of the
bourgeoisie which was winning step by step its present position to
transform the society of privilege into that of liberalism, free
exchange and the civil code.[5]

Following this immediate deduction which at bottom was a simple
illusion, that all men being equal in nature should also be equal in
their enjoyments, it was thought that the appeal to reason carried with
it all the elements of propaganda and persuasion, and that the rapid,
immediate and violent taking possession of the exterior instruments of
political power was the only means to set to right those who resisted.

But whence come and how persist all these inequalities which appear so
irrational in the light of a concept of justice so simple and so
elementary? The Manifesto was the clear negation of the principle of
equality understood so naively and so clumsily. While proclaiming as
inevitable the abolition of classes in the future form of collective
production, it explains to us the necessity, the birth and the
development of these very classes as a fact which is not an exception,
or a derogation of an abstract principle, but the very process of

Even as the modern proletariat involves the bourgeoisie, so the latter
cannot exist without the former. And both are the result of a process of
formation which rests altogether upon the new mode of production of the
objects necessary to life, that is to say, which rests altogether upon
the manner of economic production. The bourgeois society grew out of the
corporative and feudal society and it grew out of it through struggle
and revolution in order to take possession of the instruments and means
of production which all culminate in the formation, the development and
the multiplication of capital. To describe the origin and the progress
of the bourgeoisie in its different phases, to explain its successes in
the colossal development of technique and in the conquest of the world
market, and to point out the political transformations which followed
it, which are the expression, the defense and the result of these
conquests is, at the same time, to write the history of the proletariat.
The latter in its present condition is inherent in the epoch of
bourgeois society and it has had, it has, and will have as many phases
as that society itself up to the time of its extinction. The antithesis
of rich and poor, of happy and unhappy, of oppressors and oppressed is
not something accidental which can easily be put on one side as was
believed by the enthusiasts of justice. Still further it is a fact of
necessary correlation, once granted the directing principle of the
present form of production which makes the wageworker a necessity. This
necessity is double. Capital can only take possession of production by
converting laborers into proletarians and it cannot continue to live, to
be fruitful, to accumulate, to multiply itself and to transform itself
except on the condition of paying wages to those whom it has made
proletarians. The latter, on their side, can only live and reproduce
their kind on the condition of selling themselves as labor power, the
use of which is left to the discretion, that is to say, to the good
pleasure of the possessors of capital. The harmony between capital and
labor is wholly contained in this fact that labor is the living force by
which the proletarians continually put in motion and reproduce by adding
to it the labor accumulated in the capital. This connection resulting
from a development which is the whole inner essence of modern history,
if it gives the key to comprehend the true reason of the new class
struggle of which the communist conception has become the expression,
is of such a nature that no sentimental protest, no argument based on
justice can resolve it and disentangle it.

It is for these reasons which I have explained here as simply as
possible that equalitarian communism remained vanquished. Its practical
powerlessness blended with its theoretical inability to account for the
causes of the wrongs or of the inequalities which it desired, bravely or
stupidly, to destroy or eliminate at a blow.

To understand history became thenceforth the principal task of the
theorists of communism. How could a cherished ideal be still opposed to
the hard reality of history? Communism is not the natural and necessary
state of human life in all times and in all places and the whole course
of historic formations cannot be considered as a series of deviations
and wanderings. One does not reach communism nor return to it by Spartan
abnegation or Christian resignation. It can be, still more it must be
and it will be the consequence of the dissolution of our capitalist
society. But the dissolution cannot be inoculated into it artificially
nor imported from without. It will dissolve by its own weight as
Machiavelli would say. It will disappear as a form of production which
engenders of itself and in itself the constant and increasing rebellion
of its productive forces against the conditions (juridical and
political) of production and it continues to live only by augmenting
(through competition which engenders crises, and by a bewildering
extension of its sphere of action) the intrinsic conditions of its
inevitable death. The death of a social form like that which comes from
natural death in any other branch of science becomes a _physiological

The Manifesto did not make, and it was not its part to make the picture
of a future society. It told how our present society will dissolve by
the progressive dynamics of its forces. To make this understood it was
necessary above all to explain the development of the bourgeoisie and
this was done in rapid sketches, a model philosophy of history, which
can be retouched, completed and developed, but which cannot be

Saint-Simon and Fourier, although neither their ideas nor the general
trend of their development were accepted, found their justification.
Idealists both, they had by their heroic vision transcended the
"liberal" epoch which in their horizon had its culminating point at the
epoch of the French revolution. The former in his interpretation of
history substituted social physics for economic law and politics, and in
spite of many idealistic and positivistic uncertainties, he almost
discovered the genesis of the third estate. The other, ignorant of
details which were still unknown or neglected, in the exuberance of his
undisciplined spirit imagined a great chain of historic epochs vaguely
distinguished by certain indications of the directing principle of the
forms of production and distribution. He thereupon proposed to himself
to construct a society in which the existing antitheses should
disappear. From all these antitheses he discovered by a flash of genius
and he, more than any other, developed "the vicious circle of
production"; he there unconsciously reached the position of Sismondi,
who at the same epoch, but with other intentions and along different
roads, studying crises and denouncing the disadvantages of the large
scale industry and of unbridled competition, announced the collapse of
the newly established economic science. From the summit of his serene
meditation on the future world of the harmonians he looked down with a
serene contempt upon the misery of civilization and unmoved wrote the
satire of history. Ignorant both, because idealists, of the bitter
struggle which the proletariat is called upon to maintain before putting
an end to the epoch of exploitation and of antitheses, they arrived
through a subjective necessity at their conclusions, in the one case
scheme-making, in the other utopianism. But as by divination they
foresaw some of the direct principles of a society without antitheses.
The former reached a clear conception of the technical government of
society in which should disappear the domination of man over man, and
the other divined, foresaw and prophesied along with the extravagances
of his luxuriant imagination a great number of the important traits of
the psychology and pedagogy of that future society in which according
to the expression of the Manifesto, "the free development of each is the
condition of the free development of all."

Saint-Simonism had already disappeared when the Manifesto appeared.
Fourierism, on the contrary, was flourishing in France and in
consequence of its nature not as a party but as a school.

When the school attempted to realize its utopia by means of the law, the
Parisian proletarians had already been beaten in those days of June by
that bourgeoisie which through this victory was preparing a master for
itself: it was a military adventurer whose power lasted twenty years.

It is not in the name of a school, but as the promise, the threat, and
the desire of a party that the new doctrine of critical communism
presented itself. Its authors and its adherents did not feed upon the
utopian manufacture of the future but their minds were full of the
experience and the necessity of the present. They united with the
proletarians whom instinct, not as yet fortified by experience, impelled
to overthrow, at Paris and in England, the rule of the bourgeois class
with a rapidity of movement not guided by well-considered tactics. These
communists disseminated their revolutionary ideas in Germany: they were
the defenders of the June martyrs, and they had in the Neue Rheinische
Zeitung a political organ, extracts from which, reproduced occasionally
after so many years, still carry authority.[7] After the disappearance
of the historic situations which in 1848 had pushed the proletarians to
the front of the political stage, the doctrines of the Manifesto no
longer found either a foundation or a field for diffusion. Many years
were required before it circulated again and that because many years
were required before the proletariat could re-appear by other roads and
under other methods as a political force upon the scene, making of this
doctrine its intellectual organ and directing its course by it.

But from the day when the doctrine appeared it made its anticipated
criticism of that _socialismus vulgaris_ which was flourishing in Europe
and especially in France from the coup d'État to the International; the
latter moreover in its short period of life had not time to vanquish and
eliminate it. This vulgar socialism found its intellectual food (when
nothing even more incoherent and chaotic was at hand) in the doctrine
and especially in the paradoxes of Proudhon who had already been
vanquished theoretically by Marx[8] but who was not vanquished
practically until the time of the Commune when his disciples, and it was
a salutary lesson in affairs, were forced to act in opposition to their
own doctrines and those of their master.

From the time of its appearance this new communist doctrine carried an
implied criticism of all forms of State socialism from Louis Blanc to
Lassalle. This State socialism, although mingled with revolutionary
doctrines, was then summed up in the empty dream, in the abracadabra, of
the _Right to Work_. This is an insidious formula if it implies a demand
addressed to a government even of revolutionary bourgeois. It is an
economic absurdity if by it is meant to suppress the unemployment which
ensues upon the variations of wages, that is to say upon the conditions
of competition. It may be a tool for politicians, if it serves as an
expedient to calm a shapeless mass of unorganized proletarians. This is
very evident for any one who conceives clearly the course of a
victorious proletarian revolution which cannot proceed to the
socialization of the means of production by taking possession of them,
that is to say, which cannot arrive at the economic form in which there
is neither merchandise nor wage labor and in which the right to work and
the duty of working are one and the same, mingled in the common
necessity of labor for all.

The mirage of the right to work ended in the tragedy of June. The
parliamentary discussion of which it was the object in the sequel was
nothing but a parody. Lamartine, that tearful rhetorician, that great
man for all proper occasions, had pronounced the last, or the next to
the last of his celebrated phrases, "Catastrophes are the experiences of
nations," and that sufficed for the irony of history.

The brevity and simplicity of the Manifesto were wholly foreign to the
insinuating rhetoric of faith or creed. It was of the utmost
inclusiveness by virtue of the many ideas which it for the first time
reduced to a system and it was a series of germs capable of an immense
development. But it was not, and it did not pretend to be a code of
socialism, a catechism of critical communism, or the handbook of the
proletarian revolution. We may leave its "quintessence" to the
illustrious Dr. Schaeffle, to whom also we willingly leave the famous
phrase, "The social question is a question of the stomach."

The "ventre" of Dr. Schaeffle has for long years cut a fine enough
figure in the world to the great advantage of the dilettanti in
socialism and to the delight of the politicians. Critical communism, in
reality, scarcely begun with the Manifesto it needed to develop and it
has developed effectively.

The sum total of the teachings customarily designated by the name of
"Marxism" did not arrive at maturity before the years 1860-1870. It is
certainly a long step from the little work Wage Labor and Capital[9] in
which is seen for the first time in precise terms how from the purchase
and the use of the labor-commodity is obtained a product superior to the
cost of production, this being the clue to the question of surplus
value--it is a long step from this to the complex and multiple
developments of "Capital." This book goes exhaustively into the genesis
of the bourgeois epoch in all its inner economic structure, and
intellectually it transcends that epoch because it explains its course,
its particular laws and the antitheses which it organically produces and
which organically dissolve it.

It is a long step also from the proletarian movement which succumbed in
1848 to the present proletarian movement which through great
difficulties after having re-appeared on the political scene has
developed with continuity and deliberation. Until a few years ago this
regularity of the forward march of the proletariat was observed and
admired only in Germany. The social democracy there had normally
increased as upon its own field (from the Workingmen's Conference of
Nuremburg, 1868, to our day). But since then the same phenomenon has
asserted itself in other countries, under various forms.

In this broad development of Marxism and in this increase of the
proletarian movement in the limited forms of political action, has there
not been, as some assert, an alteration from the militant character of
the original form of critical communism? Has there not been a passing
from revolution to the self-styled evolution? Has there not been an
acquiescence of the revolutionary spirit in the exigencies of the reform

These reflections and these objections have arisen and arise continually
both among the most enthusiastic and most passionate of the socialists
and among the adversaries of socialism whose interest it is to give an
appearance of uniformity to the special defeats, checks and delays, so
as to affirm that communism has no future.

Whoever compares the present proletarian movement and its varied and
complicated course with the impression left by the Manifesto when one
reads it without being provided with knowledge from other sources, may
easily believe that there was something juvenile and premature in the
confident boldness of those communists of fifty years ago. There is in
them the sound as of a battle cry and an echo of the vibrant eloquence
of some of the orators of Chartism; there is the declaration of a new
'93 with no room left for a new Thermidor.

And Thermidor has re-appeared several times since in various forms, more
or less explicit or disguised, and their authors have been since 1848
French ex-radicals, or Italian ex-patriots, or German bureaucrats,
adorers of the god State and practically slaves of the god Mammon,
English parliamentarians broken by the artifices of the art of
government, or even politicians under the guise of anarchists. Many
people believe that the constellation of Thermidor is destined never to
disappear from the heaven of history, or to speak in a more prosaic
fashion, that liberalism, that is to say a society where men are equal
only in law, marks the extreme limit of human evolution beyond which
nothing remains but a return backward. That is the opinion of all those
who see in the progressive extension of the bourgeois form over the
whole world the reason and the end of all progress. Whether they are
optimists or pessimists here are, for them, the columns of Hercules of
the human race. Often it happens that this sentiment in its pessimistic
form operates unconsciously upon some of those, who with others
unclassified, go to swell the ranks of anarchism.

There are others who go further and who theorize upon the objective
improbabilities of the assertions of critical communism. That
affirmation of the Manifesto that the reduction of all class struggles
to a single one carries within itself the necessity of the proletarian
revolution, would seem to them intrinsically false. That doctrine would
be without foundation because it assumes to draw a theoretical deduction
and a practical rule of conduct from the prevision of a fact which,
according to these adversaries, would be a simple theoretical point
which might be displaced and set ahead indefinitely. The assumed
inevitable collision between the productive forces and the form of
production would never take place because it is reduced, as they claim,
to an infinite number of particular cases of friction, because it
multiplies itself into the partial collisions of economic competition,
and because it meets with checks and hindrances in the expedients and
attacks of the governmental art. In other words, our present society,
instead of breaking up and dissolving would in a continuous fashion
repair the evils which it produced. Every proletarian movement which is
not repressed by violence as was that of June, 1848, and that of May,
1871, would perish of slow exhaustion as happened with Chartism which
ended in trade unionism, the war horse of this fashion of arguing, the
honor and glory of the economists and of the vulgar sociologists. Every
modern proletarian movement would be regarded as meteoric and not
organic, it would be a disturbance and not a process, and according to
these critics, in spite of ourselves, we should be still utopians.

The historic forecast which is found in the doctrine of the Manifesto
and which critical communism has since developed by a broad and detailed
analysis of the actual world, has certainly taken on by reason of the
circumstances in which it was produced a warlike appearance and a very
aggressive form. But it did not imply, any more than it implies now,
either a chronological datum or a prophetic picture of the social
organization like those in the apocalypses and the ancient prophesies.

The heroic Father Dolcino did not re-appear with the prophetic war cry
of Joachino del Fiore. We did not celebrate anew at Münster the
resurrection of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. There were no more Taborites
nor millenarians. Nor was there another Fourier waiting in his house at
a fixed hour year after year for the "candidate of humanity." Nor again,
was there an initiator of a new life, beginning with artificial means to
create the first nucleus of an association proposing to make man over,
as was the case with Beller, Owen, Cabet, and the enterprise of the
Fourierites in Texas, which was the tomb of utopianism, marked by a
singular epitaph: the dumbness which succeeded the fiery eloquence of
Considerant. Neither is there here a sect which retires modestly and
timidly from the world in order to celebrate in a closed circle the
perfect idea of communism as in the socialist colonies of America.

Here, on the contrary, in the doctrine of critical communism, it is
society as a whole which at a moment of its general process discovers
the cause of its destined course and at a critical point asserts itself
to proclaim the laws of its movement. The foresight indicated by the
Manifesto was not chronological, it was not a prophecy nor a promise,
but a morphological prevision.

Beneath the noise of the passions over which our daily conversation
extends itself, beyond the visible movements of the persons who formed
the material at which the historians stop, beyond the juridical and
political apparel of our civil society, far enough from the meanings
which religion and art give to life, there remains, grows and develops
the elementary structure of society which supports all the rest. The
anatomical study of this underlying structure is economics. And as human
society has several times changed, partially or entirely, in its most
visible exterior form, or in its ideological, religious or artistic
manifestations, we must first find the cause and the reason of these
changes, the only ones which historians relate, in the transformations
more hidden, and at first less visible, of the economic _processus_ of
this structure. We must set ourselves to the study of the differences
which exist between the various forms of production when we have to deal
with historic epochs clearly distinct and properly designated; and when
we have to explain the succession of these forms, the replacing of one
by the other, we must study the causes of erosion, and of the
destruction of the form which disappears; and finally when we wish to
understand the historic fact determined and concrete, we must study the
frictions and the contrasts which take their rise from the different
currents, that is to say, the classes, their subdivisions and their
intersections which characterize a given society.

When the Manifesto declared that all history up to the present time has
been nothing but the history of class struggles and that these are the
cause of all revolutions as also of all reactions, it did two things at
the same time, it gave to communism the elements of a new doctrine and
to the communists the guiding thread to discover in the confused events
of political life the conditions of the underlying economic movement.

In these last fifty years the generic foresight of a new historic era
has become for socialists the delicate art of understanding in every
case what it is expedient to do, because this new era is in itself in
continual formation. Communism has become an art because the
proletarians have become, or are on the point of becoming, a political
party. The revolutionary spirit is embodied to-day in the proletarian
organization. The desired union of communists and proletarians is
henceforth an accomplished fact.[10] These last fifty years have been
the ever stronger proof of the ever growing revolt of the producing
forces against the forms of production. We "utopians" have no other
answer to offer than this lesson from events to those who still speak of
meteoric disturbances which, as they would have it, will disappear
little by little and will all resolve themselves into the calm of this
final epoch of civilization. And this lesson suffices.

Eleven years after the publication of the Manifesto, Marx formulated in
clear and precise fashion the directing principles of the materialistic
interpretation of history in the preface to a book which is the
forerunner of "Capital."[11]

"The first work which I undertook for the purpose of solving the doubts
which perplexed me was a critical re-examination of Hegel's Philosophy
of Law. The introduction to this work appeared in the German-French Year
Books, published in Paris in 1844.

My investigation ended in the conviction that legal relations and forms
of government cannot be explained either by themselves or by the
so-called general development of the human mind, but on the contrary,
have their roots in the conditions of man's physical existence, whose
totality Hegel, following the English and French writers of the
eighteenth century, summed up under the name of civil society; and that
the anatomy of civil society must be sought in political economy.

The study of the latter which I began at Paris was continued at Brussels
whither I had betaken myself in consequence of an order of Guizot
expelling me from France.

The general result which I arrived at and which, once obtained, served
as a guide for my subsequent studies, can be briefly formulated as

In making their livelihood together men enter into certain necessary
involuntary relations with each other, industrial relations which
correspond to whatever stage society has reached in the development of
its material productive forces.

The totality of these industrial relations constitutes the economic
structure of society, the real basis upon which the legal and political
superstructure is built, and to which definite forms of social
consciousness correspond.

The method of producing the material livelihood determines the social,
political and intellectual life process in general.

It is not men's consciousness which determines their life; on the
contrary, it is their social life which determines their consciousness.

At a certain stage of their development the material productive forces
of society come into conflict with the old conditions of production or,
to use a legal expression, with the old property relations under which
these forces have hitherto been exerted. From forms of development of
the productive forces these relations turn into fetters of production.
Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the
economic basis the whole vast superstructure undergoes sooner or later a

In considering such revolutions one must constantly distinguish between
the industrial revolution, to be carefully posited scientifically, which
takes place in the economic conditions of production, and the legal,
political, religious, artistic or philosophical, in short ideological,
forms wherein men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. As
little as we judge an individual by what he himself thinks he is, just
as little can we judge such a revolutionary epoch by its own
consciousness. We must rather explain this consciousness out of the
antagonisms of men's industrial life, out of the conflict existing
between the forces of social production and the relations of social

A form of society never breaks down until all the productive forces are
developed for which it affords room. New and higher relations of
production are never established, until the material conditions of life
to support them have been prepared in the lap of the old society itself.
Therefore mankind always sets for itself only such tasks as it is able
to perform; for upon close examination it will always be found that the
task itself only arises where the material conditions for its solution
are already at hand or are at least in process of growth.

We may in broad outlines characterize the Asiatic, the antique, the
feudal and the modern capitalist methods of production as progressive
epochs in the economic evolution of society.

The industrial relations arising out of the capitalistic method of
production constitute the last of the antagonistic forms of social
production; antagonistic not in the sense of an individual antagonism,
but of an antagonism growing out of the social conditions of

But the productive forces which are developed in the lap of capitalistic
society create at the same time the material conditions needed for the
abolition of this antagonism. The capitalist form of society therefore,
brings to a close this prelude to the history of human society."

Marx had some years before left the political arena and he did not
return to it until later with the International. The reaction had
triumphed in Italy, Austria, Hungary and Germany over the patriotic,
liberal or democratic revolution. The bourgeoisie on its side had
overcome the proletarians of France and England. The indispensable
conditions for the development of a democratic and proletarian movement
suddenly disappeared. The battalion small in numbers indeed of the
Manifesto communists who had taken part in the revolution and who had
participated in all the acts of resistance and popular rebellion against
reaction saw its activity crushed by the memorable process of Cologne.
The survivors of the movement tried to make a new start at London, but
soon Marx, Engels and others separated themselves from the
revolutionaries and retired from the movement. The crisis was passed. A
long period of repose followed. This was shown by the slow disappearance
of the Chartist movement, that is to say, the proletarian movement of
the country which was the spinal column of the capitalist system.
History had for the moment discredited the illusions of the

Before giving himself almost entirely to the long incubation of the
already discovered elements of the critique of political economy, Marx
illustrated in several works the history of the revolutionary period
from 1848 to 1850 and especially the class struggles in France, showing
thus that if the revolution in the forms which it had taken on at that
moment had not succeeded, the revolutionary theory of history was not
contradicted for all that.[12] The suggestions given in the Manifesto
found here their complete development.

Later the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte[13] was the first attempt to
apply the new conception of history to a series of facts contained
within precise limits of time. It is extremely difficult to rise from
the apparent movement to the real movement of history and to discover
their intimate connection. There are indeed great difficulties in rising
from the phenomena of passion, oratory, Parliaments, elections and the
like to the inner social gearing to discover in the latter the different
interests of the large and small bourgeois, of the peasants, the
artisans, the laborers, the priests, the soldiers, the bankers, the
usurers and the mob. All these interests act consciously or
unconsciously, jostling each other, eliminating each other, combining
and fusing, in the discordant life of civilized man.

The crisis was passed and this was precisely true in the countries which
constituted the historic field from which critical communism proceeded.
All that the critical communists could do was to understand the
reaction in its hidden economic causes because, for the moment, to
understand the reaction was to continue the work of the revolution. The
same thing happened under other conditions and other forms 20 years
later when Marx, in the name of the International made in the "Civil War
in France" an apology for the Commune which was at the same time its
objective criticism.

The heroic resignation with which Marx after 1850 abandoned political
life was shown again when he retired from the International after the
congress at the Hague in 1872. These two facts have their value for
biography because they give glimpses of his personal character. With
him, in fact, ideas, temperament, policy and thought were one and the
same. But, on the other hand, these facts have a much greater bearing
for us. Critical communism does not manufacture revolutions, it does not
prepare insurrections, it does not furnish arms for revolts. It mingles
itself with the proletarian movement, but it sees and supports that
movement in the full intelligence of the connection which it has, which
it can have, and which it must have, with all the relations of social
life as a whole. In a word it is not a seminary in which superior
officers of the proletarian revolution are trained, but it is neither
more nor less than the consciousness of this revolution and especially
the consciousness of its difficulties.

The proletarian movement has grown in a colossal fashion during these
last thirty years. In the midst of numberless difficulties, through
gains and losses, it has little by little taken on a political form. Its
methods have been elaborated and gradually applied. All this is not the
work of the magic action of the doctrine scattered by the persuasive
virtue of written and spoken propaganda. From their first beginnings the
communists had this feeling that they were the extreme left of every
proletarian movement, but in proportion as the latter developed and
specialized it became their necessity and duty to assist, (through the
elaboration of programmes, and through their participation in the
political action of the parties) in the various contingencies of the
economic development and of the political situation growing out of it.

In the fifty years which separate us from the publication of the
Manifesto the specialization and the complexity of the proletarian
movement have become such that there is henceforth no mind capable of
embracing it in its completeness, of understanding it in its details and
grasping its real causes and exact relations. The single International,
from 1864 to 1873, necessarily disappeared after it had fulfilled its
task. The preliminary equalization of the general tendencies and of the
ideas common and indispensable to all the proletariat, and no one can
assume or will assume to re-constitute anything like it.

Two causes, notably, contributed in a high degree to this
specialization, this complexity of the proletarian movement. In many
countries the bourgeoisie felt the need of putting an end in the
interest of its own defense to some of the abuses which had arisen in
consequence of the introduction of the industrial system. Thence arose
labor legislation, or as it has been pompously called social
legislation. This same bourgeoisie in its own interest or, under the
pressure of circumstances has been obliged, in many countries to
increase the generic conditions of liberty, and notably to extend the
right of suffrage. These two circumstances have drawn the proletariat
into the circle of daily political life. They have considerably
increased its chance for action and the agility and suppleness thus
acquired permit it to struggle with the bourgeoisie in elective
assembles. And as the _processus_ of things determines the _processus_
of ideas, this practical multiform development of the proletariat is
accompanied by a gradual development of the doctrines of critical
communism, as well in the manner of understanding history or
contemporary life as in the minute description of the most infinitesimal
parts of economics: in a word, it has become a science.

Have we not there, some ask, a deviation from the simple and imperative
doctrine of the Manifesto? Others again say, have we not lost in
intensity and precision what we have gained in extension and complexity?

These questions, in my opinion, arise from an inexact conception of the
present proletarian movement and an optical illusion as to the degree of
energy and revolutionary valor of the former movements.

Whatever be the concessions that the bourgeoisie can make in the present
economic order even if it be a very great reduction in the hours of
labor, it always remains true that the necessity for exploitation upon
which the whole present social order rests imposes limits beyond which
capital as a private instrument of production has no more reason for
existence. If a concession to-day can allay one form of discontent in
the proletariat, the concession itself can do nothing less than to give
rise to the need of new and ever increasing concessions. The need of
labor legislation arose in England before the Chartist movement and it
developed afterwards along with it. It had its first successes in the
period which immediately followed the fall of Chartism. The principles
and the reasons of this movement in their causes and their effects were
studied in a critical manner by Marx in Capital and they afterwards
passed, through the International, into the programmes of the different
socialist parties. Finally this whole process, concentrating itself into
the demand for eight hours, became with the 1st of May an international
marshalling of the proletariat, and a means for estimating its progress.
On the other hand, the political struggle in which the proletariat takes
part democratizes its habits; still more a real democracy takes birth
which, with time, will no longer be able to adapt itself to the present
political form. Being the organ of a society based on exploitation it is
constituted as a bureaucratic hierarchy, as a judicial bureaucracy and a
mutual aid society of the capitalists for the defense of their special
privileges, the perpetual income from the public debt, the rent of land
and the interest on capital in all its forms. Consequently the two
facts, which according to the discontented and the hypercritical seem to
make us deviate infinitely from the lines laid down by communism,
become, on the contrary, new means and new conditions which confirm
these lines. The apparent deviations from the revolution are, at bottom,
the very thing which is hastening it.

Moreover, we must not exaggerate the significance of the revolutionary
faith of the communists of fifty years ago. Given the political
situation of Europe, if they had a faith, it was that they were
precursors, and this they have been; they hoped that the political
conditions of Italy, Austria, Hungary, Germany and Poland might
approximate to modern forms, and this has happened later, in part, and
through other means; if they had a hope, it was that the proletarian
movement of France and England might continue to develop. The reaction
which intervened upset many things and stopped more than one development
which had already begun. It upset also the old revolutionary tactic, and
in these last years a new tactic has arisen. Therein lies all the

The Manifesto was designed for nothing else than the first guiding
thread to a science and a practice which nothing but experience and time
could develop. It gives only the scheme and the rhythm of the general
march of the proletarian movement.

It is perfectly evident that the communists were influenced by the
experience of the two movements which they had before their eyes, that
of France, and especially the Chartist movement which the manifestation
of April 10th was soon to strike with paralysis. But this scheme does
not fix in any invariable fashion a tactic of war, which indeed had
already been made frequently. The revolutionists had often indeed
explained in the form of catechism what ought to be a simple consequence
of the development of events.

This scheme became more vast and complex with the development and
extension of the bourgeois system. The rhythm of the movement has become
more varied and slower because the laboring mass has entered on the
scene as a distinct, political party, which fact changes the manner and
the measure of their action and consequently their movement.

Just as in view of the improvement of modern weapons the tactic of
street riots has become inopportune, and just as the complexity of the
modern state shows the insufficiency of a sudden capture of a municipal
government to impose upon a whole people the will and the ideas of a
minority, no matter how courageous and progressive, even so, on its
side, the mass of the proletarians no longer holds to the word of
command of a few leaders, nor does it regulate its movements by the
instructions of captains who might upon the ruins of one government
raise up another. The laboring mass where it has developed politically
has made and is making its own democratic education. It is choosing its
representatives and submitting their action to its criticism. It
examines and makes its own the ideas and the propositions which these
representatives submit to it. It already knows, or it begins to
understand according to the situation in the various countries, that the
conquest of the political power cannot and should not be made by others
in its name, and especially that it cannot be the consequence of a
single blow. In a word it knows, or it is beginning to understand that
the dictatorship of the proletariat which shall have for its task the
socialization of the means of production cannot be the work of a mass
led by a few and that it must be, and that it will be, the work of the
proletarians themselves when they have become in themselves and through
long practice a political organization.

The development and the extension of the bourgeois system have been
rapid and colossal in these last fifty years. It already invades sacred
and ancient Russia and it is creating, not only in America, Australia
and in India, but even in Japan, new centers of modern production, thus
complicating the conditions of competition and the entanglements of the
world market. The consequences of political changes have been produced,
or will not be long to wait for. Equally rapid and colossal has been the
progress of the proletariat. Its political education takes each day a
new step toward the conquest of political power. The rebellion of the
productive forces against the form of production, the struggle of living
labor against accumulated labor, becomes every day more evident. The
bourgeois system is henceforth upon the defensive and it reveals its
decadence by this singular contradiction; the peaceful world of industry
has become a colossal camp in which militarism develops. The peaceful
period of industry has become by the irony of things the period of the
continuous invention of new engines of war.

Socialism has forced itself into the situation. Those semi-socialists,
even those charlatans who encumber with their presence the press and the
meetings of our party and who often are a nuisance to us, are a tribute
which vanity and ambitions of every sort render in their fashion to the
new power which rises on the horizon. In spite of the foreseen antidote
which scientific socialism is, the truth of which many people have not
come to understand, there is a group of quacks on the social question,
all having some particular specific to eliminate such or such a social
evil: land nationalization, monopoly of grains in the hands of the
State, democratic taxes, statization of mortgages, general strike, etc.
But social democracy eliminates all these fantasies because the
consciousness of their situation leads the proletarians when once they
have become familiar with the political arena to understand socialism in
an integral fashion. They come to understand that they should look for
only one thing, the abolition of wage labor; that there is but one form
of society which renders possible and even necessary the elimination of
classes,--the association which does not produce commodities, and that
this form of society is no longer the State, but its opposite, that is
to say, the technical and pedagogical administration of human society,
the self-government of labor. Behind the Jacobins are the gigantic
heroes of 1793 and their caricatures of 1848.

_Social democracy!_ But is not that, say some, an evident attenuation of
the communist doctrine as it is formulated in the Manifesto in terms so
ringing and so decisive?

This is not the moment to recall that the phrase _social democracy_ has
had in France many significations from 1837 to 1848, all of which were
based upon a vague sentimentalism. Neither is it necessary to explain
how the Germans have been able in this nomenclature to sum up all the
rich and vast development of their socialism from the episode of
Lassalle now passed over and transformed up to our own days. It is
certain that _social democracy_ can signify, has signified and signifies
many things which have not been, are not, and never will be, either
critical communism or the conscious march toward the proletarian
revolution. It is also certain that contemporary socialism even in the
countries where its development is most advanced, carries with it a
great deal of dross which it throws off little by little along the road.
It is certain also, in fine, that this broad designation of social
democracy serves as an escutcheon and a buckler to many intruders. But
here we need to fix our attention only upon certain points of capital

We must insist upon the second term of the expression in order to avoid
any equivocation. Democratic was the constitution of the _Communist
League_; democratic was its fashion of welcoming and discussing each new
teaching; democratic was its intervention in the revolution of 1848 and
its participation in the rebellious resistance against the invasion of
reaction; democratic finally was the very way in which the League was
dissolved. In this first type of our present parties, in this first cell
so to speak, of our complex organism, elastic and highly developed,
there was not only the consciousness of the mission to be accomplished
as precursor, but there was already the form and the method of
association which alone are suitable for the first initiators of the
proletarian revolution. It was no longer a sect; that form was already,
in fact, outgrown. The immediate and fantastic domination of the
individual was eliminated, what predominated was a discipline which had
its source in the experience of necessity and in the precise doctrine
which must proceed from the reflex consciousness of this necessity. It
was the same with the International, which appeared authoritarian only
to those who could not make their own authority prevail in it. It must
be the same, and it is so, in the working class parties and where this
character is not or cannot yet be marked, the proletarian agitation
still elementary and confused simply engenders illusions and is only a
pretext for intrigues, and when it is not so, then we have a passover
where men of understanding touch elbows with the madman and the spy; as
for example the society of The International Brothers which attached
itself like a parasite to the International and discredited it; or again
the co-operative which degenerates into a business and sells itself to
capitalists; the labor party which remains outside politics and which
studies the variations of the market to introduce its tactic of strikes
into the sinuosities of competition; or again a group of malcontents,
for the most part social outcasts and little bourgeois, who give
themselves up to speculations on socialism considered as one of the
phases of political fashion. Social democracy has met all these
impedimenta upon its way and it has been obliged to relieve itself of
them as it will have to do again from one time to another. The art of
persuasion does not always suffice. Oftener it was necessary and it is
necessary to resign ourselves and wait until the hard school of
disillusion serves to instruct, which it does better than reasonings can

All these intrinsic difficulties of the proletarian movement, which the
wily bourgeoisie oftener than not stirs up of itself and which it makes
the most of, form a considerable part of the internal history of
socialism during these last years.

Socialism has not found impediments merely in the general conditions of
economic competition and in the resistance of the political power, but
also in the very conditions of the proletarian mass and in the mechanism
sometimes obscure although inevitable of its slow, varied, complex
movements, often antagonistic and contradictory. That prevents many
people from seeing the increasing reduction of all class struggles to
the single struggle between the capitalists and the proletarianized

Even as the Manifesto did not write, as the utopians did, the ethics and
the psychology of the future society, just so it did not give the
mechanism of that formation and of the development in which we find
ourselves. It is surely enough that these few pioneers have opened the
road. We must walk upon it to arrive at understanding and experience.
Moreover man is distinctively the experimental animal; that is why he
has a history, or rather that is why he makes his own history.

Upon this road of contemporary socialism which constitutes its
development because it is its experience, we have met the mass of the

Socialism which at first kept itself practically and theoretically to
the study and experience of the antagonisms between capitalists and
proletarians in the circle of industrial production properly so called,
has turned its activity toward that mass in which _peasant stupidity_
blossoms. To capture the peasants is the question of the hour, although
the quintessential Schaeffle long ago mobilized the anti-collectivist
brains of the peasants for the defense of the existing order. The
elimination and the capture of domestic industry by capital, the passage
more and more rapid of agrarian industry into the capitalist form, the
disappearance of small proprietorship, or its lessening through
mortgages, the disappearance of the communal domaines, usury, taxes and
militarism, all this is beginning to work miracles even in those brains
assumed to be props of the existing order.

The Germans have been the pioneers in this field. They were brought to
it by the very fact of their immense expansion; from the cities they
have gone to the smallest centers and they thus arrive inevitably at the
frontiers of the country. Their attempts will be long and difficult;
this fact explains, excuses, and will excuse, the errors which have been
and will be committed.[15] As long as the peasant shall not be gained
over we shall always have behind us this _peasant stupidity_ which
unconsciously repeats, and that because it is stupid, the errors of the
18th Brumaire and the 2d of December. The development of modern society
in Russia will probably proceed on parallel lines with this conquest of
the country districts. When that country shall have entered into the
liberal era with all its imperfections and all its disadvantages, with
all the purely modern forms of exploitation and of proletarization, but
also with the compensations and the advantages of the political
development of the proletariat, social democracy will no longer have to
fear the threat of unforeseen perils from without, and it will at the
same time have triumphed over the internal perils by the capture of the

The example of Italy is instructive. This country after having opened
the capitalist era dropped out for several centuries from the current
history. It is a typical case of decadence which can be studied in a
precise fashion from original documents in all its phases. It partly
returned into history at the time of the Napoleonic domination. It
reconquered its unity and became a modern state after the period of the
reaction and conspiracies, and under circumstances known to all, and
Italy has ended by having all the vices of parliamentarism, of
militarism and of finance without having at the same time the forms of
modern production and the resulting capacity for competition on equal
terms. It cannot compete with countries where industry is more advanced
by reason of the absolute lack of coal and scarcity of iron, the lack of
technical ability,--and it is waiting, or hoping now, that the
application of electricity may permit it to regain the time lost. It is
this which gave the impulse to different attempts from Biella to Schio.
A modern state in a society almost exclusively agricultural and in a
country where agriculture is in great part backward, it is that which
gives birth to this general sentiment of universal discontent.

Thence come the incoherence and the inconsistency of the parties, the
rapid oscillations from demagogy to dictatorship, the mob, the
multitude, the infinite army of the parasites of politics, the makers of
fantastic projects. This singular social spectacle of a development
prevented, retarded, embarrassed and thus uncertain, is brought out in
bold relief by a penetrating spirit which, if it is not always the fruit
and the expression of a modern, broad and real culture nevertheless
bears within itself as the relic of an excellent civilization the mark
of great cerebral refinement. Italy has not been for reasons easy to
guess a suitable field for the indigenous formation of socialist ideas
and tendencies. The Italian Philippe Buonaroti, at first the friend of
the younger Robespierre, become the companion of Babeuf and later
attempted to re-establish Babeufism in France, after 1830. Socialism
made its first appearance in Italy at the time of the International, in
the confused and incoherent form of Bakuninism; it was not, moreover, a
labor movement, but it was the work of the small bourgeois and
instinctive revolutionists.[16] In these last years socialism has fixed
itself in a form which _almost_ reproduces the general type of _social
democracy_.[17] Now in Italy the first sign of life which the
proletariat gave is in the shape of the rising of the Sicilian peasants
followed by other revolts of the same kind on the continent to which
others will perhaps succeed in the future. Is it not very significant?

After this incursion into the history of contemporary socialism we
gladly return to our precursors of fifty years ago, who put on record in
the Manifesto how they took possession of an advance post on the road of
progress. And that is true not merely of the theorizers, that is to say,
Marx and Engels. Both of these men would have exercised, under other
circumstances and at all times either by tongue or pen, a considerable
influence over politics and science such was the force and originality
of their minds and the extent of their knowledge even if they had never
met on their way the _Communist League_. But I am referring to all the
"unknown" according to the exclusive and vain jargon of bourgeois
literature:--of the shoemaker, Bauer, the tailors, Lessner and Eccarius,
the miniature painter, Pfaender, the watchmaker, Moll,[18] of Lochner,
etc., and many others who were the first conscious initiators of our
movement. The motto, "Workingmen of all countries, unite," remains as
their monument. The passage of socialism from utopia to science marks
the result of their work. The survival of their instinct and of their
first impulse in the work of to-day is the ineffaceable title which
these precursors have acquired to the gratitude of all socialists.

As an Italian, I return so much the more willingly to these beginnings
of modern socialism because for me, at least, this recent warning of
Engels' is not without importance. "Thus the discovery that everywhere
and always political conditions and events find their explanation in
economic conditions would not have been made by Marx in 1845, but rather
by Loria in 1886. He has at least succeeded in impressing this belief
upon his compatriots, and since his book has appeared in French even
upon some Frenchmen and he may now go on inflated with pride and vanity
as if he had discovered an epoch-making historic theory until the
Italian socialists have time to despoil the illustrious Mr. Loria of the
peacock feathers which he has stolen."[19]

I would willingly close here, but more remains to be said.

On all sides and from all camps protests arise and objections are urged
against historical materialism. And some times these voices are swelled
here and there by newly converted socialists, socialists who are
philosophical, socialists who are sentimental and sometimes hysterical.
Then reappears, as a warning, the "question of the belly." Others devote
themselves to exercise of logical gymnastics with abstract categories of
egoism and altruism; for others again the inevitable struggle for
existence always turns up at the right moment.

Morality! But it is high time that we understand the lesson of this
morality of the bourgeois epoch in the fable of the bees by Mandeville,
who was contemporary with the first projection of classic economics.

And has not the politics of this morality been explained in classic
phrases that can never be forgotten by the first great political writer
of the capitalist epoch Machiavelli, who did not invent Machiavellism,
but who was its secretary and faithful and diligent editor. And as for
the logical tourney between egoism and altruism, has it not been in full
view from the time of the Reverend Malthus up to that empty, prolix and
tiresome reasoner, the indispensable Spencer? Struggle for existence!
But could you wish to observe, study and understand a struggle more
important for us than the one which has its birth and is taking on
gigantic proportions in the proletarian agitation? Perhaps you would
reduce the explanation of this struggle which is developing and working
in the supernatural domain of society, which man himself has created in
the course of history, through his labor, through improved processes and
through social institutions, and which man himself can change through
other forms of labor, processes and institutions,--you would perhaps
reduce it to the simple explanation of the more general struggle in
which plant and animals, and men themselves in so far as they are
animals, are contending in the bosom of nature.

But let us return to our subject.

Critical communism has never refused, and it does not refuse, to welcome
the multiple and valuable suggestions, ideological, ethical, psychologic
and pedagogic which may come from the knowledge and from the study of
all forms of communism from Phales of Chalcedon down to Cabet.[20] More
than this, it is by the study and the knowledge of these forms that the
consciousness of the separateness of scientific socialism from all the
rest becomes developed and fixed. And in making this study who is there
who will refuse to recognize that Thomas More was a heroic soul and a
great writer on socialism? Who will not find in his heart a large
tribute of admiration for Robert Owen who first gave to the ethics of
communism this indisputable principle, that the character and the morals
of men are the necessary result of the conditions in which they live and
of the circumstances which surround them? And the partisans of critical
communism believe it is their duty, traversing history in thought, to
claim fellowship with all the oppressed, whatever may have been their
destiny, which was that of remaining oppressed and of opening the way
after an ephemeral success for the rule of new oppressors.

But the partisans of critical communism differentiate themselves clearly
on one point from all other forms or manners of communism, or of
socialism, ancient, modern or contemporaneous, and this point is of
capital importance.

They cannot admit that the ideologies of the past have remained without
effect and that the past attempts of the proletariat have been always
overcome by pure chance, by pure accident, by the effect of a caprice
of circumstances. All these ideologies although they reflected in fact
the sentiment directly due to social antitheses, that is to say, the
real class struggles, with a lofty sense of justice and a profound
devotion to an ideal, nevertheless all reveal ignorance of the true
causes and of the effective nature of the antitheses against which they
hurled themselves by an act of revolt spontaneous and often heroic.
Thence their utopian character. We can moreover explain why the
oppressive conditions of other epochs although they were more barbarous
and cruel did not bring that accumulation of energy, that concentration
of force, or that continuity of resistance which is seen to be realizing
itself and developing in the proletariat of our time. It is the change
of society in its economic structure; it is the formation of the
proletariat in the bosom of the great industry and of the modern state.
It is the appearance of the proletariat upon the political scene,--it is
the new things, in fine, which have engendered the need of new ideas.
Thus critical communism is neither moralizer, nor preacher, nor herald,
nor utopian--it already holds the thing itself in its hands and into the
thing itself it has put its ethics and its idealism.

This orientation which seems harsh to the sentimentalists because it is
too true, too realistic and too real, permits us to retrace the history
of the proletariat and of the other oppressed classes which preceded it.
We see their different phases; we take account of the failures of
Chartism, of the Conspiracy of Equals and we explore still further back
to attempts at relief, to acts of resistance, and to wars,--to the
famous peasants' war in Germany, to the Jacquerie and to Father Dolcino.
In all these facts and in all these events we discover forms and
phenomena relating to the future of the bourgeoisie in proportion as it
tears to pieces, overthrows, triumphs over and issues from the feudal
system. We can do the same with the class struggles of the ancient world
but with less clearness. This history of the proletariat and of the
other oppressed classes, of the vicissitudes of their struggles and
their revolts, is already a sufficient guide to assist us in
understanding why the ideologies of the communism of other epochs were

If the bourgeoisie has not yet arrived everywhere at the final stage of
its evolution, it surely has arrived in certain countries at its
accomplishment. In fact, in the most advanced countries it is subjecting
the various older forms of production, either directly or indirectly, to
the action and to the law of capital. And thus it simplifies, or it
tends to simplify, the different class struggles of former times, which
then obscured each other by their multiplicity, into this single
struggle between capital which is converting into merchandise all the
products of human labor indispensable to life and the mass of
proletarians which sells its labor power,--now also become simple
merchandise. The secret of history is simplified. It is all prosaic. And
just as the present class struggle is the simplification of all other,
so likewise, the communism of the Manifesto simplifies into rigid and
general theoretical formulas the ideologic, ethic, psychologic and
pedagogic suggestion of the other forms of communism not by denying but
by exalting them. All is prosaic and communism itself partakes of this
character, it is now a science.

Thus there are in the Manifesto neither rhetoric nor protestations. It
does not lament over pauperism to eliminate it. It sheds tears over
nothing. The tears are transformed of themselves into a spontaneous
revolutionary force. Ethics and idealism consist henceforth in this, to
put the thought of science at the service of the proletariat. If this
ethics does not appear moral enough for the sentimentalists, usually
hysterical and silly, let them go and borrow altruism from its high
priest Spencer who will give a vague and insipid definition of it, such
as will satisfy them.

But, again, should the economic factor serve alone to explain the whole
of history!

Historic factors! But that is an expression of empiricists or
ideologists who repeat Herder. Society is a complex whole or an organism
according to the expression of some who waste their time in discussions
over the value and the analogical use of this expression. This
_complexus_ has formed itself and has changed several times. What is the
explanation of this change?

Even long before Feuerbach gave a final blow to the theological
explanation of history (man makes religion and not religion man) the
old Balzac[21] had made a satire of it by making men the puppets of God.
And had not Vico already recognized that Providence does not act in
history from without? And this same Vico, a century before Morgan, had
he not reduced history to a process which man himself makes through
successive experimentation consisting in the invention of language,
religion, customs and laws? Had not Lessing affirmed that history is an
education of the human race? Had not Rousseau seen that ideas are born
from needs? Had not Saint Simon guessed when he did not lose himself in
the distinction between organic and inorganic epochs the real genesis of
the Third Estate, and did not his ideas translated into prose make of
Augustin Thierry a reconstructor of historical research? In the first
fifty years of this century and notably in the period from 1830 to 1850
the class struggles which the ancient historians and those of Italy
during the Renaissance had described so clearly, instructed by the
experience of these struggles in the narrow domain of their own urban
republic had grown and had reached on both sides of the Channel greater
proportions and an evidence always more palpable. Born in the midst of
the great industry, illuminated by the recollection and by the study of
the French Revolution they have become intuitively instructive because
they found with more or less clearness and consciousness their actual
and suggested expression in the programmes of the political parties:
free exchange or tariffs on grain in England, and so on. The conception
of history changed to the observer in France, on the right wing as on
the left wing of the literary parties, from Guizot to Louis Blanc and to
the modest Cabet. Sociology was the need of the time and if it sought in
vain its theoretic expression in Auguste Comte, a belated scholastic, it
found its artist in Balzac who was the actual inventor of class
psychology. To put into the classes and into their frictions the real
subject of history and the movement of this in their movement,--this is
what was then on the point of being studied and discovered, and it was
necessary to fix a theory of this in precise terms.

Man has made his history not by a metaphorical evolution nor with a view
of walking on a line of preconceived progress. He has made it by
creating his own conditions, that is to say, by creating through his
labor an artificial environment, by developing successively his
technical aptitudes and by accumulating and transforming the products of
his activity in this new environment. We have but one single history and
we cannot compare real history, which is actually made, with another
which is simply possible. Where shall we find the laws of this formation
and of this development? The very ancient formations are not evident at
first sight. But bourgeois society because it is born recently and has
not yet reached its full development, even in all parts of Europe, bears
within itself the embryonic traces of its origin and its _processus_,
and it puts them in full evidence in countries where it is in process
of birth before our eyes, as for example, in Japan. In so far as it is
society which transforms all the products of human labor into
commodities by means of capital, society which assumes the proletariat
or creates it and which bears within itself the anxiety, the trouble and
the uncertainty of continuous innovations, it is born in determined
times according to clear methods which can be indicated although they
may be varied. In fact in different countries it has different modes of
development. In Italy, for example, it begins before all the others and
then stops. In England it is the product of three centuries of economic
expropriation of the old forms of production, or of the old
proprietorship, to speak the language of the jurists. In one country it
elaborates itself little by little combining itself with pre-existing
forces, as was the case in Germany, and it undergoes their influences
through adaptation; in another country it breaks its envelope and
crushes out resistance violently, as happened in France, where the great
revolution gives us the most intense and the most bewildering example of
historic action that is known, and thus forms the greatest school of

As I have already indicated this formation of modern or bourgeois
history has been summed up in rapid and masterly strokes in the
Manifesto, which has given its general anatomical profile with its
successive aspects, the trade guild, commerce, manufacture and the great
industry and has also indicated some of the organs and appliances of a
derived and complex character, law, political forms, etc. The elements
of the theory which was to explain history by the principle of the class
struggle were already implicitly contained in it.

This same bourgeois society which revolutionized the earlier forms of
production had thrown light upon itself and its _processus_ in creating
the doctrine of its structure, economics. In fact it has not developed
in the unconsciousness which characterized primitive societies but in
the full light of the modern world beginning with the Renaissance.

Economics, as is known, was born by fragments, and its origin was
associated with that of the first bourgeoisie, which was that of
commerce and the great geographical discoveries, that is to say, it was
contemporary with the first and second phases of mercantilism. And it
was born to answer special questions: for example, is interest
legitimate? Is it advantageous for states and for nations to accumulate
money? It continued to grow, it occupied itself with the most complex
sides of the problem of wealth; it developed in the passage from
mercantilism to manufacture and then more rapidly and more resolutely in
the passage from the latter to the great industry. It was the
intellectual soul of the bourgeoisie which was conquering society. It
had already as discipline almost defined its general lines on the eve of
the French Revolution; it was the sign of the rebellion against the old
forms of feudalism, the guild, privilege, limitations of labor, that is
to say it was the sign of liberty. The theory of "natural right" which
developed from the precursors of Grotius to Rousseau, Kant, and the
Constitution of 93, was nothing else than a duplicate and the
ideological complement of economics, to the extent that often the thing
and its complement are confounded in one in the mind and in the
postulates of writers; of this we have a typical example in the

In so far as it was a doctrine it separated, distinguished and analyzed
the elements and the forms of the _processus_ of production, of
circulation and of distribution and reduced them all into categories:
money, money capital, interest, profit, land rent, wages, etc. It
marched, sure of itself, accumulating its analyses from Petty to
Ricardo. The sole mistress of the field, it met only rare objections. It
started from two hypotheses which it did not take the trouble to justify
since they appeared so evident; namely, that the social order which it
illustrated was the natural order, and that private property in the
means of production was one and the same thing with human liberty; all
of which made wage labor and the inferiority of the wage laborers into
necessary conditions. In other terms, it did not recognize the historic
character of the forms which it studied. The antitheses which it met on
its way in its attempt at systematization, after several vain attempts
it tried to eliminate logically as was the case with Ricardo in his
struggle against the income from land rents.

The beginning of the nineteenth century is marked by violent crises and
by those first labor movements which have their immediate origin in the
distress attending lockouts. The ideal of the "natural order" is
overthrown. Wealth has engendered poverty. The great industry in
changing all social relations has increased vices, maladies and
subjection. It has, in a word, caused degeneration. Progress has
engendered retrogression. What must be done that progress may engender
nothing else but progress, that is to say, prosperity, health, security,
education and intellectual development equal for all? With this question
Owen is wholly concerned and he shares with Fourier and Saint Simon this
characteristic that he no longer appeals to self-sacrifice and to
religion, and that he wishes to resolve and surmount the social
antitheses without diminishing the technical and industrial energy of
man, but rather to increase this. It is by this road that Owen became a
communist and he is the first who became so in the environment created
by modern industry. The antithesis rests entirely on the contradiction
between the mode of production and the mode of distribution. This
antithesis must, then, be suppressed in a society which produces
collectively. Owen becomes utopian. This perfect society must needs be
realized experimentally and to this he devotes himself with a heroic
constancy and unequalled self-sacrifice bringing a mathematical
precision even into his thoughts of its details.

The antithesis between production and distribution once discovered,
there arose in England from Thompson to Bray a series of writers of a
socialism which is not strictly utopian, but which should be qualified
as one-sided for its object is to correct the manifest vices of society
by as many appropriate remedies.[22]

In fact the first stage of all those who are on the road toward
socialism is the discovery of the contradiction between production and
distribution. Then, these ingenuous questions immediately arise: Why not
abolish poverty? Why not eliminate lockouts? Why not suppress the middle
man? Why not favor the direct exchange of products in consideration of
the labor that they contain? Why not give the worker the entire product
of his labor, etc.? These demands reduce the _things_, tenacious and
resistant, of real life, into as many reasonings, and they have for
their object to combat the capitalist system as if it were a machine
from which one can take away or to which one can add pieces, wheels and

The partisans of critical communism have broken definitely with all
these tendencies. They have been the successors and the continuers of
classical economics.[23] What is the doctrine of the structure of
present society? No one can combat this structure in practice, in
politics or in revolution without first taking an exact account of its
elements and its relations and making a fundamental study of the
doctrine which explains it. These forms, these elements and these
relations arise in certain historic conditions but they constitute a
system and a necessity. How can it be hoped to destroy such a system by
an act of logical negation and how eliminate it by reasoning? Eliminate
pauperism? But it is a necessary condition of capitalism. Give the
worker the entire product of his labor? But what would become of the
profit of capital, and where and how could the money expended in the
purchase of commodities be increased if among all the commodities which
it meets and with which it makes exchanges there were not a particular
one which returns to the buyer more than it costs him; and is not this
commodity precisely the labor power of the wage worker? The economic
system is not a tissue of reasonings but it is a sum and a complexus of
facts which engenders a complex tissue of relations. It is a foolish
thing to assume that this system of facts which the ruling class has
established with great pains through the centuries by violence, by
sagacity, by talent and by science will confess itself vanquished, will
destroy itself to give way to the demands of the poor and to the
reasonings of their advocates. How demand the suppression of poverty
without demanding the overthrow of all the rest? To demand of this
society that it shall change its law which constitutes its defense is to
demand an absurd thing. To demand of this State that it shall cease to
be the buckler and the defense of this society and of this law is
plunging into absurdities.[24] The one-sided socialism which without
being clearly utopian starts from the hypothesis that society admits of
certain errata without revolution, that is to say without a fundamental
change in the general elementary structure of society itself, is a mere
piece of ingenuity. This contradiction with the rigid laws of the
process of things is shown in all its evidence in Proudhon, who,
reproducing without knowing it, or copying directly, some of the
one-sided English socialists, wished to arrest and change history, armed
with a definition and a syllogism.

The partisans of critical communism recognized that history has the
right to follow its course. The bourgeois phase can be outgrown and it
will be. But as long as it exists it has its laws. The relativity of
these consists in the fact that they grow and develop in certain
determined conditions, but their relativity is not simply the opposite
of necessity, a mere appearance, a soap-bubble. These laws may disappear
and they will disappear by the very fact of the change of society, but
they do not yield to the arbitrary suggestion which demands a change,
proclaims a reform, or formulates a programme. Communism makes common
cause with the proletariat because in this resides the revolutionary
force which, bursts, breaks, shakes and dissolves the present social
form and creates in it, little by little, new conditions; or to be more
exact, the very fact of its movement shows to us that these new
conditions are already born.

The theory of the class struggle was found. It was seen to appear both
in the origins of the bourgeoisie (whose intrinsic _processus_ was
already illustrated by the science of economics), and in this new
appearance of the proletariat. The relativity of economic laws was
discovered, but at the same time their relative necessity was
understood. Herein lies the whole method and justification of the new
materialistic conception of history. Those deceive themselves who,
calling it the economic interpretation of history, think they understand
it completely. That designation is better suited, and is only suited, to
certain analytic attempts,[25] which, taking separately and in a
distinct fashion on the one side the economic forms and categories, and
on the other, for example, law, legislation, politics, customs,--proceed
to study the reciprocal influences of the different sides of life
considered in an abstract fashion. Quite different is our position. Ours
is the organic conception of history. The totality of the unity of
social life is the subject matter present to our minds. It is economics
itself which dissolves in the course of one process, to reappear in as
many morphological stages, in each of which it serves as a substructure
for all the rest. Finally, it is not our method to extend the so-called
economic factor isolated in an abstract fashion over all the rest, as
our adversaries imagine, but it is, before everything else, to form an
historic conception of economics and to explain the other changes by
means of its changes. Therein lies our answer to all the criticisms
which come to us from all the domains of learned ignorance, not
excepting the socialists who are insufficiently grounded and who are
sentimental or hysterical. And we explain our position thus as Marx has
done in his Capital, not the first book of critical communism, but the
last great book of bourgeois economics.

At the moment when the Manifesto was written the historic horizon did
not go beyond the classic world, the scarcely studied German antiquities
and the Biblical tradition which had only lately been reduced to the
prosaic conditions of all profane history. Our historic horizon is now
quite another thing, since it extends to the Aryan antiquities and to
the ancient deposits of Egypt and Mesopotamia which precede all the
Semitic traditions. And it extends still further back into prehistory,
that is to say, into, unwritten history. Morgan has given us a knowledge
of ancient society, that is to say a pre-political society, and the key
to understand how from it came all the later forms marked by monogamy,
the development of the paternal family, the appearance of property,
first of the _gens_, then of the family, lastly individual, and by the
successive establishment of the alliances between _gentes_ which are the
origin of the State. All this is illustrated by the knowledge of the
process of technique in the discovery and in the use of the means and
instruments of labor and by the understanding of the effect of this
process upon the social complexus, urging it in certain directions and
making it traverse certain stages. These discoveries may still be
corrected at certain points, notably by the study of the different
specific fashions according to which in different parts of the world the
passage from barbarism to civilization has been effected. But,
henceforth, one fact is indisputable, namely, that we have before our
eyes the general embryogenic record of human development from primitive
communism to those complex formations as at Athens or at Rome with their
constitutions of citizens arranged in classes according to census which
not long ago constituted the columns of Hercules for research into
written tradition. The classes which the Manifesto assumed have been
later resolved into their process of formation and in this can already
be recognized the plexus of reasons and of different economic causes for
the categories of the economic science of our bourgeois epoch. The dream
of Fourier to find a place for an epoch of civilization in the series of
a long and vast process has been realized. A scientific solution has
been found for the problem of the origin of inequality among men which
Rousseau had tried to solve by arguments of an original dialectic,
relying however upon too few real data.

At two points, the extreme points for us, the human process is palpable.
One of these is the origin of the bourgeoisie, so recent and in the full
light of the science of economics; the other is the ancient formation of
the society divided into classes, which marks the passage from higher
barbarism to civilization (the epoch of the State) to use expressions
employed by Morgan. All that is found between these two epochs is what
has, up to this time, formed the subject matter of the chroniclers, the
historians properly so-called, the jurists, the theologians and the
philosophers. To traverse and reanimate all this domain with the new
historic conception is not an easy thing. We must not be over-hasty in
tabulating it. At the very beginning we must understand the economics
relative to each epoch,[26] in order to explain specifically the classes
which develop in it, avoiding hypothetical and uncertain data and taking
care not to carry over our own conditions into each epoch. For that,
skilled fingers are needed. Thus, for example, what the Manifesto says
of the first origin of the bourgeoisie proceeding from the serfs of the
Middle Ages incorporated little by little into the cities is not a
general truth. This mode of origin is peculiar to Germany and to the
other countries which reproduce its process. It is not the case either
in Italy, nor in Southern France, nor in Spain, which were the fields
upon which began the first history of the bourgeoisie, that is to say,
of modern civilization. In this first phase are found all the premises
of the whole capitalist society as Marx informed us in a note to the
first volume of Capital.[27] This first phase which reaches its perfect
form in the Italian municipalities forms the pre-historic background for
that capitalist accumulation which Marx has explained with so many
characteristic details in the evolution of England. But I will stop

The proletarians can have in view nothing but the future. That with
which all scientific socialists are primarily concerned is the present
in which are spontaneously developed and in which are ripening the
conditions of the future. The knowledge of the past is practically of
use and of interest only in so far as it throws light upon and explains
the present. For the moment it is enough to say that the partisans of
critical communism fifty years ago conceived the elements of the new and
definite philosophy of history. Soon this fashion of seeing will impose
itself because it will be impossible to think the contrary; and this
discovery will have the fate of Columbus' egg. And perhaps before an
army of scientists has made an application of this conception to the
continuous narration of the whole history, the success of the
proletariat will have become such that the bourgeois epoch will appear
to all as something that must be left behind because it will nearly be
so in reality. _To understand is to leave behind_ (Hegel).

When, fifty years ago, the Manifesto made of the proletarians, of the
unfortunates who excited pity, the predestined grave-diggers of the
bourgeoisie, the circumference of this burial place must have appeared
very small to the imagination of the writers who scarcely concealed in
the gravity of their style the idealism of their intellectual passion.
The probable circumference in their imagination then embraced only
France and England, and it would scarcely have touched the frontiers of
other countries, for instance, Germany. To-day the circumference appears
to us immense by reason of the rapid and colossal extension of the
bourgeois form of production which by inevitable reaction enlarges,
makes universal and multiplies the movement of the proletariat and
immensely expands the scene upon which is projected the picture of the
coming communism. The burial place extends as far as the eye can reach.
The more productive forces this magician calls forth, the more he
excites and prepares forces that must rebel against himself.

All those who were communists ideological, religious and utopian, or
even prophetic and apocalyptic in the past have always believed that the
reign of justice, equality and happiness was destined to have the world
for its theatre. To-day the world is invaded by civilization and
everywhere is developing that society which lives upon class antagonisms
and class domination, the form of bourgeois production. (Japan may serve
us for an example.) The coexistence of the two nations in one and the
same state, which the divine Plato had already described, is
perpetuated. The earth will not be won over to communism to-morrow. But
as the confines of the bourgeois world enlarge, more numerous are those
who enter into it, abandoning and leaving behind the lower forms of
production,--and thus the attempt of communism gains in firmness and
precision; especially because in the domain and struggle of competition,
the deviations due to conquest and colonization are diminishing. The
proletarian International, while embryonic in the Communist League of
fifty years ago, henceforth becomes Interoceanic and it affirms on the
first of every May that the proletarians of the whole world are really
and actively united. The future grave-diggers of the bourgeoisie and
their descendants to many generations will ever remember the date of the
Communist Manifesto.


[1] I refer to that form which the Manifesto designates ironically under
the name of "German or 'True' Socialism." This paragraph, which is
unintelligible for those who are not well versed in the German
philosophy of that epoch, notably in certain of its tendencies marked by
acute degeneracy, has, with good reason, been suppressed in the Spanish

[2] It is better to use the expression "democratic socialization of the
means of production" than that of "collective property" because the
latter implies a certain theoretical error in that, to begin with, it
substitutes for the real economic fact a juridical expression and
moreover in the mind of more than one it is confused with the increase
of monopolies, with the increasing _statization_ of public utilities and
with all the other fantasmagoria of the ever recurring State socialism,
the whole effect of which is to increase the economic means of
oppression in the hands of the oppressing class.

[3] Twenty-five octavo pages in the original edition (London, February,
1848) for a copy of which I am indebted to the special kindness of
Engels. I should say here in passing that I have resisted the temptation
to affix any bibliographical notes, references and citations, for I
should then have been making a work of scholarship, or a book, rather
than a simple essay. I hope the reader will take my word for it that
there are in this essay no allusions, or statements of fact or opinion,
which I could not substantiate with authorities.

[4] The "Umrisse zu einer Kritik der National-oekonomie" appeared in the
German-French Year Book, Paris, 1844, pp. 85-114; and his book on "The
Condition of the Working Class in England" at Leipzig in 1845.

[5] In these last years many jurists have thought they found in the
re-adjustment of the civil Code a practical means for ameliorating the
condition of the proletariat. But why have they not asked the pope to
become the head of the free thought league? The most delightful of these
is that Italian author who occupying himself with the class struggle
asks that by the side of the code which establishes the rights of
capital another be elaborated which should guarantee the rights of

[6] This development has been given in Marx's Capital which can be
considered as a philosophy of history.

[7] It was not until after the publication of the Italian edition of
this essay that I had at my disposal for some months a complete
collection of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung for which I owe hearty thanks
to the Partei-Archiv of Berlin. The impression derived from this reading
surpasses expectation. It is desirable either that this journal which
now has become very rare, be reprinted entire or that the most important
articles and letters in it be reproduced.

[8] Misere de la Philosophie, by Karl Marx, Paris and Brussels, 1847;
new edition, Paris, Giard and Briere, 1896.

[9] This is made up of articles which appeared in 1849 in the Neue
Rheinische Zeitung and which reproduced the lectures given by Marx to
the German Workingmen's Circle of Brussels in 1847. It has since been
published as a propaganda leaflet.

[10] See Chapter II. of the Manifesto.

[11] Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie, Berlin, 1859, pp. IV.-VI. of
the preface. (Instead of retranslating this extract from the French I
have availed myself of the assistance of Comrade Hitch, who has
translated direct from the German of Marx. C. H. K.)

[12] These articles which appeared in the Neue Rheinische
Politischokonomische Review, Hamburg, 1850, have recently been brought
together into a pamphlet by Engels (Berlin, 1895) under the title of
"Die Klassenkampfe in Frankreich 1848 bis 1850." The little work has a
preface by Engels.

[13] Appeared for the first time in New York in 1852 in a review.
Several editions have since been made in Germany. A French translation
appeared in 1891 published by Delory, Lille.

[14] In the preface to the "Class Struggle in France in 1848-50" and
elsewhere Engels treated fundamentally the objective development of the
new revolutionary tactic. (It is well to remember that the first Italian
edition of this essay appeared June 18th, and the second, October 15,

[15] In my opinion this is the case in France. The recent discussions of
the agrarian programme submitted to the deliberations of the social
democracy in Germany confirm the reasons which I have indicated.

[16] It was otherwise in Germany. After 1830 socialism was imported
there and became a current literature; it underwent philosophical
alterations of which Gruen was the typical representative. But already
before the _new doctrine_ socialism had received a characteristic
imprint which was proletarian, thanks to the propaganda and the writings
of Weitling. As Marx said in 1844 in the Paris Vorwaerts, "it was the
giant in the cradle."

[17] It is what many people call Marxism. Marxism is and remains a
doctrine. Parties can draw neither their name nor their justification
from a doctrine. "I am no Marxist" said--guess who? Marx himself.

[18] It is he who established the first relations between Marx and the
League and who served as intermediary in the publication of the
Manifesto. He fell in the insurrection of 1849 at Murg.

[19] Marx's Capital, Vol. III., Hamburg, 1894, pp. xix-xx. The date of
1845 refers principally to the book "Die heilige Familie, Frankfort,
1845," which was produced in collaboration by Marx and Engels. This book
is indispensable to an understanding of the theoretical origin of
historical materialism.

[20] I stop with Cabet who lived at the epoch of the Manifesto. I do not
think I ought to go as far as the sporadic forms of Bellamy and Hertzka.

[21] The Balzac of the 17th century.

[22] It is these writers whom Menger thought he had discovered as the
authors of scientific socialism.

[23] It is for this reason that certain critics, Wieser for example,
propose to abandon Ricardo's theory of value because it leads to

[24] Thus there arises notably in France the illusion of a social
monarchy which, succeeding the liberal epoch, should solve harmoniously
what is called the social question. This absurdity reproduces itself in
infinite varieties of socialism of the pulpit and State socialism. To
the different forms of ideological and religious utopianism is joined a
new form of bureaucratic and fiscal utopianism, the Utopia of the

[25] For example in the essays of Th. Rogers.

[26] Who would have thought a few years ago of the discovery and the
authentic interpretation of an ancient Babylonian law?

[27] Note 189, p. 740, of the 3rd German edition.




This class of studies, like many others, but this more than any other,
is confronted with a great difficulty, indeed an irksome hindrance, in
that vice of minds educated by literary methods alone which is
ordinarily called _verbalism_. This bad habit creeps into and spreads
itself through all domains of knowledge; but in studies which relate to
the so-called moral world, that is to say, to the historico-social
_complexus_, it very often happens that the cult and the dominion of
words succeed in corrupting and blotting out the real and living sense
of things.

In the field where a long observation, repeated experiences, the certain
use of improved instruments, the general or partial application of the
calculus have resulted in putting the mind into a constant and
methodical relation with things and their variations, as in the natural
sciences properly so-called,--there the myth and superstition of words
are left behind and vanquished; there the questions of terminology no
longer have more than the secondary value of pure convention. In the
study of human relations and actions, on the contrary, the passions, the
interests, the prejudices of school, sect, class and religion, the
literary abuse of the traditional means of representing thought, and
scholasticism, ever vanquished and always reborn, conceal the actual
things, or transform them involuntarily into terms, into words, into
abstract and conventional fashions of speech.

We must, first of all, take account of this difficulty when we use the
expression or the formula "materialistic conception of history." Many
have imagined, do imagine, and will imagine that it is possible and
convenient to penetrate into the sense of the phrase by the simple
analysis of the words which compose it instead of arriving at it from
the context of an explanation, from the genetic study of the formation
of the doctrine,[28] or from the polemical writings in which its
partisans refute the objections of its opponents. Verbalism tends always
to shut itself up in purely formal definitions; it gives rise in the
minds to this erroneous belief, that it is an easy thing to reduce into
terms and into simple and palpable expressions the agitated and immense
_complexus_ of nature and history and that it is easy to picture the
multiform and complicated interlacings of causes and effects; in clearer
terms, it obliterates the meaning of the problems because it sees in
them nothing but questions of nomenclature.

If, moreover, it then happens that verbalism finds a support in certain
theoretical hypotheses, for example, that _matter_ indicates something
which is below or opposed to another higher or nobler thing which is
called spirit; or if it happens to be at one with that literary habit
which opposes the word materialism, understood in a disparaging sense,
to all that, in a word, is called idealism, that is to say, to the sum
total of the anti-egoistic inclinations and acts; then our embarrassment
is extreme! Then we are told that in this doctrine it is attempted to
explain the whole of man by the mere calculation of his material
interests and that no value whatever is allowed to any ideal interest.
The inexperience, the incapacity and the haste of certain partisans and
propagandists of this doctrine have also been a cause of these
confusions. In their eagerness to explain to others what they themselves
only half understand, at a time when the doctrine itself is only in its
beginnings and still has need of many developments, they have believed
they could apply it, such as it was, to whatever historic fact they were
considering, and they have almost reduced it to tatters, exposing it
thus to the easy criticism and the ridicule of people on the watch for
scientific novelties, and other idle persons of the same type.

Since it has been my privilege in these first pages simply to rebut
these prejudices (in a preliminary fashion) and unmask the intentions
and the tendencies underlying them, it must be remembered that the
meaning of this doctrine ought, before all else, to be drawn from the
position which it takes and occupies with regard to the doctrines
against which it is in reality opposed, and particularly with regard to
the ideologies of every sort;--that the proof of its value consists
exclusively in the more suitable and more appropriate explanation of the
succession of human events which is derived from it;--that this doctrine
does not imply a subjective preference for a certain quality or a
certain sum of human interests opposed by free choice to other
interests, but that it merely affirms the objective co-ordination and
subordination of all interests in the development of all society; and
this it affirms, thanks to that genetic _processus_ which consists in
going from the conditions to the conditioned, from the elements of
formation to the things formed.

Let the verbalists reason as they like over the value of the word
_matter_ in so far as it implies or recalls a metaphysical conception,
or in so far as it is the expression of the last hypothetical substratum
of experience. We are not here in the domain of physics, chemistry or
biology; we are only searching for the explicit conditions of human
association in so far as it is no longer simply animal. It is not for us
to support our inductions or our deductions upon the data of biology,
but, on the contrary, to recognize before all else the peculiarities of
human association, which form and develop through the succession and the
growing perfection of the activity of man himself in given and variable
conditions, and to find the relations of co-ordination and
subordination of the needs which are the substratum of will and action.
It is not proposed to discover an intention nor to formulate a
criticism; it is merely the necessity arising from the facts that must
be put in evidence.

And as men, not by free choice, but because they could not act
otherwise, satisfy first certain elementary needs, which, in their turn,
give rise to others in their upward development, and as for the
satisfaction of their needs, whatever they may be, they invent and
employ certain means and certain tools and associate themselves in
certain definite fashions, the materialism of historical interpretation
is nothing else than an attempt to reconstruct by thought with method
the genesis and the complexity of the social life which develops through
the ages. The novelty of this doctrine does not differ from that of all
the other doctrines which after many excursions through the domains of
the imagination have finally arrived, very painfully, at reaching the
prose of reality and halting there.


There is a certain affinity, apparently at least, between that formal
vice of verbalism and another defect of the mind, whose origins may,
however, be varied. In consideration of some of its most common and
popular effects I will call it _phraseology_, although this word is not
an exact expression of the thing and does not set forth its origin.

For long centuries men have written on history, have explained it, have
illustrated it. The most varied interests, from the interests more
immediately practical to the interests purely æsthetic, have moved
different writers to conceive and to execute this type of composition.
These different types have always taken birth in different countries
long after the origins of civilization, of the development of the state
and of the passage from the primitive communist society to the society
which rests upon class differences and class antagonisms. The
historians, even if they have been as artless as Herodotus, were always
born and formed in a society having nothing ingenuous in it, but very
complicated and complex, and at a time when the reasons for this
complication and complexity were unknown and their origins forgotten.
This complexity, with all the contrasts which it bears within itself and
which it reveals later and makes burst forth in its various
vicissitudes, stood forth before the narrators as something mysterious
and calling for an explanation, and if the historian wished to give some
sequence and a certain connection to the things narrated, he was obliged
to add certain general views to the simple narration. From the jealousy
of the gods of Father Herodotus to the environment of M. Tame, an
infinite number of concepts serving as means of explanation and as
complements to the things related have been imposed upon the narrators
by the natural voices of their immediate thought. Class tendencies,
religious ideas, popular prejudices, influences or imitations of a
current philosophy, excursions of imagination and a desire to give an
artistic appearance to facts known only in a fragmentary fashion, all
these causes and other analogous causes have contributed to form the
substratum of the more or less artless theory of events which is
implicitly at the bottom of the narration, or which serves at least to
flavor and adorn it. Whether men speak of chance or of destiny, whether
they appeal to the providential direction of human events, or adhere to
the word and concept of chance, the only divinity left in the rigid and
often coarse conception of Machiavelli, or whether they speak, as is
frequent enough at the present time, of the logic of events, all these
conceptions were and are effects and results of ingenuous thought, of
immediate thought, of thought which cannot justify to itself its course,
and its products, either by the paths of criticism or by the methods of
experience. To fill up with conventional causes (e. g., _chance_) or
with a statement of theoretical plausibility (e. g., the _inevitable
course of events_ which sometimes is confused in the mind with the
notion of progress) the gaps of our knowledge as to the fashion in which
things have been actually produced by their own necessity without care
for our free will and our consent, that is the motive and the result of
this popular philosophy, latent or explicit, in the chroniclers, which
by reason of its superficial character dissolves as soon as scientific
criticism appears.

In all these concepts and all these imaginings which in the light of
criticism appear as simple provisional devices and effects of an unripe
thought, but which often seem to "cultured people" the _non plus ultra_
of intelligence,--in all these a great part of the human _processus_ is
revealed and reflected; and, consequently, we should not consider them
as gratuitous inventions nor as products of a momentary illusion. They
are a part and a moment in the development of what we call the human
mind. If later it is observed that these concepts and these imaginings
are mingled and confounded in the accepted opinions of cultured people,
or of those who pass for such, they make up an immense mass of
prejudices and they constitute an impediment which ignorance opposes to
the clear and complete vision of the real things. These prejudices turn
up again as etymological derivations in the language of professional
politicians, of so-called publicists and journalists of every kind, and
offer the support of rhetoric to self-styled public opinion.

To oppose and then to replace this mirage of uncritical conceptions,
these idols of the imagination, these effects of literary artifice, this
conventionalism by the real subjects, or the forces which are positively
acting--that is to say, men in their various and diversified social
relations,--this is the revolutionary enterprise and the scientific aim
of the new doctrine which renders objective and I might say naturalizes
the explanation of the historical _processus_.

A certain definite nation, that is to say, not a certain mass of
individuals, but a _plexus_ of men organized in such and such a fashion
by natural relations of consanguinity, or following such or such an
artificial or customary order of relationship and affinity, or by reason
of permanent proximity;--this nation, on a certain circumscribed and
limited territory, having such and such fertility, productive in such
and such a manner acquired through certain definite forms by continuous
labor;--this nation, thus distributed over this territory and thus
divided and articulated by the effect of a definite division of labor
which is scarcely beginning to give birth to or which has already
developed and ripened such and such a division of classes, or which has
already disintegrated or transformed a whole series of classes;--this
nation which possesses such and such instruments from the flint stone to
the electric light and from the bow and arrow to the repeating rifle,
which produces according to a certain fashion and shares its products,
conformably to its way of producing;--this nation, which by all these
relations constitutes a society in which either by habits of mutual
accommodation or by explicit conventions, or by acts of violence
suffered and endured, has already given birth, or is on the point of
giving birth to legal-political relations which result in the formation
of the state;--this nation, which by the organization of the state,
which is only a means for fixing, defending and perpetuating
inequalities, by reason of the antagonisms which it bears within itself,
renders continuously unstable the organization itself, whence result the
political movements and revolutions, and therefore the reasons for
progress and retrogression:--there is the sum of what is at the bottom
of all history. And there is the victory of realistic prose over all the
fantastic and ideological combinations.

Certainly it requires some resignation to see things as they are,
passing beyond the phantoms which for centuries have prevented right
vision. But this revelation of realistic doctrine was not and is not
designed to be the rebellion of the material man against the ideal man.
It has been and is, on the contrary, the discovery of the principles and
the motives which are real and which belong to all human development,
including all that we call the ideal in positive conditions, determined
by facts which carry in themselves the reasons and the law and the
rhythm of their own development.


But it would be a complete error to believe that the writers who
narrate, explain, or illustrate have themselves invented and given life
to this enormous mass of unripe concepts, imaginings, and explanations
which, thanks to the force of prejudice, concealed for centuries the
real truth. It may happen, and it certainly does happen, that some of
these concepts are the fruit and the product of personal views, or of
literary currents formed in the narrow professional circle of the
universities and academies. The people in this case are absolutely
ignorant of them. But the important fact is that history itself has put
on these veils; that is to say, that the very actors and workers of the
historic events--great masses of people, directing and ordering classes,
masters of state, sects or parties, in the narrowest sense of the word,
if we make exception for an occasional moment of lucid interval--never
had up to the end of the past century a consciousness of their own work,
unless it be through some ideological envelope which prevented any sight
of the real causes. Already at the distant epoch when barbarism was
passing over into civilization, that is to say, when the first
discoveries of agriculture, the stable establishment of a population
upon a definite territory, the first division of labor in society, the
first alliances of different gentes, gave the conditions in which
developed property and the state, or at least the city,--even then, at
the epoch of all the first social revolutions, men ideally transformed
their work, seeing in it the miraculous acts of gods and heroes. So much
so that, while acting as they could and as they must, granted the
necessity and the fact of their relative economic development, they
conceived an explanation of their own work as if it did not belong to
them. This ideological envelope of human works has changed since then
more than once in form, in appearance, in combinations and in relations
in the course of the centuries, from the immediate production of the
ingenuous myths up to the complicated theological systems and to _The
City of God_ of St. Augustine--from the superstitious credulity in
miracles down to the bewildering miracles of the metaphysicians, that is
to say, down to the _Idea_ which for the _decadents_ of Hegelianism
engenders of itself, in itself, by its own disaggregation the most
incongruous variations of social life in the course of history.

Now, precisely because the visual angle of ideological interpretation
has not been finally outgrown until very lately, and because it is only
in our days that a sum total of the real and really acting relations has
been clearly distinguished from the ingenuous reflections of myth and
the more artificial reflections of religion and metaphysics, our
doctrine states a new problem and carries within itself grave
difficulties for whoever wishes to fit it for providing a specific
explanation of the history of the past.

The problem consists in this: that our doctrine necessitates a new
criticism of the sources of history. And I do not wish to be understood
as speaking exclusively of the criticism of documents in the proper and
ordinary sense of the word, because as for this we may content ourselves
with what is delivered to us ready made by the critics, the scholars,
and the professional philologists. But I would speak of that immediate
source which is behind the so called documents properly and which,
before expressing itself and fixing itself in these, resides in the
spirit and in the form of the consciousness in which the actors
accounted to themselves for the motives of their own work. This spirit,
that is to say, this consciousness, is often inadequate to the causes
which we are now in a position to discover, from which it follows that
the actors seem to us enveloped, as it were, in a circle of illusions.
To strip the historic facts from these envelopes which clothe the very
facts while they are developing--this is to make a new criticism of the
sources in the realistic sense of the word and not in the formal
documentary sense. It is, in short, to make react upon the knowledge of
past conditions the consciousness of which we are now capable, and
thereby to reconstruct them anew.

But this revision of the most direct sources, if it marks the extreme
limit of the historic self-consciousness which may be reached, may be an
occasion for falling into a serious error. As we place ourselves at a
point of view which is beyond the ideological views to which the actors
in history were indebted for a consciousness of their work and in which
they often found both the motives and the justification of their action,
we may falsely believe that these ideological views were a pure
appearance, a simple artifice, a pure illusion in the vulgar sense of
the word. Martin Luther, like the other great reformers, his
contemporaries, never knew, as we know to-day, that the Reformation was
but an episode in the development of the Third Estate, and an economic
revolt of the German nation against the exploitation of the Papal court.
He was what he was, as an agitator and a politician, because he was
wholly taken up with the belief which made him see in the class movement
which gave an impulse to the agitation a return to true Christianity and
a divine necessity in the vulgar course of events. The study of remote
effects, that is to say, the increasing strength of the bourgeoisie of
the cities against the feudal lords, the increase of the territorial
dominion of the princes at the expense of the inter-territorial and
super-territorial power of the emperor and the pope, the violent
repression of the movement of the peasants and the more properly
proletarian movement of the Anabaptists permit us now to reconstruct the
authentic history of the economic causes of the Reformation,
particularly in the final proportions which it took, which is the best
of proofs. But that does not mean that we are privileged to detach the
fact arrived at from the mode of its realization and to analyze the
circumstantial integrality by a posthumous analysis altogether
subjective and simplified. The inner causes, or, as would be said now,
the profane and prosaic motives of the Reformation, appear to us clearly
in France, where it was not victorious; clearly again in the Low
Countries, where, apart from the differences of nationality, the
contrasts of economic interests are shown strikingly in the struggle
against Spain; very clearly again in England, where the religious
renovation realized, thanks to political violence, placed in full light
the passage to those conditions which are for our modern bourgeoisie the
forerunners of capitalism. _Post factum_, and after the tardy
realization of unforeseen consequences, the history of the real
movements which were the inner causes of the Reformation, in great part
unknown to the actors themselves, will appear in full light. But that
the fact came about precisely as it did come about, that it took on
certain determined forms, that it clothed itself in certain vestments,
that it painted itself in certain colors, that it put in movement
certain passions, that it displayed a special degree of fanaticism,--in
these consist its specific character, which no analytic ability can make
otherwise than as it was. Only the love of paradox inseparable from the
zeal of the passionate popularizers of a new doctrine can have brought
some to believe that to write history it was sufficient to put on record
merely the _economic moment_ (often still unknown and often unknowable),
and thereupon to cast to the earth all the rest as a useless burden with
which men had capriciously loaded themselves, as a superfluity, a mere
trifle, or even, as it were, something not existent.

From the fact that history must be taken in its entirety and that in it
the kernel and the husk are but one, as Goethe said of all things, three
consequences follow:--

First, it is evident that in the domain of historico-social determinism,
the linking of causes to effects, of conditions to the things
conditioned, of antecedents to consequents, is never evident at first
sight in the subjective determinism of individual psychology. In this
last domain it was a relatively easy thing for abstract and formal
philosophy to discover, passing above all the baubles of fatalism and
free will, the evidence of the motive in every volition, because, in
fine, there is no wish without its determining motive. But beneath the
motives and the wish there is the genesis of both, and to reconstruct
this genesis we must leave the closed field of consciousness to arrive
at the analysis of the simple necessities, which, on the one side, are
derived from social conditions, and on the other side are lost in the
obscure background of organic dispositions, in ancestry and in atavism.
It is not otherwise with historical determinism, where, in the same way,
we begin with motives religious, political, æsthetic, passionate, etc.,
but where we must subsequently discover the causes of these motives in
the material conditions underlying them. Now the study of these
conditions should be so specified that we may perceive indubitably not
only what are the causes, but again by what mediations they arrive at
that form which reveals them to the consciousness as motives whose
origin is often obliterated.

And thence follows indubitably this second consequence that in our
doctrine we have not to re-translate into economic categories all the
complex manifestations of history, but only to explain in the _last
analysis_ (Engels) all the historic facts _by means of the underlying
economic structure_ (Marx), which necessitates analysis and reduction
and then interlinking and construction.

It results from this, in the third place, that, passing from the
underlying economic structure to the picturesque whole of a given
history, we need the aid of that complexus of notions and knowledge
which may be called, for lack of a better term, social psychology. I do
not mean by that to allude to the fantastic existence of a social psyche
nor to the concept of an assumed collective spirit which by its own
laws, independent of the consciousness of individuals and of their
material and definable relations, realizes itself and shows itself in
social life. That is pure mysticism. Neither do I wish to allude to
those attempts at generalization which fill up treatises on social
psychology and the general idea of which is to transport and apply to a
subject which is called social consciousness the known categories and
forms of individual psychology. Nor again do I wish to allude to that
mass of semi-organic and semi-psychological denominations by the aid of
which some attribute to the social being, as Schäffle does, a brain, a
spinal column, sensibility, sentiment, conscience, will, etc. But I
wish to speak of more modest and more prosaic things, that is to say, of
those concrete and precise states of mind which make us know as they
really were the plebeians of Rome at a certain epoch, the artisans of
Florence at the moment when the movement of the Ciompi burst forth, or
those peasants of France within whom was engendered, to follow Taine's
expression, the "spontaneous anarchy" of 1789, those peasants who
finally became free laborers and small proprietors, or, aspiring to
property, transformed themselves rapidly from victors over the foreigner
into automatic instruments of reaction. This social psychology, which no
one can reduce to abstract canons because, in most cases, it is merely
descriptive, this is what the chroniclers, the orators, the artists, the
romancers and the ideologists of every sort have seen and up to now have
conceived as the exclusive object of their studies. In this, psychology,
which is the specific consciousness of men in given social conditions,
the agitators, orators and propagandists trust to-day, and to it they
appeal. We know that it is the fruit, the outcome, the effect of certain
social conditions actually determined;--this class, in this situation,
determined by the functions which it fulfills, by the subjection in
which it is held, by the dominion which it exercises;--and finally,
these classes, these functions, this subjection and this dominion
involve such and such a determined form of production and distribution
of the immediate means of life, that is to say, a determined economic
structure. This social psychology, by its nature always circumstantial,
is not the expression of the abstract and generic process of the
self-styled human intellect. It is always a specified formation from
specified conditions. We hold this principle to be indisputable, that it
is not the forms of consciousness which determine the human being, but
it is the manner of being which determines the consciousness (Marx).

But these forms of consciousness, even as they are determined by the
conditions of life, constitute in themselves also a part of history.
This does not consist only in the economic anatomy, but in all that
combination which clothes and covers that anatomy even up to the
multicolored reflections of the imagination. In other words, there is no
fact in history which does not recall by its origin the conditions of
the underlying economic structure, but there is no fact in history which
is not preceded, accompanied and followed by determined forms of
consciousness, whether it be superstitious or experimental, ingenuous or
reflective, impulsive or self-controlled, fantastic or reasoning.


I was saying a moment ago that our doctrine makes history objective and
in a certain sense naturalizes it, going from the explanation of the
data, evident at first sight, of the personalities acting with design,
and of the auxiliary conceptions of the action, to the causes and the
motives of the will and the action, in order to find thereupon the
co-ordination of these causes and of these motives in the pre-elementary
_processus_ of the production of the immediate means of existence.

Now this term "naturalizing" has led more than one mind into confusing
this order of problems with another order of problems, that is to say,
into extending to history the laws and the manners of thinking which
have already appeared suitable to the study and explanation of the
material world in general and of the animal world in particular. And
because Darwinism succeeded in carrying, thanks to the principle of the
transformation of species, the last citadel of the metaphysical fixity
of things, and in discerning, in the organisms, phases, as it were, and
moments of a real and proper natural history, it has been imagined that
it was a commonplace and simple enterprise to borrow for an explanation
of the future and the history of human life the concepts, the principles
and the methods of examination to which that animal life is subjected
which in consequence of the immediate conditions of the struggle for
existence is unfolding to topographical environments not modified by the
action of labor. Darwinism, political and social, has, like an epidemic,
for many years invaded the mind of more than one thinker, and many more
of the advocates and declaimers of sociology, and it has been reflected
as a fashionable habit and a phraseological current even in the daily
language of the politicians.

It seems at first sight that there is something immediately evident and
instinctively plausible in this fashion of reasoning, which it may be
said is principally distinguished by its abuse of analogy and by its
haste in drawing conclusions. Man is without doubt an animal, and he is
linked by connections of descent and affinity to other animals. He has
no privileges of origin or of elementary structure, and his organism is
merely one particular case of general physiology. His first immediate
field was that of simple nature not modified by work, and from thence
are derived the imperious and inevitable conditions of the struggle for
existence, with the consequent forms of adaptation. Thence are born
races in the true and authentic sense of the word; that is to say, in so
far as they are immediate determinations of black, white, yellow,
woolly-haired, straight-haired, etc., and not secondary historico-social
formations, that is to say, peoples and nations. Thence are born the
primitive instincts of sociability and in life in promiscuity arise the
first rudiments of sexual selection.

But if we can reconstruct in imagination the primitive savage, by
combining our conjectures, it is not given us to have an empirical
intuition of him, just as it is not given us to determine the genesis of
that hiatus, that is to say, that break in continuity, thanks to which
human life is found detached from animal life to rise, in the sequel, to
an ever higher level. All men who live at this moment on the earth's
surface and all those who, having lived in the past, were the objects
of any trustworthy observation, are found, and were found, already
sufficiently removed from the moment when purely animal life had ceased.
A certain social life with customs and institutions, even if it be of
the most elementary form that we know, that is to say, of the Australian
tribes, divided into classes and practising the marriage of all the men
of one class with all the women of another class, separates human life
by a great interval from animal life. If we consider the _maternal
gens_, of which the classic type, the Iroquois type, has, thanks to
Morgan's work, revolutionized prehistoric science, while giving us at
the same time the key to the origins of history properly so called, we
have a form of society already much advanced by the complexity of its
relations. At that stage of social life which, according to our
knowledge, seems very elementary, that is to say, in the Australian
society, not only does a very complicated language differentiate men
from all other animals (and language is a condition and an instrument, a
cause and an effect of sociability), but the specialization of human
life, apart from the discovery of fire, is manifested by the use of many
other artificial means by which the needs of life are satisfied. A
certain territory acquired for the common use of a tribe, a certain art
of hunting--the use of certain instruments of defense and attack and the
possession of certain utensils for preserving the things acquired--and
then the ornamentation of the body, etc., all this means that at bottom
this life rests upon an artificial, although very elementary, basis,
upon which men endeavor to fix themselves and adapt themselves,--upon a
basis which is after all the condition of all further progress.
According as this artificial basis is more or less formed, the men who
have produced it and who live in it are considered more or less savage
or barbarous. This first formation constitutes what we may call

History, according to the literary use of the word, namely, that part of
the human _processus_ whose traditions are fixed in the memory, begins
at a moment when the artificial basis has been formed for a considerable
length of time. For example, the canalization of Mesopotamia gives us
the ancient pre-Semitic Babylonian state, while the extremely ancient
Egyptian civilization rests upon the application of the Nile to
agriculture. Upon this artificial basis, which appears in the extreme
horizon of known history, lived, as now, not shapeless masses of
individuals, but organized groups whose organization was fixed by a
certain distribution of tasks, that is to say, of labor and by
consecutive methods of co-ordination and subordination. These relations,
these connections, these ways of living were not and are not the result
of the crystallization of customs under the immediate action of the
animal struggle for existence. What is more, they presuppose the
discovery of certain instruments, and, for example, the domestication of
certain animals, the working of minerals and even of iron, the
introduction of slavery, etc., instruments and methods of economy which
have first differentiated communities from each other and have
subsequently differentiated the component parts of these communities
themselves. In other words, the works of men in so far as they live
together react upon the men themselves. Their discoveries, and their
inventions, by creating artificial ways of living, have produced not
only habits and customs (clothing, cooking of food, etc.), but relations
and bonds of coexistence proportioned and adapted to the mode of
production and reproduction of the means of immediate life.

At the dawn of traditional history economics is already operating. Men
are working to live, on a foundation which has been in great part
modified by their work and with tools which are completely their work.
And from that moment they have struggled among themselves to conquer
each from the other a superior position in the use of these artificial
means; that is to say, they have struggled among themselves whether as
serfs and masters, subjects and lords, conquered and conquerors,
exploited and exploiters, both where they have progressed and where they
have retrograded and where they have halted in a form which they have
not been capable of outgrowing, but never have they returned to the
animal life by the complete loss of their artificial foundation.

Historical science has, then, as its first and principal object the
determination and the investigation of this artificial foundation, its
origin, its composition, its changes and its transformations. To say
that all this is only a part and a prolongation of nature, is to say a
thing which by its too abstract and too generic character has no longer
any meaning.

The human race, in fact, lives only in earthly conditions, and we cannot
suppose it to be transplanted elsewhere. Under these conditions it has
found from its very first beginnings down to the present day the
immediate means necessary for the development of labor, that is to say,
for its material progress as for its inner formation. These natural
conditions were and they are always indispensable to the sporadic
agriculture of the nomads, who sometimes cultivated the earth merely for
the pasturage of animals, as well as for the refined products of
intensive modern horticulture. These earthly conditions, precisely as
they have furnished the different sorts of stones suited for the
fabrication of the first weapons, furnish now also, with coal, the
elements of the great industry; precisely as they gave the first
laborers osiers and willows to plait, they give now all the materials
necessary to the complicated technique of electricity.

It is not, however, the natural materials themselves which have
progressed. On the contrary, it is only men who progress, through
discovering little by little in nature the conditions which permit them
to produce in more and more complex forms, thanks to the labor
accumulated in experience. This progress does not consist merely in the
sort of progress with which subjective psychology is concerned that is
to say, the inner modifications which would be the proper and direct
development of the intellect, the reasoning and the thought. Moreover,
this inner progress is but a secondary and derived product, in
proportion as there is already a progress realized in the artificial
foundation which is the sum of the social relations resulting from the
forms and the distributions of labor. It is, then, a meaningless
affirmation to say that all this is but a simple prolongation of nature,
unless one wishes to employ this word in so generic a sense that it no
longer indicates anything precise and distinct; that which is not
realized by the work of man.

History is the work of man in so far as man can create and improve his
instruments of labor, and with these instruments can create an
artificial environment whose complicated effects react later upon
himself, and which by its present state and its successive modifications
is the occasion and the condition of his development. There are, then,
no reasons for carrying back that work of man which is history to the
simple struggle for existence. If this struggle modifies and improves
the organs of animals, and if in given circumstances and methods it
produces and develops new organs, it still does not produce that
continuous, perfected and traditional movement which is the human
_processus_. Our doctrine must not be confounded with Darwinism, and it
need not invoke anew the conception of a mythical, mystical or
metaphorical form of fatalism. If it is true in effect that history
rests, before all else, upon the development of technique, that is to
say, if it is true that the successive discovery of tools gives rise to
the successive distributions of labor, and therewith to the inequalities
whose sum total, more or less stable, forms the social organism, it is
equally true that the discovery of these instruments is at once the
cause and the effect of these conditions and of those forms of the inner
life to which, isolating them by psychological abstraction, we give the
name of imagination, intellect, reason, thought, etc. By producing
successively the different social environment, that is to say, the
successive artificial foundations, man has produced himself, and in this
consists the serious kernel, the concrete reason, the positive
foundation of that which by various fantastic combinations and by a
varied logical architecture has suggested to the ideologists the notion
of the progress of the human mind.

Nevertheless, this expression of _naturalizing_ history, which,
understood in too broad and too generic a sense, may be the occasion of
the equivocations of which we have spoken, when it is, on the contrary,
employed with proper precaution and in a tentative fashion, sums up
briefly the criticism of all the ideological views which, in the
interpretation of history, start from this hypothesis, that human work
or activity are one and the same with free will, free choice and
voluntary designs.

It was easy and convenient for the theologians to carry back the course
of human events to a preconceived plan or design, because they passed
directly from the facts of experience to an assumed mind which ruled the
universe. The jurists, who first had occasion to discover in the
institutions which formed the object of their studies a certain guiding
thread through the forms which manifestly succeeded each other, carried
over, as they still carry over as cheerfully, the reasoning faculty
which is their own quality, to serve as an explanation for the whole
vast social fabric, however complicated. The men of politics, who
naturally take their point of departure in this datum of experience,
that the officers of the state, whether by the acquiescence of the
subject masses or profiting by the antitheses of interests of the
different social groups, may set aims for themselves and realize them
voluntarily and in a deliberate fashion,--these men are brought to see
in the succession of human events only a variation of these designs,
these projects and these intentions. Now our conception, while
revolutionizing in their foundations the hypotheses of the theologians,
the jurists and the politicians, terminates in this affirmation, that
human labor and activity in general are not always one and the same
thing in the course of history with the will which acts with design,
with preconceived plans and with its free choice of means; that is to
say, that they are not one and the same thing with the reasoning
faculty. All that has happened in history is the work of man, but it
was not, and is not, with rare exceptions, the result of a critical
choice or of a reasoning desire. Moreover, it was and is through
necessity that, determined by external needs and occasions, this
activity engenders an experience and a development of internal and
external organs. Among these organs we must include intelligence and
reason which also are the result and consequence of repeated and
accumulated experience. The integral formation of man in his historical
development is henceforth no longer a hypothetical datum nor a simple
conjecture. It is an intuitive and palpable truth. The conditions of the
_processus_ which engenders a step of progress are henceforth reducible
into a series of explanations; and up to a certain point we have under
our eyes the schedule of all historical developments, morphologically
conceived. This doctrine is the clear and definite negation of all
ideology, because it is the explicit negation of every form of
rationalism, understanding by this word this concept, that things in
their existence and their development answer to a norm, an ideal, a
measure, an end, in an implicit or explicit fashion. The whole course of
human events is a sum, a succession of series of conditions which men
have made and laid down for themselves through the experience
accumulated in their changing social life, but it represents neither the
tendency to realize a predetermined end nor the deviation of a first
principle from perfection and felicity. Progress itself implies merely
that empirical and circumstantial notion of a thing which is at present
defined in our mind, because, thanks to the development thus far
realized, we are in a position to estimate the past and to foresee, at
least in a certain sense and in a certain measure, the future.


In this fashion a serious ambiguity is dissolved and the errors carried
with it are removed. Reasonable and well founded is the tendency of
those who aim to subordinate the sum total of human events in their
course to the rigorous conception of determinism. There is, on the
contrary, no reason for confusing this derived, reflex and complex
determinism with the determinism of the immediate struggle for existence
which is produced and developed on a field not modified by the continued
action of labor. Legitimate and well founded, in an absolute fashion, is
the historical explanation which proceeds in its course from the
volitions which have voluntarily regulated the different phases of life,
to the motives and objective causes of every choice, discovered in the
conditions of environment, territory, accessible means of existence and
conditions of experience. But there is, on the contrary, no foundation
for that opinion which tends to the negation of every volition by
consequence of a theoretical view which would substitute automatism for
voluntarism. There is nothing in it, as a matter of fact, but a pure and
simple conceit.

Wherever the means of production have developed, to a certain point,
wherever the artificial foundation has acquired a certain consistency,
and wherever the social differentiations and their resulting antitheses
have created the need, the possibility and the conditions of an
organization more or less stable or unstable, there, always and
necessarily, appear premeditated designs, political views, plans of
conduct, systems of law and finally maxims and general and abstract
principles. In the circle of these products, and of these derived and
complex developments of the second degree, spring up also the sciences
and arts, philosophy and learning, and history as a literary fashion of
production. This circle is what the rationalists and the ideologists,
ignorant of its real foundations, have called, and call, in an exclusive
fashion, civilization. And, in fact, it has happened, and it happens,
that some men, and especially professional scientists, lay or clerical,
have found, and find, the means of intellectual livelihood in the closed
circle of the reflex and secondary products of civilization, and that
they have been able and are able consequently to submit all the rest to
the subjective view which they have elaborated under these conditions;
that is, the origin and explanation of all the ideologies. Our doctrine
has definitely outgrown the visual angle of ideology. The premeditated
designs, the political views, sciences, systems of law, etc., instead of
being the means and the instrument of the explanation of history, are
precisely what require to be explained, because they are derived from
determined conditions and situations. But that does not mean that they
are pure appearances, soap bubbles. If they are things which have been
developed and derived, that does not imply that they are not real
things; and that is so true that they have been, for centuries, to the
unscientific consciousness, and to the scientific consciousness still on
the way towards its formation, the only ones which really existed.

But that is not all.

Our doctrine, like others, may lead to reverie and offer an occasion and
a theme for a new inverted ideology. It was born on the battlefield of
communism. It assumes the appearance of the modern proletariat on the
political stage, and it assumes that alignment upon the origins of our
present society which has permitted us to reconstruct in a critical
manner the whole genesis of the bourgeoisie. It is a doctrine
revolutionary from two points of view; because it has found the reasons
and the methods of development of the proletarian revolution which is in
the making, and because it proposes to find the causes and the
conditions of development of all other social revolutions which have
taken place in the past, in the class antagonisms which arrived at a
certain critical point, by reason of the contradiction between the forms
of production and the development of the producing forces. And this is
not all. In the light of this doctrine what is essential in history is
summed up in these critical moments, and it abandons, momentarily at
least, what unites these different moments to the learned ministrations
of the professional narrators. As a revolutionary doctrine it is, before
all else, the intellectual consciousness of the actual proletarian
movement in which, according to our assertion, the future of communism
is preparing long beforehand; so much so that the open adversaries of
socialism reject it as an opinion, which, under a scientific mask, is
only working out another utopia.

Thus it may happen, and that has already resulted, that the imagination
of people unfamiliar with the difficulties of historic research, and the
zeal of fanatics, find a stimulus and an opportunity even in historic
materialism for forming a new ideology and drawing from it a new
philosophy of systematic history, that is to say, history conceived as
schemes or tendencies and designs. And no precaution can suffice. Our
intellect is rarely contented with purely critical research; it is
always attempting to convert into an element of pedantry and into a new
scholasticism every discovery of thought. In a word, even the
materialistic conception of history may be converted into a form of
argumentation for a thesis and serve to make new fashions with the
ancient prejudices like that of a history based on syllogisms,
demonstrations and deductions.

To guard against this, and especially to avoid the reappearance in an
indirect and disguised fashion of any form whatever of finality, it is
necessary to resolve positively upon two things: First, that all known
historic conditions are circumstanced, and, second, that progress has
thus far been circumscribed by various obstacles and that for this
reason it has always been partial and limited.

Only a part, and, until recent times, only a small part of the human
race, has traversed completely all the stages of the _processus_ by the
effect of which the most advanced nations have arrived at modern civil
society, with the advanced technical forms founded upon the discoveries
of science and with all the consequences, political, intellectual,
moral, etc., which correspond to this development. By the side of the
English,--to take the most striking example--who, transporting European
manners with them to New Holland, have created there a center of
production which already holds a notable place in the competition of the
world's market, there still live, like fossils of prehistoric times, the
Australian aborigines, capable only of disappearing, but incapable of
adapting themselves to a civilization which was not imported among them,
but next to them. In America, and especially in North America, the
series of events which have brought on the development of modern society
began with the importation from Europe of domestic animals and
agricultural tools, the use of which in ancient times gave birth to the
slow moving civilization of the Mediterranean; but this movement
remained entirely inside the circle of those descended from the
conquerors and colonists, while the aborigines are lost in the mass
through the intermingling of races or perish and disappear completely.
Western Asia and Egypt, which already in very ancient times, as the
first cradle of all our civilization, gave birth to the great
semi-political formations which marked the first phases of certain and
positive history, have appeared to us for centuries as crystallizations
of social forms incapable of moving on of themselves to new phases of
development. Upon them is the age-long weight of the barbaric camp--the
dominion of the Turk. Into this stiffened mass is introduced by secret
ways a modern administration, and in the name of business interests the
railroads and the telegraphs push in,--bold outposts of the conquering
European bank. All this stiffened mass has no hope of resuming life,
heat and motion except by the ruin of the Turkish dominion, for which
are being substituted in the different methods of direct and indirect
conquest the dominion and the protectorate of the European bourgeoisie.
That a process of transformation of backward nations or of nations
arrested in their march, can be realized and hastened under external
influences, India stands as a proof. This country, with its own life
still surviving, re-enters vigorously under the action of England into
the circulation of international activity even with its intellectual
products. These are not the only contrasts in the historic physiognomy
of our contemporaries. And while in Japan, by an acute and spontaneous
phenomenon of imitation, there has developed, in less than thirty years,
a certain assimilation of western civilization which is already moving
normally the country's own energies, the forcible law of Russian
conquest is dragging into the circle of modern industry, and even into
great industry, certain notable portions of the country beyond the
Caspian, as an outpost of the approaching acquisition to the sphere of
capitalism of Central Asia and Upper Asia. The gigantic mass of China
appeared to us but a few years ago as motionless in the hereditary
organization of its institutions, so slow is every movement there, while
for ethnic and geographical reasons almost all Africa remained
impenetrable, and, it seemed, even up to the last attempts at conquest
and colonization, that it was destined to offer only its borders to the
process of civilization, as if we were still in the times not even of
the Portuguese, but of the Greeks and Carthaginians.

These differentiations of men on the track of written and unwritten
history seem to us easily explicable when they can be referred to the
natural and immediate conditions which impose limits upon the
development of labor. This is the case with America, which up to the
arrival of the Europeans had but one cereal, maize, and but one domestic
animal for labor, the llama, and we can rejoice that the Europeans
imported with themselves and their tools the ox, the ass and the horse,
corn, cotton, sugarcane, coffee and finally the vine and the orange
tree, creating there a new world of that glorious society which produces
merchandise and which with an extraordinary swiftness of movement has
already traversed the two phases of the blackest slavery and the most
democratic wage system. But where there is a real halt and even an
attested retrogression, as in Western Asia, in Egypt, in the Balkan
Peninsula and in Northern Africa,--and this arrest cannot be attributed
to the change of natural conditions,--we find the problem before us
which is awaiting its solution from the direct and explicit study of the
social structure studied in the internal modes of its development, as in
the interlacings and complications of the different nations upon that
field which is ordinarily called the scene of historic struggles.

This same civilized Europe, which by the continuity of its tradition,
presents the most complete diagram of its _processus_, so much so that
upon this model have been conceived and constructed, thus far, all the
systems of historical philosophy, this Western and Central Europe, which
produced the epoch of the bourgeoisie and has sought and is seeking to
impose that form of society upon the whole world by different modes of
conquest, direct or indirect,--this Europe is not completely uniform in
the degree of its development, and its various agglomerations, national,
local and political, appear disturbed, as it were, over a decidedly
sloping ladder. Upon these differences depend the conditions of relative
superiority and inferiority of one country to another and the reasons,
more or less advantageous or disadvantageous, for economic exchange;
and thereon have depended, and still depend, not only the frictions and
the struggles, the treaties and the wars, but also everything that with
more or less precision the political writers have been able to relate to
us since the Renaissance, and certainly with increasing evidence, from
Louis XIV. and Colbert to our own time.

This Europe in itself is highly variegated. Here is the consummate
flower of industrial and capitalist production, namely, England, while
at other points survives the artisan, vigorous or rickety, at Paris and
at Naples, to grasp the fact in its extreme points. Here the land is
almost industrialized, as in England; and elsewhere vegetates, in
various traditional forms, the stupid peasant, as in Italy and in
Austria, and in the latter country more than in the former. In one
country the political life of the state--suited to the prosaic
consciousness of a bourgeoisie which knows its business because it has
conquered the space that it occupies--is exerted in the surest and most
open fashion of an explicit class domination (it will be understood that
I am speaking of France). Elsewhere, and particularly in Germany, the
old feudal customs, the hypocrisy of Protestantism and the cowardice of
a bourgeoisie which exploits favorable economic circumstances without
bringing to them either intelligence or revolutionary courage,
strengthen the existing state by preserving the lying appearances of an
ethical mission to be accomplished. (With how many unpalatable sauces
this state ethics, Prussian into the bargain, has been served up by the
heavy and pedantic German professors!) Here and there modern capitalist
production is edging its way into countries which from other points of
view do not enter into our movement and especially into its political
side, as is the case with unhappy Poland; or again this form only
penetrates indirectly, as in the Slavonic countries. But now comes the
sharpest contrast, which seems destined to put under our eyes, as in an
epitome, all the phrases, even the most extreme, of our history.

Russia could not have advanced, as it is now advancing, toward the great
industry, without drawing from Western Europe, and especially from our
charming French _Chauvinism_, that money which she would in vain have
sought within her own borders, that is to say, from the conditions of
her obese territorial mass, where vegetate in ancient economic forms
fifty million peasants. Russia, in order to become an economic modern
society ripening the conditions of a corresponding political revolution,
and preparing the means which will facilitate the addition of a large
part of Asia to the capitalist movement, has been led to destroy the
last relics of agrarian communism (whether its origins be primitive or
secondary) which had been preserved within herself up to this point in
such characteristic forms and on so large a scale. Russia must
capitalize herself, and to this end she must, to start with, convert
land into merchandise capable of producing merchandise, and at the same
time transform into miserable proletarians the excommunists of the
land. And, on the contrary, in Western and Central Europe we find
ourselves at the opposite point of the series of development which has
scarcely begun in Russia. Here, with us, where the bourgeoisie, with
varied fortunes and triumphing over such a variety of difficulties, has
already traversed so many stages of its development, it is not the
recollection of primitive or secondary communism, which scarcely
survives through learned combinations in the heads of scholars, but the
very form of bourgeois production, which engenders in the proletarians
the tendency to socialism, which presents itself in its general outlines
as an indication of a new phase of history and not as the repetition of
what is inevitably perishing in the Slavonic countries under our eyes.

Who could fail to see in these illustrations, which I have not sought
out, but which have come almost by chance, and which can be indefinitely
prolonged in a volume of economic-political geography of the present
world, the evident proof of the manner in which historic conditions are
all circumstanced in the forms of their development? Not only races and
peoples, nations and states, but parts of nations and various regions of
states, even orders and classes, are found, as it were, upon so many
rounds of a very long ladder, or, rather, upon the various points of a
complicated and slowly developing curve. Historic time has not marched
uniformly for all men. The simple succession of generations has never
been the index of the constancy and intensity of the _processus_. Time
as an abstract measure of chronology and the generations which succeed
one another in approximate periods give no criterion and furnish no
indication of law or of process. The developments thus far have been
varied because the things accomplished in one and the same unit of time
were varied. Between these varied forms of development there is an
affinity or rather a similarity of movements, that is, an analogy of
type, or again an identity of form; thus the advance forms may by simple
contact or by violence accelerate the development of backward forms. But
the important thing is to comprehend that progress, our notion of which
is not merely empirical, but always circumstanced and thus limited, is
not suspended over the course of human events like a destiny or a fate,
nor like a commandment. And for this reason our doctrine cannot serve to
represent the whole history of the human race in a unified perspective
which repeats, _mutatis mutandis_, the historic philosophy from thesis
to conclusion, from St. Augustine to Hegel, or, better, from the prophet
Daniel to M. De Rougemont.

Our doctrine does not pretend to be the intellectual vision of a great
plan or of a design, but it is merely a method of research and of
conception. It is not by accident that Marx spoke of his discovery as a
guiding thread, and it is precisely for this reason that it is analogous
to Darwinism, which also is a method, and is not and cannot be a modern
repetition of the constructed or constructive natural philosophy as
used by Shelling and his school.

The first to discover in the notion of progress an indication of
something circumstantial and relative was the genial Saint Simon, who
opposed his way of seeing to the doctrine of the eighteenth century
represented by the party of Condorcet. To that doctrine, which may be
called unitary, equalitarian, formal, because it regards the human race
as developing upon one line of process, Saint Simon opposes the
conception of the faculties and of the aptitudes which substitute
themselves and compensate for each other, and thus he remains an

To penetrate the true reasons for the relativity of progress another
thing was necessary. It was necessary, first of all, to renounce those
prejudices which are involved in the belief that the obstacles to the
uniformity of human development rest exclusively upon natural and
immediate causes. These natural obstacles are either sufficiently
problematical, as is the case with races, no one of which shows the
privilege of birth in its history, or they are, as is the case in
geographical differences, insufficient to explain the development of the
completely different historico-social conditions on one and the same
geographical field. And as the historic movement dates precisely from
the time when the natural obstacles have already been in great part
either vanquished or notably circumscribed, thanks to the creation of
an artificial field upon which it has been given to men to develop
themselves further, it is evident that the successive obstacles to the
uniformity of progress must be sought in the proper and intrinsic
conditions of the social structure itself.

This structure has thus far started in forms of political organization,
the object of which is to try to hold in equilibrium the economic
inequalities; consequently this organization, as I have said more than
once, is constantly unstable. From the point where there is a known
history; it is the history of society tending to form the state, or
having already constructed it completely. And the state is this
struggle, within and without, because it is, above all, the organ and
the instrument of a larger or smaller part of society against all the
rest of society itself, in so far as the latter rests upon the economic
domination of man over man in a more or less direct and explicit
fashion, according as the different degree of the development of
production, of its natural means and its artificial instruments,
requires either chattel slavery, or the serfdom of the soil, or the
"free" wage system. This society of antitheses, which forms a state, is
always, although in different forms and various modes, the opposition of
the city to the country, of the artisan to the peasant, of the
proletarian to the employer, of the capitalist to the laborer, and so on
_ad infinitum_, and it always ends, with various complications and
various methods, in an hierarchy, whether it be in a fixed scaffolding
of privilege, as in the Middle Ages, or whether, under the disguised
forms of supposed equal rights for all, it be produced by the automatic
action of economic competition, as in our time.

To this economic hierarchy corresponds, according to various modes, in
different countries, in different times, in different places, what I may
call almost a hierarchy of souls, of intellects, of minds. That is to
say, that culture, which, for the idealists, constitutes the sum of
progress, has been and is by the necessities of the case very unequally
distributed. The greater portion of mankind, by the quality of their
occupations, are composed of individuals who are disintegrated, broken
into fragments and rendered incapable of a complete and normal
development. To the economics of classes and to the hierarchy of social
positions corresponds the psychology of classes. The relativity of
progress is then for us the inevitable consequence of class
distinctions. These distinctions constitute the obstacles which explain
the possibility of relative retrogression, up to the point of degeneracy
and of the dissolution of an entire society. The machines, which mark
the triumph of science, become, by reason of the antithetic conditions
of the social plexus, instruments which impoverish millions and millions
of artisans and free peasants. The progress of technique, which fills
the towns with merchandise, makes more miserable and abject the
condition of the peasants, and in the cities themselves it further
humbles the condition of the humble. All the progress of science has
served thus far to differentiate a class of scientists and to keep ever
further from culture the masses who, attached to their ceaseless daily
toil, are thus feeding the whole of society.

Progress has been and is, up to the present time, partial and one-sided.
The minorities which share in it call this human progress; and the proud
evolutionists call this human nature which is developing. All this
partial progress, which has thus far developed upon the oppression of
man by man, has its foundation in the conditions of opposition, by which
economic distinctions have engendered all the social distinctions; from
the relative liberty of the few is born the servitude of the greater
number, and law has been the protector of injustice. Progress, thus seen
and clearly appreciated, appears to us as the moral and intellectual
epitome of all human miseries and of all material inequalities.

To discover this inevitable relativity it was necessary that communism,
born at first as an instinctive movement in the soul of the oppressed,
should become a science and a political party. It was then necessary
that our doctrine should give the measure of value for all past history,
by discovering in every form of social organization, antithetical in its
origin and organization, as they have all been up to this time, the
innate incapacity for producing the conditions of a universal and
uniform human progress, that is to say, by discovering the fetters which
turn each benefit into an injury.


There is one question which we cannot evade: What has given birth to the
belief in _historic factors_?

That is an expression familiar to many and often found in the writings
of many scholars, scientists and philosophers, and of those commentators
who, by their reasonings or by their combinations, add a little to
simple historic narration and utilize this opinion as an hypothesis to
find a starting point in the immense mass of human facts, which, at
first sight and after first examination, appear so confused and
irreducible. This belief, this current opinion, has become for reasoning
historians, or even for rationalists, a semi-doctrine, which has
recently been urged several times, as a decisive argument, against the
unitary theory of the materialistic conception. And indeed, this belief
is so deeply rooted and this opinion so widespread, of history being
only intelligible as the juncture and the meeting of various factors,
that, in consequence, many of those who speak of social materialism,
whether they be its partisans or adversaries, believe that they save
themselves from embarrassment by affirming that this whole doctrine
consists in the fact that it attributes the preponderance or the
decisive action to the _economic factor_.

It is very important to take account of the fashion in which this
belief, this opinion, or this semi-doctrine takes its rise, because
real and fruitful criticism consists principally in knowing and
understanding the motive of what we declare an error. It does not
suffice to reject an opinion by characterizing it as false doctrine.
Error always arises from some ill-understood side of an incomplete
experience, or from some subjective imperfection. It does not suffice to
reject the error; we must overcome it, explain it and outgrow it.

Every historian, at the beginning of his work, performs, so to speak, an
act of elimination. First, he makes erasures, as it were, in a
continuous series of events; then he dispenses with numerous and varied
suppositions and precedents; more than this, he tears up and decomposes
a complicated tissue. Thus, to begin with, he must fix a point, a line,
a boundary, as he chooses; he must say, for example: I wish to relate
the beginning of the war between the Greeks and the Persians, or to
inquire how Louis XVI. was brought to convene the States General. The
narrator finds himself, in a word, confronted with a _complexus_ of
accomplished facts and of facts on the point of being produced, which in
their totality present a certain aspect. Upon the attitude which he
takes depends the form and the style of every narration, because to
compose it he must take his point of departure from things already
accomplished, in order to see henceforth how they have continued to

Yet into this _complexus_ he must introduce a certain degree of
analysis, resolving it into groups and into aspects of facts, or into
concurrent elements, which afterwards appear at a certain moment as
independent categories. It is the state in a certain form and with
certain powers; it is the laws, which determine, by what they command or
what they prohibit, certain relations; it is the manners and customs
which reveal to us tendencies, needs, ways of thinking, of believing, of
imagining; altogether it is a multitude of men living and working
together, with a certain distribution of tasks and occupations; he
observes then the thoughts, the ideas, the inclinations, the passions,
the desires, the aspirations which arise and develop from this varied
mode of coexistence and from its frictions. Let a change be produced,
and it will show itself in one of the sides or one of the aspects of the
empirical _complexus_, or in all of these within a longer or a shorter
time; for example, the state extends its boundaries, or changes its
internal limits as regards society by increasing or diminishing its
powers and its attributes, or by changing the mode of action of one or
the other; or, again, the law modifies its dispositions, or it expresses
and affirms itself through new organs; or, again, finally, behind the
change of exterior and daily habits, we discover a change in the
sentiments, the thoughts and the inclinations of the men variously
distributed in the different social classes, who mingle, change, replace
each other, disappear or reappear. All this may be sufficiently
understood, in its exterior forms and outlines, through the usual
endowments of normal intelligence which is not yet aided, corrected or
completed by science strictly so-called. Assembling within precise
limits a conception of such facts is the true and proper object of
narration, which is so much the clearer, more vivid and more exact, as
it takes the form of a monograph; witness Thucydides in the
Peloponnesian war.

Society already evolved in a certain fashion, society already arrived at
a certain degree of development, society already so complicated that it
conceals the economic substructure which supports all the rest, has not
revealed itself to the simple narrators, except in these visible facts,
in these most apparent results, and in these most significant symptoms
which are the political forms, the legal dispositions and the partisan
passions. The narrator, both because he lacks any theoretical doctrine
regarding the true sources of the historic movement, and by the very
attitude which he takes on the subject of the things which he unites
according to the appearances which they have come to assume, cannot
reduce them to unity, unless it be as a result of a single, immediate
intuition, and if he is an artist, this intuition takes on a color in
his mind and transforms itself there into dramatic action. His task is
finished if he succeeds in massing a certain number of facts and events
in certain limits and confines over which the observer may look as on a
clear perspective; in the same way, purely descriptive geography has
accomplished its task, if it sums up in a vivid and clear design a
concourse of physical causes which determine the immediate aspect of
the Gulf of Naples, for example, without going back to its genesis.

It is in this need of graphic narration that arises the first intuitive,
palpable, and, I might almost say, æsthetic and artistic occasion for
all those abstractions and those generalizations, which are finally
summed up in the semi-doctrine of the so-called factors.

Here are two notable men, the Gracchi, who wished to put an end to the
process of appropriation of the public land and to prevent the
agglomeration of the _latifundium_, which was diminishing or causing to
completely disappear the class of small proprietors, that is to say, of
the free men, who are the foundation and the condition of the democratic
life of the ancient city. What were the causes of their failure? Their
aim is clear, their spirit, their origin, their character, their heroism
are manifest. They have against them other men with other interests and
with other designs. The struggle appears to the mind at first merely as
a struggle of intentions and passions, which unfolds and comes to an end
by the aid of means which are permitted by the political form of the
state and by the use or abuse or the public powers. Here is the
situation: the city ruling in different manners over other cities or
over territories which have lost all character of autonomy; within this
city a very decided differentiation between rich and poor; and facing
the comparatively small group of the oppressors and the all-powerful,
stands the immense mass of the proletarians, who are on the point of
losing or who have already lost the consciousness and the political
strength of a body of citizens, the mass which therefore suffers itself
to be deceived and corrupted, and which will soon decay till it is but a
servile accessory to its aristocratic exploiters. There is the material
of the narrator, and he cannot take account of the fact otherwise than
in the immediate conditions of the fact itself. The complete whole is
directly seen and forms the stage on which the events unfold, but if the
narration is to have solidity, vividness and perspective there must be
points of departure and ways of interpretation.

In this consists the first origin of those abstractions, which little by
little take away from the different parts of a given social _complexus_
their quality of simple sides or aspects of a whole, and it is their
ensuing generalization which little by little leads to the doctrine of

These factors, to express it in another way, arise in the mind as a
sequence of the abstraction and generalization of the immediate aspects
of the apparent movement, and they have an equal value with that of all
other empirical concepts. Whatever be the domain of knowledge in which
they arise, they persist until they are reduced and eliminated by a new
experience, or until they are absorbed by a conception more general,
genetic, evolutionary or dialectic. Was it not necessary that in the
empirical analysis and in the immediate study of the causes and the
effects of certain definite phenomena, for example the phenomena of
heat, the mind should first stop at this presumption and this
persuasion, that it could and should attribute them to a subject, which
if it was never for any physicist a true and substantial entity, was
certainly considered as a definite and specific force, namely, heat. Now
we see that at a given moment, as a result of new experiences, this heat
is resolved in given conditions into a certain quantity of motion. Still
further, our thought is now on the way toward resolving all these
physical factors into the flux of one universal energy, in which the
hypotheses of the atoms, in the extent to which it is necessary, loses
all residue of metaphysical survival.

Was it not inevitable, as a first step of knowledge in what concerns the
problem of life, to spend a considerable time in the separate study of
the organs and to reduce them to systems? Without this anatomy, which
seems too material and too gross, no progress in these studies would
have been possible; and nevertheless, above the unknown genesis and
co-ordination of such an analytic multiplicity, there were evolving,
uncertain and vague, the generic conceptions of life, soul, etc. In
these mental creations have long been seen that biological unity which
has finally found its object in the certain beginning of the cell and in
its _processus_ of immanent multiplication.

More difficult certainly was the way which the thought had to traverse
to reconstruct the genesis of all the facts of psychic life, from the
most elementary successions up to the most complex derived products. Not
only for reasons of theoretical difficulties, but in consequence of
popular prejudices, the unity and continuity of psychic phenomena
appeared, up to the time of Herbart, as separated and divided into so
many factors, faculties of the soul.

The interpretation of the historico-social _processus_ met the same
difficulties; it also was obliged to stop at first in the provisional
view of factors. And that being so, it is easy for us now to find again
the first origin of that opinion in the necessity that the historians
have of finding in the facts that they relate with more or less artistic
talent and in different professional views, certain points of immediate
orientation, such as may be offered by the study of the apparent
movement of human events.

But in this apparent movement, there are the elements of a more exact
view. These concurrent factors, which abstract thought conceives and
then isolates, have never been seen acting each for itself. On the
contrary, they act in such a manner that it gives birth to the concept
of reciprocal action. Moreover, these factors themselves arise at a
given moment, and it is not until later that they acquired that
physiognomy which they have in the particular narration. This State, it
is well known, arose at a given moment. As for every rule of law, it may
either be remembered or conjectured that it went into effect under such
or such circumstances. As for many customs, it may be remembered that
they were introduced at a given moment; and the simplest comparisons of
the facts in different times or different places would show how society,
as a whole, and in its character of being an aggregation of different
classes, had taken and took continuously various forms.

The reciprocal action of the different factors, without which not even
the simplest narration would be possible, like the more or less exact
information upon the origins and the variations of the factors
themselves, called for research and thought more than did the
constructive narration of those great historians who are real artists.
And, in effect, the problems which arise spontaneously from the data of
history, combined with other theoretical elements, gave birth to the
different so-called practical disciplines, which in a more or less rapid
fashion and with varying success, have developed from the ancients up to
our days, from ethics to the philosophy of law, from politics to
sociology, from law to economics.

Now with the rise and formation of so many disciplines, through the
inevitable division of labor, _points of view_ have been multiplied out
of all proportion. It is certain that for the first and immediate
analysis of the multiple aspects of the social _complexus_, a long labor
of partial abstraction was necessary: which has always inevitably
resulted in one-sided views. This can be shown, in a clearer and more
evident manner than for any other domain, in that of law and its
various generalizations, including the philosophy of law. By reason of
these abstractions, which are inevitable in particular and empirical
analysis, and by the effect of the division of labor, the different
sides and different manifestations of the social _complexus_ were, from
time to time, fixed and stratified in general conceptions and
categories. The works, the effects, the emanations, the effusions of
human activity,--law, economic forms, principles of conduct,
etc.,--were, so to speak, translated and transformed into laws, into
imperatives and into principles which remained placed above man himself.
And from time to time it has been necessary to discover anew this simple
truth: that the only permanent and sure fact, that is to say, the only
datum from which departs and to which returns every practical detail of
discipline, is men grouped in a determined social form by means of
determined connections. The different analytical disciplines, which
illustrate the facts that develop in history, have finally given rise to
the need of a common and general social science, which renders possible
the unification of the historic _processus_, and the materialistic
doctrine marks precisely the final term, the apex of this unification.

But that has not been, nor ever will be, lost time which is expended in
the preliminary and lateral analysis of complex facts. To the methodical
division of labor we owe precise learning, that is to say, the mass of
knowledge passed into the sieve, systematized, without which social
history would always be wandering in a purely abstract domain, in
questions of form and terminology. The separate study of the
historico-social factors has served, like any other empirical study
which does not transcend the apparent movement of things, to improve the
instrument of observation and to permit us to find again in the facts
themselves, which have been artificially abstracted, the keystones which
bind them into the social _complexus_. The different disciplines which
are considered as isolated and independent in the hypotheses of the
concurrent factors in the formation of history, both by reason of the
degree of development which they have reached, the materials which they
have gathered, and the methods which they have elaborated, have to-day
become quite indispensable for us, if one desires to reconstruct any
portion out of past times. Where would our historic science be without
the one-sidedness of philology, which is the fundamental instrument of
all research, and where should we have found the guiding thread of a
history of juridical institutions, which returns again from itself to so
many other facts and to so many other combinations, without the
obstinate faith of the Romanists in the universal excellence of the
Roman law, which engendered with generalized law and with the philosophy
of law so many problems which serve as points of departure for

It is thus, after all, that the historic factors, of which so many
speak, and which are mentioned in so many works, indicate something
which is much less than the truth, but much more than simple error, in
the ordinary sense of a blunder, of an illusion. They are the necessary
product of a knowledge which is in the course of development and
formation. They arise from the necessity of finding a point of departure
in the confused spectacle which human events present to him who wishes
to narrate them; and they serve thenceforth, so to speak, as a title,
category or index to that inevitable division of labor, by the extension
of which the historico-social material has, up to this time, been
theoretically elaborated. In this domain of knowledge, as well as in
that of the natural sciences, the unity of real principle and the unity
of formal treatment are never found at the first start, but only after a
long and troublous road. So that again from this point of view the
analogy affirmed by Engels between the discovery of historical
materialism and that of the conservation of energy appears to us

The provisional orientation, according to the convenient system of what
are called factors, may, under given circumstances, be useful also to us
who profess an altogether unitary principle of historic interpretation,
if we do not wish simply to rest in the domain of theory, but wish to
illustrate, through personal research, a definite period of history. As
in that case we must proceed to direct and detailed research, we must
first of all follow the groups of facts that seem pre-eminent,
independent, or detached in the aspects of immediate experience. We
should not imagine, in fact, that the unitary principle so well
established, at which we have arrived in the general conception of
history, may, like a talisman, act always and at first sight, as an
infallible method of resolving into simple elements the immense area and
the complicated gearing of society. The underlying economic structure,
which determines all the rest, is not a simple mechanism whence emerge,
as immediate, automatic and mechanical effects, institutions, laws,
customs, thoughts, sentiments, ideologies. From this substructure to all
the rest, the process of derivation and of mediation is very
complicated, often subtile, tortuous and not always legible.

The social organization is, as we already know, constantly unstable,
although that does not seem evident to every one, except at the time
when the instability enters upon that acute period which is called a
revolution. This instability, with the constant struggles in the bosom
of that same organized society, excludes the possibility for men coming
to an agreement which might involve a new start at living an animal
life. It is the antagonisms which are the principal cause of progress
(Marx). But it is equally true, notwithstanding, that in this unstable
organization, in which is given to us the inevitable form of domination
and subjection, intelligence is always developed not only unequally, but
quite imperfectly, incongruously and partially. There has been and there
is still in society what we may call a hierarchy of intelligence,
sentiments and conceptions. To suppose that men, always and in all
cases, have had an approximately clear consciousness of their own
situation, and of what was the most rational thing to do, is to suppose
the improbable and, indeed, the unreal.

Forms of law, political acts and attempts at social organization were,
and they still are, sometimes fortunate, sometimes mistaken, that is to
say, disproportionate and unsuitable. History is full of errors; and
this means that if all was necessary, granted the relative intelligence
of those who have to solve a difficulty or to find a solution for a
given problem, etc., if everything in it has a sufficient reason, yet
everything in it was not reasonable, in the sense which the optimists
give to this word. To state it more fully, the determined causes of all
changes, that is to say the modified economic conditions, have ended and
end by causing to be found, sometimes through tortuous ways, the
suitable forms of law, the appropriate political orders and the more or
less perfect means of social adjustment. But it must not be thought that
the instinctive wisdom of the reasoning animal has been manifested, or
is manifested, definitely and simply, in the complete and clear
understanding of all situations, and that we have left only the very
simple task of following the deductive road from the economic situation
to all the rest. Ignorance--which, in its turn, may be explained--is an
important reason for the manner in which history is made; and, to
ignorance we must add the brutishness which is never completely subdued
and all the passions, and all the injustices, and the various forms of
corruption, which were and are the necessary product of a society
organized in such a way, that the domination of man over man in it is
inevitable, and that from this domination falsehood, hypocrisy,
presumption and baseness were and are inseparable. We may, without being
utopians, but simply because we are critical communists, foresee, as we
do in fact foresee, the coming of a society which, developing from the
present society and from its very contrasts by the laws inherent in its
historic development, will end in an association without class
antagonisms; which will have for its consequence that regulated
production will eliminate from life the element of chance which, thus
far, has been revealed in history as a multiform cause of accidents and
incidents. But that is the future, and it is neither the present nor the
past. If we propose to ourselves, on the contrary, to penetrate into the
historic events which have developed up to our own times, by taking, as
we do, for a guiding thread the variations of the forms of the
underlying economic structure up to the simplest datum in the variations
of the tool of production, we must become fully conscious of the
difficulty of the problem which we are setting ourselves: because here
we have not merely to open our eyes and behold, but to make a supreme
effort of thought, with the aim of triumphing over the multiform
spectacle of immediate experience to reduce its elements into a genetic
series. That is why I said that, in particular investigations, we must
ourselves start from those groups of apparently isolated facts, and
from this heterogeneous mass, in a word, from that empirical study,
whence arose the belief in factors, which afterwards became a

It is useless to attempt at counterbalancing these essential
difficulties by the metaphorical hypothesis, often equivocal, and after
all of a purely analogical value, of the so-called social organism. It
was necessary too that the mind should pass through even this
hypothesis, which so shortly became phraseology pure and simple. It
indeed prepares the way for the comprehension of the historic movement
as springing from the laws immanent in society itself, and thereby
excludes the arbitrary, the transcendental and the irrational. But the
metaphor has no further application; and the particular, critical and
circumstantial research into historic facts is the sole source of that
concrete and positive knowledge which is necessary to the complete
development of economic materialism.


Ideas do not fall from heaven, and nothing comes to us in a dream. The
change in the ways of thinking, lately produced by the historic doctrine
which we are here examining and commenting upon, takes place at first
slowly and afterwards with an increasing rapidity, precisely in that
period of human development, in which were realized the great
politico-economic revolutions, that is to say, in that epoch which,
considered in its political forms, is called liberal, but which,
considered in its basis, by reason of the domination of capital over the
proletarian mass, is the epoch of anarchical production. The change in
ideas, even to the creation of new methods of conception, has reflected
little by little the experience of a new life. This, in the revolutions
of the last two centuries, was little by little despoiled of the
mythical, religious and mystical envelopes in proportion as it acquired
the practical and precise consciousness of its immediate and direct
conditions. Human thought, also, which sums up this life and theorizes
upon it, has little by little been plundered of its theological and
metaphysical hypotheses to take refuge finally in this prosaic
assertion: in the interpretation of history we must limit ourselves to
the objective co-ordination of the determining conditions and of the
determined effects. The materialistic conception marks the culminating
point of this new tendency in the investigation of the historic-social
laws, in so far as it is not a particular case of a generic sociology,
or of a generic philosophy of the State, of law, and of history, but the
solution of all doubts and all uncertainties which accompany the other
forms of philosophizing upon human affairs, and the beginning of their
integral interpretation.

It is thus an easy thing, especially in the way it has been done by
certain shallow critics, to find precursors for Marx and Engels, who
first defined this doctrine in its fundamental points. And when did it
ever occur to any of their disciples, even of the strictest school, to
represent these two thinkers as miracle-workers? What is more, if we
wish to go on a search after the premises of the logical creation of
Marx and Engels, it will not suffice to stop at those who are called the
precursors of socialism, Saint-Simon for example, and his predecessors,
or the philosophers, particularly Hegel, or the economists who had laid
bare the anatomy of the society which produces commodities; we must go
back to the very formation of modern society, and then at last declare
triumphantly that the theory is a plagiarism from the things that it

The truth is that the real precursors of the new doctrine were the facts
of modern history, which has become so transparent and so explanatory of
itself since the accomplishment in England of the great industrial
revolution at the end of the eighteenth century, and since the great
social upheaval took place in France. These things, _mutatis mutandis_,
have subsequently been reproduced, in various combinations and in milder
forms, throughout the whole civilized world. And what else is our
thought at bottom if not the conscious and systematic complement of
experience, and what is this last if not the reflection and the mental
elaboration of the things and the processes which arise and unfold
either outside our volition, or through the work of our activity; and
what is genius but the individualized, derived and acute form of
thought, which arises through the suggestion of experience, in many men
of the same epoch, but which remains in most of them fragmentary,
incomplete, uncertain, wavering and partial?

Ideas do not fall from heaven; and what is more, like the other products
of human activity, they are formed in given circumstances, in the
precise fullness of time, through the action of definite needs, thanks
to the repeated attempts at their satisfaction, and by the discovery of
such and such other means of proof which are, as it were, the
instruments of their production and their elaboration. Even ideas
involve a basis of social conditions; they have their technique; thought
also is a form of work. To rob the one and the other, ideas and thought,
of the conditions and environment of their birth and their development,
is to disfigure their nature and their meaning.

To show how the materialistic conception of history arises precisely in
given conditions, not as a personal and tentative opinion of two
writers, but as the new conquest of thought by the inevitable suggestion
of a new world which is in process of birth, that is to say the
proletarian revolution, that was the object of my first essay, "In
Memory of the Communist Manifesto." That is, to repeat, a new historic
situation found its complement in its appropriate mental instrument.

To imagine now that this intellectual production might have been
realized at any time and at any place, would be to take absurdity for
the ruling principle in research. To transport ideas arbitrarily from
the basis and the historic conditions in which they arise to any other
basis whatever, is like taking the irrational for the basis of
reasoning. Why should one not fancy equally that the ancient city, in
which arose Greek art and science and Roman law, remaining all the while
an ancient democratic city, with slavery, might at the same time acquire
and develop all the conditions of modern technique? Why not believe that
the trade guild of the Middle Ages, remaining all the while on its
inflexible mould, should take its way to the conquest of the world
market without the conditions of unlimited competition, which actually
began by its destruction and negation? Why not imagine a fief which,
remaining a fief all the while, should become a factory producing
commodities exclusively? Why could not Michel de Lando have written the
Communist Manifesto? Why could we not also believe that the discoveries
of modern science could have proceeded from the brains of men of no
matter what other time and place, that is to say, before determined
conditions had given rise to determined needs, and before repeated and
accumulated experiences should have provided for the satisfaction of
these needs?

Our doctrine assumes the broad, conscious and continuous development of
modern technique, and with it that society which produces commodities in
the antagonisms of competition, that society which as a first condition
and an indispensable means for its own perpetuation presupposes
capitalist accumulation in the form of private property; that society
which continually produces and reproduces proletarians, and which if it
is to perpetuate itself, must incessantly revolutionize its tools, and
with them the State and its legal gearings. This society, which, by the
very laws of its movement, has laid bare its own anatomy, produces by
its reaction the materialistic conception. Even as it has produced in
socialism its positive negation, so it has engendered in the new
historic doctrine its ideal negation. If history is the product, not
arbitrary, but necessary and normal, of men in so far as they are
developing, and if they are developing in so far as they are making
social experiments, and if they are experimenting in so far as they are
making improvements in their labor, which accumulate and preserve
products and results, the phase of development in which we live cannot
be the last and final phase, and the contrasts which are intimately
bound to it and inherent in it are the productive forces of new
conditions. And this is how the period of the great economic and
political revolutions of these last two centuries has ripened in the
mind these two concepts: the immanence and constancy of the _processus_
in historic facts, and the materialist doctrine, which is at bottom the
objective theory of social revolutions.

It is beyond doubt that to reascend through the centuries and
reconstruct in our thought the development of social ideas to the extent
that we find their documents in writers, is something always very
instructive, and serving especially to add to our critical knowledge of
our concepts as of our ways of thinking. Such a return of the mind over
its historic premises, when it does not lead us astray into the
empiricism of a boundless erudition, and does not lead us to set up
hastily vain analogies, serves without any doubt to give suppleness and
a persuasive force to the forms of our scientific activity. In the sum
of our science we find again, in fact and through the approximative
continuity of tradition, the excellence of all that has been found,
conceived and proved, not only in modern times but even in ancient
Greece, where first begins precisely and in a definite fashion for the
human race the orderly development of conscious, reflective and
methodical thought. It would be impossible to take a single step in
scientific research without employing means long ago found and tried,
such for example as logic and mathematics. To think otherwise would be
to assume that each generation must begin over again all the work done
since the childhood of humanity.

But it was not given either to the ancient authors in the limited circle
of their urban republics, nor to the writers of the Renaissance, always
drifting between an imaginary return to antiquity and the need of
grasping intellectually the new world in process of birth, to arrive at
the precise analysis of the last elements from which society results,
and which the incomparable genius of Aristotle did not see, and did not
understand beyond the limits within which passes the life of the typical

The investigation of the social structure, considered in its manners of
origin and _processus_, became active and penetrating and took on
multiform aspects in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when
economics took shape and when under the different names of "Natural
Rights," "The Spirit of the Laws," or "The Social Contract," it was
attempted to resolve into causes, into factors and into logical and
psychological data, the multiform and often obscure spectacle of a life
in which was preparing the greatest revolution ever known. These
doctrines, whatever may have been the subjective intention and spirit of
the authors--as in the contrasting cases of the conservative Hobbes and
the proletarian Rousseau--were all revolutionary in their substance and
their effects. Under all of them is always found, as a stimulus and
motive, the material and moral needs of a new age, which, by reason of
historic conditions, were those of the bourgeoisie. Thus it was
necessary to wage war in the name of liberty upon tradition, the Church,
privileges, fixed classes, that is to say, the orders and conditions,
and consequently upon the State which was or appeared to be their
author, and then upon the special privileges of commerce, the arts,
labor and science. And man was studied in an abstract fashion, that is
to say, individuals taken separately, emancipated and delivered by a
logical abstraction from their historic connection and from every social
necessity: in the mind of many the concept of society was reduced to
atoms, and it even seemed natural to the greatest number to believe that
society is only the sum of the individuals composing it. The abstract
categories of individual psychology sufficed for the explanation of all
human facts; and this is how in all these systems, nothing is spoken of
but fear, self-love, egoism, voluntary obedience, tendency toward
happiness, the original goodness of man, the freedom of contract and of
the moral consciousness, and of the moral instinct or sense, and also
many other similar abstract and generic things, as if they were
sufficient to explain history, and to create a new history out of its

By the fact that all society was entering upon an acute crisis, its
horror at the antique, at what was superannuated, at what was
traditional and had been organized for centuries, and the presentiment
of a renovation of all human life, finally produced a total eclipse of
the ideas of historic necessity and social necessity, that is to say, of
those ideas which, barely indicated by the ancient philosophers, and so
developed in our century, had at this period of revolutionary
rationalism only rare representatives, like Vico, Montesquieu, and, in
part, Quesnay. In this historic situation, which gave birth to a
literature that was nimble, destructive and very popular, is found the
reason for what Louis Blanc with a certain emphasis has called
individualism. Later some have thought they saw in this word the
expression of a permanent fact in human nature, which especially might
serve as a decisive argument against socialism.

A singular spectacle, and a singular contrast! Capital, however
produced, tended to overcome all previous forms of production, and,
breaking every bond and boundary, to become the direct or indirect
master of society, as, in fact, it has become in the greater part of the
world; hence it resulted, that apart from all forms of modern misery and
the new hierarchy in which we live, there was realized the most acute
antithesis of all history, that is to say, the existing anarchy of
production in the whole of society, and an iron despotism in the mode of
production in each workshop and each factory! And the thinkers, the
philosophers, the economists and the popularizers of the eighteenth
century saw nothing but liberty and equality! All reasoned in the same
way; all started from the same premises, which brought them to conclude
that liberty must be obtained from a government of pure administration,
or that they were democrats or even communists. The approaching reign of
liberty was before the eyes of all as a certain event, provided they
could suppress the bonds and fetters which forced ignorance and the
despotism of church and state had imposed upon men, good by nature.
These fetters did not appear to be conditions and boundaries within
which men were found by the laws of their development, and by the effect
of the antagonistic and thus uncertain and tortuous movement of history,
but simply obstacles from which the methodical use of reason was to
deliver us. In this idealism, which reached its culminating point in
certain heroes of the French Revolution, is the seed of a limitless
faith in the certain progress of the whole human race. For the first
time, the concept of humanity appeared in all its branches, unmingled
with religious ideas or hypotheses. The boldest of these idealists were
the extreme materialists, because, denying every religious fiction, they
assigned this earth as a certain domain to the necessity of happiness
provided that reason might open the way.

Never were ideas abused in so inhuman a fashion as between the close of
the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth. The lesson
of things was very hard, the saddest disillusions arose and a radical
upheaval followed in the minds of men. Facts, in a word, proved to be
contrary to all expectations; and this at first produced a profound
discouragement among the disillusioned, which, notwithstanding, gave
rise to the desire and the need of new investigations. We know that
Saint Simon and Fourier, in whom operated precisely at the beginning of
the century, in the exclusive forms of the ideas of premature genius,
the reaction against the immediate results of the politico-economic
revolution, arose resolutely, the first against the jurists, and the
second against the economists.

In fact, when once the obstacles to liberty, which had been
characteristic of other times, had been suppressed, new obstacles,
graver and more painful, had replaced them, and, as equal happiness for
all was not realized, society remained in its political form as it had
been before, an organization of inequalities. It must be, then, that
society is something autonomous, innate, a complex automaton of
relations and conditions, which defies the subjective good intentions of
each of the members who compose it, and which escapes from the illusions
and the designs of the idealists. It thus follows a course of its own
from which we may infer certain laws of process and development, but
does not suffer us to impose laws upon it. By this transformation in the
minds of men, the nineteenth century heralded itself as the century of
historic science and of sociology.

The principle of development has, indeed, since then, invaded all
domains of thought. In this century, the grammar of history has been
discovered, and thus the key has been found to explore the genesis of
myths. The embryonic traces of pre-history have been sought out, and,
for the first time, the processes of political and legal forms have been
arranged into a series. The nineteenth century heralded itself as the
century of sociology in the person of Saint Simon, in whom, as happens
with the self-taught precursors of genius, we find confused together the
germs of so many contradictory tendencies. In this aspect the
materialistic conception is a result; but it is a result which is the
complement of the whole process of formation; and as a result and a
complement it is also the simplification of all historic science and of
all sociology, because it takes us back from things derived and from
complex conditions to elemental functions. And that is brought about by
the direct suggestion of new dynamic experience.

The laws of economics, such as they are of themselves and their own
inherent force, have triumphed over all illusions and have shown
themselves to be the directing power of social life. The great
industrial revolution which was produced made it clear that social
classes, if they are not a fact of nature, are still less a consequence
of chance and of free will; they arise historically and socially in a
determined form of production. And who, in truth, has not seen the birth
under his eyes of new proletarians upon the economic ruin of so many
classes of small proprietors, small peasants and artisans; and who has
not been in a position to discover the method of this new creation of a
new social status, to which so many men were reduced and in which they
were necessarily obliged to live. Who has not been in a position to
discover that money, transformed into capital, had succeeded, in a few
years, in becoming master by the attraction which it exercises over the
labor of free men, in whom the necessity of selling themselves freely as
wage workers had been prepared long before by so many ingenious legal
processes and by violent or indirect expropriation? And who has not seen
the new cities rise around factories and create around their
circumference this desolating poverty, which is no longer the effect of
individual misfortune, but the condition and the source of wealth? And
in this new poverty were numerous women and children, arising for the
first time from an unknown existence to take their place on the page of
history as a sinister illustration of a society of equals. And who did
not feel--even if that had not been announced in the so-called doctrine
of the Rev. Malthus--that the number of guests which this mode of
economic organization can entertain, if it is sometimes insufficient for
him who, by reason of the favorable state of production, has need of
hands, is often also superabundant, and therefore finds no occupation
and becomes a source of danger? It becomes evident, also, that the rapid
and violent economic transformation which was accomplished openly in
England had succeeded there, because that country had been able to build
up for itself, as compared with the rest of Europe, a monopoly till then
unknown, and because to maintain this monopoly an unscrupulous policy
had been rendered necessary, and that permitted all, for one happy
moment, to translate into prose the ideological myth of the state, which
was to be the guardian and the preceptor of the people.

This immediate perception of these consequences of the new life was the
origin of the pessimism, more or less romantic, of the _laudatores
temporis acti_ from De Maistre to Carlyle. The satire of liberalism
invaded minds and literature at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Then begins that criticism of society, which is the first step in all
sociology. It was necessary before all else to overthrow the ideology,
which had accumulated and expressed itself in so many doctrines of the
Natural Right or the Social Contract. It was necessary to get into
contact with the facts which the rapid events of so intensive a
_processus_ imposed upon the attention in forms so new and startling.

Here appears Owen, incomparable at all points of view, but especially
for the clearness which he displayed in the determination of the causes
of the new poverty, even though he was but a child in his quest of the
means for overcoming it. It was necessary to arrive at the objective
criticism of economics, which appeared for the first time, in one-sided
and reactionary forms, in Sismondi. In this period where the conditions
of a new historic science were ripening, arose so many different forms
of socialism, utopian, one-sided or completely extravagant, which never
reached the proletarians, either because these had no political
consciousness, or if they had any, it manifested itself in sudden
starts, as in the French conspiracies and riots from 1830 to 1848, or
they kept on the political ground of immediate reforms, as is the case
with the Chartists. And nevertheless all this socialism, however
Utopian, fantastic and ideological it may have been, was an immediate
and often salutary criticism of economics--a one-sided criticism,
indeed, which lacked the scientific complement of a general historical

All these forms of criticism, partial, one-sided and incomplete had
their culmination in scientific socialism. This is no longer subjective
criticism applied to things but the discovery of the self-criticism
which is in the things themselves. The real criticism of society is
society, itself, which, by the antithetic conditions of the contrasts
upon which it rests, engenders from itself, within itself, the
contradiction, and finally triumphs over this by its passage into a new
form. The solution of the existing antitheses is the proletariat, which
the proletarians themselves know or do not know. Even as their misery
has become the condition of present society, so in their misery is the
justification of the new proletarian revolution. It is in this passage
from the criticism of subjective thought, which examines things outside
and imagines it can correct them at once, to the understanding of the
self-criticism exercised by society over itself in the immanence of its
own _processus_--it is in this only that the dialectic of history
consists, which Marx and Engels, in so far as they were materialists,
drew from the idealism of Hegel. But on the final reckoning it matters
little whether the literary men, who knew no other meaning for
dialectics than that of an artificial sophistry nor whether the doctors
and scholars who are never apt to go beyond the knowledge of particular
facts can ever account themselves for these hidden and complicated forms
of thought.

But the great economic transformation, which has furnished the materials
composing modern society, in which the empire of capitalism has arrived
at the limit of its complete development, would not have been so
immediately and so suggestively instructive, if it had not been
luminously illustrated by the bewildering and catastrophic movement of
the French Revolution. This put in evidence, like a tragedy on the
stage, all the antagonistic forces of modern society, because this
society has developed on the ruins of previous forms, and because, in so
short a time and with so hasty a march, it has traversed the phases of
its birth and its establishment.

The revolution ensued from the obstacles which the bourgeoisie had to
overcome by violence, since it appeared from evidence that the passage
from the old forms to the new forms of production--or of property, if we
borrow the language of jurists--could not be realized by the quieter
ways of successive and gradual reforms. It brought in its train the
upheaval, the friction and the intermingling of all the old classes of
the Ancient Regime, and the rapid and bewildering formation at the same
time of new classes, in the very rapid but very intensive period of ten
years, which, compared with the ordinary history of other times and
other countries, seems to us like centuries. This rapid succession of
monumental events brought to light the most characteristic moments and
aspects of the new or modern society, and that so much the more clearly
since the militant bourgeoisie had already created for itself
intellectual means and organs which had given it with the theory of its
own work the reflex consciousness of its movement.

The violent expropriation of the great part of the old property, that is
to say, of the property crystallized in fiefs, in royal and princely
domains and in mortmain, with the real and personal rights derived
therefrom, put at the disposal of the state, which by the necessity of
things had become an exceptional, terrible and all-powerful government,
an extraordinary mass of economic resources; thus, there were, on the
one side, the singular policy of the assignats which finally annulled
themselves, and on the other side, the formation of the new proprietors
who owed their fortune to the chances of gambling, to intrigue and to
speculation. And who again would have dared thereafter to swear upon the
ancient, sacred altar of property, when his recent and authentic title
rested in so evident a manner upon the knowledge of fortunate
circumstances? If it had ever passed through the head of so many
troublesome philosophers, beginning with the Sophists, that law is a
creation of man, useful and convenient, this heretical proposition might
seem thenceforth a simple and intuitive truth to the meanest of the
beggars in Paris. Had not the proletarians with all the common people
given the impulse to the revolution in general by the expected movements
of April, 1789, and did they not afterwards find themselves, as it were,
driven anew from the stage of history after the failure of the revolt of
Prairial in 1795? Had they not carried on their shoulders all the ardent
defenders of liberty and equality? Had they not held in their hands the
Paris Commune, which was, for a time, the impulsive organ of the
Assembly and of all France; had they not finally the bitter disillusion
of having created new masters for themselves with their own hands? The
bewildering consciousness of this disillusion constitutes the
psychological motive, rapid and immediate, of the conspiracy of Babeuf,
which, for that very reason, is a great fact in history, and bears in
itself all the elements of objective tragedy.

The land which fief and mortmain had, as it were, bound to a body, to a
family, to a title, now, delivered from its bonds, had become a
commodity, to serve as a basis and instrument for the production of
merchandise; so docile a commodity, that it was put into circulation in
the form of morsels of paper. And around these symbols, multiplied to
such a degree over the things that they were to represent that they
finished by no longer having any value, Business came forth, a giant,
arising, from all sides, on the shoulders of those most wretched in
their poverty, and through all the devious ways of politics; it was
especially shameless in its way of taking part in war and its glorious
successes. Even the rapid progress of technique, hastened by the urgency
of circumstances, gave material and occasion to the prosperity of

The laws of bourgeois economics, which are those of individual
production in the antagonistic field of competition, revolted furiously,
through violence and ruse, against the idealistic efforts of a
revolutionary government which, strong in its certainty of saving its
country, and stronger still in its illusion of founding for eternity the
liberty of equals, believed it was possible to suppress gambling by the
guillotine, to eliminate Business by closing the Stock Exchange and to
assure existence to the common people by fixing the maximum of prices
for objects of prime necessity. Commodities, prices and Business
reasserted with violence their own liberty against those who wished to
preach to them and impose ethics upon them.

Thermidor, whatever may have been the original intentions of the
Thermidorians, whether vile, cowardly, or misguided, was, in its hidden
causes as in its apparent effects, the triumph of Business over
democratic idealism. The constitution of 1793, which marks the extreme
limit that can be reached by the democratic ideal, was never put into
practice. The grave pressure of circumstances, the menace of the
foreigner, the different forms of internal rebellion, from the
Girondists to the Vendée, rendered necessary an exceptional government,
which was the Terror, born of fear. In proportion as dangers ceased, the
need of the terror ceased. But the democracy shattered itself against
the Business which was bringing into existence the property of new
proprietors. The constitution of the year III. consecrated the principle
of moderate liberalism, whence proceeds all the constitutionalism of the
European continent; but it was, before all else, the road leading to the
guaranty of property. To change the proprietors while preserving
property--that is the banner, the watchword, the ensign which defied
through the years from Aug. 10, 1792, the violent tumults as well as the
bold designs of those who attempted to found society upon virtue,
equality and Spartan abnegation. But the Directory was the footpath by
which the revolution arrived at the downfall of itself as an idealistic
effort; and with the Directory, which was open and professed corruption,
this banner became a reality; the proprietors are changed, but property
is saved. And, indeed, to raise upon so many ruins a stable edifice,
there was need of real force; and this was found in that strange
adventurer of incomparable genius, upon whom fortune had imperially
smiled, and he was the only one who possessed the virtue of putting an
end to this gigantic fable, because there was in him neither shadow nor
trace of moral scruples.

In this furor of events strange things happened. The citizens armed for
the defense of their country, victorious beyond its frontiers over
surrounding Europe, into which with their conquest they carried the
revolution, transformed themselves into a soldiery to oppress the
liberty of their country. The peasants who, at a moment of imperious
suggestion, produced over the feudal estates the anarchy of 1789, now
having become soldiers, or small proprietors, or small farmers, and
having remained for a moment the advance sentinels of the revolution,
fell back into the silent and stolid calm of their traditional life,
which, without risks and without movements, served as a sure basis for
the so-called social order. The petty bourgeois of the cities, and the
former members of the guilds rapidly developed, in the camp of economic
struggle, into free traffickers in manual labor. The freedom of trade
required that every product become easily merchantable, and thus it
triumphed over the last obstacle, by enforcing the demand that labor
also become for it a free commodity.

All changed at this moment. The state, which for centuries so many
million deluded ones had regarded as a sacred institution or a divine
mandate, allowed its sovereign to be beheaded by the prosaic means of a
technical machine, and thereby lost its sacred character. The state,
also, was becoming a technical appliance, which substituted bureaucracy
for hierarchy. And as the ancient titles no longer assured their
possessors the privilege of exercising diverse functions, this new state
could become the prey of all those who wished to seize upon it; it found
itself, in a word, put up at auction, with the provision that the
successful aspirants must be the solid guarantors of the property of the
new and the old proprietors. The new state, which had need of its
Eighteenth Brumaire to become an orderly bureaucracy, supported upon
victorious militarism, this state which completed the revolution in the
act which denied it, could not dispense with its scripture, and it found
it in the Civil Code, which is the golden book for a society which
produces and sells commodities. It is not in vain that generalized
jurisprudence had preserved and annotated for centuries, in the form of
a scientific discipline, this Roman law, which was, which is and ever
shall be, the typical and classical form of the law of every shopkeeping
society, until communism puts an end to the possibility of buying and

The bourgeoisie, which, by the concurrence of so many singular
circumstances effected the revolution with the concurrence of so many
other classes and semi-classes which after a short lapse of time almost
all disappeared from the political stage, seemed, in the moments of the
most violent shocks, as if moved by motives inspired by an ideology,
which would have absolutely no relation with the effects which actually
supervene and perpetuated themselves. The meaning of that is that in the
heat of struggle the bewildering change of the economic substructure
appeared, as if it were, disguised by ideals and obscure by the
interlacings of so many intentions and designs, whence sprung so many
acts of cruelty and of unparalleled heroism, so many currents of
illusion and hard facts of disenchantment. Never had so powerful a faith
in the ideal of progress sprung from human breasts. To deliver the human
race from superstition, and even from religion, to make of each
individual a citizen, or of every private man a public man; those are
its beginnings:--and then on the line of this programme to sum up, in
the short activity of a few years, an evolution which appears to the
most idealistic of to-day as the work of several centuries to come--that
is the idealism of that time! And why should it revolt at the pedagogy
of the guillotine?

That poetry, grand certainly, if not joyous, left behind it a prose that
was severe enough. And it was the prose of the proprietors who owned
their property to chance, it was that of the high finance and the newly
rich purveyors, marshals, prefects, journalists and mercenary men of
letters; it was the prose of the court of that strange man to whom the
qualities of military genius grafted upon the soul of a brigand, had,
without any doubt, conferred the right of treating as an ideologist
whoever did not admire the bare fact which, in life, as it was with him,
can be nothing else than the simple brutality of success.

The French Revolution hastened the course of history in a large part of
Europe. To it attaches, on the Continent, all that we call liberalism
and modern democracy, except in the case of the false imitation of
England, and up to the establishment of Italian unity, which was and
will remain perhaps the last act of the revolutionary bourgeoisie. This
revolution was the most vivid and most instructive example of the
fashion in which a society transforms itself and how new economic
conditions develop, and in developing co-ordinate the members of society
into groups and classes. It was the palpable proof of the fashion in
which law is found, when it is necessary for the expression and the
defense of definite relations, and how the state is created, and how
disposal is made of its means, its forces and its organs. Here is seen
how ideas arise from the fields of social institutions, and how
characters, tendencies, sentiments, volitions, that is to say, in a
word, moral forces, are produced and develop into conditions governed by
circumstances. In a word, the data of social science were, so to speak,
prepared by society itself, and it is no wonder if the revolution,
which was preceded ideologically by the most acute form of rationalistic
doctrinairism ever known, ended finally by leaving behind it the
intellectual need of an anti-doctrinaire historical and sociological
science, like that which our own century has attempted to construct.

And here, both by what we have seen and by what is known generally, it
is useless to recall anew, how Owen forms one of the same group with
Saint Simon and Fourier, and to repeat through what ways scientific
socialism took its birth. The important thing is in these two points;
that historical materialism could not arise but from the theoretical
consciousness of socialism; and that it can henceforth explain its own
origin with its own principles, which is the greatest proof of its

Thus I have justified the phrase at the beginning of this chapter: ideas
do not descend from heaven.


The road traversed thus far has enabled us to take exact account of the
precise and relative value of the so-called doctrine of factors; we know
also how its adherents come to eliminate objectively those provisional
concepts, which were and are a simple expression of a thought not fully
arrived at maturity.

And, nevertheless, it is necessary that we speak further of this
doctrine, in order to explain better and more in detail for what
reasons two of the so-called factors, the state and the law, have been
and are still considered as the principal and exclusive subject of

Historians have indeed for centuries placed in these forms of social
life the essence of development. Moreover, they have perceived this
development only in the modification of these forms. History has for
centuries been treated as a discipline relative to the
juridico-political movement and even to the political movement
principally. The substitution of society for politics is a recent thing,
and much more recent still is the reduction of society to the elements
of historical materialism. In other words, sociology is of quite recent
invention, and the reader, I hope, will have understood for himself that
I employ this term for the sake of brevity, to indicate in a general
manner the science of social functions and variations, and that I do not
hold to the specific sense given it by the Positivists.

It is more satisfactory to say that, up to the beginning of this
century, the data bearing upon usages, customs, beliefs, etc., or even
upon the _natural conditions_, which serve as the foundation and
connection for social forms, were not mentioned in political histories
unless as objects of simple curiosity, or as accessories and complements
of the narration.

All this cannot be a simple accident, and indeed is not. There is, then,
a double interest in taking account of the tardy appearance of social
history, both because our doctrine justifies yet again by this means
its reason for existence, and because we thus eliminate, in a definite
manner, the so-called factors.

If we make an exception of certain critical moments in which social
classes, by an extreme incapacity for adapting themselves to a condition
of relative equilibrium, enter into a crisis of more or less prolonged
anarchy, and if we make an exception of those catastrophes in which an
entire world disappears, as at the fall of the Roman Empire of the West,
or at the dissolution of the Califate, then it may be said that, ever
since there has been a written history, the state appears not only as
the creation of society but also as its support. The first step that
child-like thought had made in this order of considerations is in this
statement: That which governs is also that which creates.

If, moreover, we make an exception of certain short periods of democracy
exercised with the vivid consciousness of popular sovereignty, as was
the case in a few Greek cities, especially at Athens, and in a few
Italian cities, and especially Florence (the former nevertheless were
composed of free men who were proprietors of slaves, and the latter of
privileged citizens who exploited foreigners and peasants) the society
organized into a state was always composed of a majority at the mercy of
the minority. And thus the majority of men has appeared in history as a
mass sustained, governed, guided, exploited and ill treated, or at least
as a variegated conglomeration of interests, which a few had to govern,
maintaining in equilibrium the divergences, either by pressure or by

Thence the necessity of an art of government, and as it is this before
all else which strikes those who are studying collective life, it was
natural that politics should appear as the author of the social order
and as the sign of the continuity in the succession of historic forms.
To say politics is to say activity, which, up to a certain point, is
exercised in a desired direction, until the moment at least when
calculations dash themselves against unknown or unexpected obstacles. By
taking the state as an imperfect experience would suggest for the author
of society, and politics for the author of the social order, it resulted
that the narrators or philosophical historians were driven to place the
essence of history in a succession of forms, institutions and political

Whence the state drew its origin, where the basis of its performance was
found, that mattered not, as that matters not in current reasoning. The
problems of the genetic order arose, as is known, rather late. The state
is and it finds its reason for existence in its present necessity; that
is so true that the imagination has not been able to adapt itself to the
idea that it has not always existed, and so it has prolonged its
conjectural existence back to the first origins of the human race. The
gods or demigods and heroes were its founders, in mythology at least,
just as in mediæval theology the Pope is the first and therefore the
divine and perpetual source of all authority. Even in our time,
inexperienced travelers and imbecile missionaries find the state where
there is, as among savages and barbarians, nothing but the gens, or the
tribe of gentes, or the alliance of gentes.

Two things were necessary that these prejudices of the judgment should
be overcome. In the first place, it was necessary to recognize that the
functions of the state arise, increase, diminish, alter and follow each
other with the variations of certain social conditions. In the second
place, it was necessary to arrive at a comprehension of the fact that
the state exists and maintains itself in that it is organized for the
defense of certain definite interests, of one part of society against
all the rest of society itself, which must be made in such a way, in its
entirety, that the resistance of the subjects, of the ill treated and
the exploited, either is lost in multiple frictions, or is tempered by
the partial advantages, wretched though they be, to the oppressed
themselves. Politics, that art so miraculous and so admired, thus brings
us back to a very simple formula; to apply a force or a system of forces
to the total of resistances.

The first step, and the most difficult, is taken when the state has been
reduced to the social conditions whence it draws its origin. But these
social conditions themselves have been subsequently defined by the
theory of classes, the genesis of which is in the manner of the
different occupations, granted the distribution of labor, that is to
say, granted the relations which co-ordinate and bind men together in a
definite form of production.

Thenceforth the concept of the state has ceased to represent the direct
cause of the historic movement as the presumed author of society,
because it has been seen that in each of its forms and its variations
there is nothing else than the positive and forced organization of a
definite class rule, or of a definite compact between different classes.
And then by an ulterior consequence from these premises, it is finally
to be recognized that politics, as the art of acting in a desired
direction, is a comparatively small part of the general movement of
history, and that it is but a feeble part of the formation and the
development of the state itself, in which many things, that is to say,
many relations, arise and develop by a necessary compact, by a tacit
consent, or by violence endured and tolerated. The reign of the
unconscious, if by that we mean what is not decreed by free choice and
forethought, but what is determined and accomplished by a succession of
habits, customs, compacts, etc., has become very considerable in the
domain of the data which form the object of the historic sciences; and
politics, which has been taken as an explanation, has itself become
something to explain.

We know now in a positive way the reasons in consequence of which
history had necessarily to appear under a purely political form.

But this does not mean that we ought to believe that the state is a
simple excrescence, a mere accessory of the social body, or of free
association, as so many Utopians and so many ultra-liberal thinkers of
anarchist tendencies have imagined. If society has thus far culminated
in the state, it is because it has had need of this complement of force
and authority, because it is at first composed of units which are
unequal by reason of economic differentiations. The state is something
very real, a system of forces which maintain equilibrium and impose it
through violence and repression. And to exist as a system of forces it
has been compelled to develop and to establish an economic power,
whether this latter rests upon robbery, the result of war, or whether it
consists in direct property in the domain, or whether it is constituted
little by little, thanks to the modern method of public taxes, which
takes on the constitutional appearance of a self-imposed system of
taxation. It is in this economic power, so considerable in modern times,
that its capacity for acting is founded. It results, that by reason of a
new division of labor, the functions of state give rise to special
orders and conditions, that is to say, to very particular classes,
without including the class of parasites.

The state, which is and which must be an economic power that in its
defense of the ruling classes it may be furnished with means to repress,
to govern, to administer and to make war, creates in a direct or an
indirect manner an aggregation of new and particular interests, which
necessarily react upon society. Thus the state, by the fact that it has
arisen and that it maintains itself as a guaranty of the social
antitheses, which are a consequence of economic differentiations,
creates around itself a circle of persons interested directly in its

Two consequences follow therefrom. As society is not a homogeneous
whole, but a body of specialized articulations, or, rather, a multiform
complexus of objects and interests, it happens that sometimes the
directors of the state seek to isolate themselves, and by this isolation
they oppose themselves to the whole of society, and then, in the second
place, it happens that organs and functions, created first for the
advantage of all, end by no longer serving any interest but those of
groups, and permit abuses of power on the part of coteries and camorras.
Thence arise aristocracies and hierarchies born from the use of the
public power, thence arise dynasties; in the light of simple logic these
formations appear wholly irrational.

From the first beginnings of written history the state has increased or
diminished its powers, but it has never disappeared, because ever since
there have been, in the society of men unequal in consequence of
economic differentiation, reasons for maintaining and for defending,
through force or conquest, slavery, monopolies, or the predominance of
one form of production, with the domination of man over man. The state
has become, as it were, the field of an endless civil war, which is
developing always, even if it does not always show itself under the
startling form of Marius and Sylla, days of June and wars of Secession.
Within the state, the corruption of man by man has always flourished,
because, if there is no form of domination which does not meet
resistance, there are no forms of resistance which, in consequence of
the pressing needs of life, may not degenerate into a passive compact.

For these reasons, historic events, seen on the surface of the ordinary
monotonous narrative, appear like the repetition of the same type, with
few variations, like a series of kaleidoscopic pictures. We need not be
astonished if the idealistic Herbart and the caustic or pessimistic
Schopenhauer arrived at this conclusion, that there is no history, in
the sense of any actual _processus_, which is to say in common language;
history is a tiresome song.

When political history is once reduced to its quintessence, the state
remains illuminated in all its prose. Thenceforth there is no more trace
either of theological divination, nor of metaphysical
transubstantiation, so much in vogue among certain German
philosophers,--for whom the state is the Idea, the State Idea which is
realized in history, the state is the full realization of the
personality, and other stupidities of the same sort. The state is a real
organization of defense to guarantee and perpetuate a mode of
association, the foundation of which is a form of economic production,
or a compact and a transaction between forms. To sum up, the state
assumes, either a system of property, or a compact between several
systems of property. There is the foundation of all its art, the
exercise of which demands that the state itself became an economic
power, and that it also dispose of means and processes to make property
pass from the hands of some into the hands of others. When, by the
effect of an acute and violent change of the forms of production, it is
necessary to resort to an unusual and extraordinary readjustment of the
relations of property (for example, the abolition of mortmain and fiefs,
the abolition of commercial monopolies), then the old political form is
insufficient and revolution is necessary to create a new organ which may
operate the new economic transformation.

If we make an exception of the very ancient times which are unknown to
us, all history is developed in the contacts and the antagonisms of the
different tribes and communities, and thereafter of the different
nations and different states; that is to say, that the reasons for the
internal antitheses in the circle of each society are always more and
more complicated with frictions with the outside world. These two
reasons for antagonism condition each other reciprocally, but in ways
which are always varying. Often it is internal disturbance which urges a
community or a city to enter into external collisions; at other times it
is these collisions which alter the internal relations.

The principal motive for the different relations between the different
communities has been from the beginnings, even as it is to-day,
_commerce_ in the broad sense of the word, that is to say, exchange,
whether it is a matter of giving up, as in the poor tribes, merely the
surplus in exchange for other things, or whether it is a matter, as
to-day, of production on a large scale, which is carried on with the
exclusive intention of selling so as to draw from a sum of money a
larger sum of money. This enormous mass of events exterior and
interior, which accumulate and pile upon each other in history, is such
a trouble to the historians who content themselves with exploring it and
summarizing it, that they become lost in the infinite attempts at
chronological groups and bird's-eye views. Whoever, on the contrary,
knows the internal development of the different social types in their
economic structure, and who considers political events as the particular
results of the forces acting in society, ends by triumphing over the
confusion born out of the multiplicity and the uncertainty of first
impressions, and instead of a chronological or synchronous series, or a
view of the whole, he can arrive at the concrete series of a real

In the presence of these realistic conditions all the ideologies founded
on the ethical mission of the state or on any such conception, fall to
the ground. The state is, so to speak, fitted into its place, and it
remains encased, as it were, in the surroundings of the social
development, in its capacity of a form resulting from other conditions,
and in its turn, by reason of its existence, reacting naturally upon the

Here arises another question.

Will this form ever be outgrown?--or can there be a society without a
state?--or can there be a society without classes?--and if we must be
more explicit, will there ever be a form of communist production with a
distribution of labor and of tasks such that there will be no room in it
for the development of inequalities, that source of domination of man
over man?

It is in the affirmative answer to this question that _scientific
socialism_ consists, in so far as it affirms the coming of communistic
production, not as a postulate, nor as the aim of a free volition, but
as the result of the _processus_ immanent in history.

As is well known, the premise of this prevision is in the actual
conditions of present capitalist production. This, socializing
continually the mode of production, has subjected living labor more and
more with its regulations to the objective conditions of the technical
process, it has day after day concentrated the property in the means of
production more and ever more into the hands of a few, who as
stockholders, or speculators, are always found to be more and more
removed from immediate labor, the direction of which passes over to
intelligence and science. With the increased consciousness of this
situation among the proletarians, whose instruction in solidarity comes
from the actual conditions of their employment, and with the decrease of
the capacity of the holders of capital to preserve the private direction
of productive labor, a moment will come, when in one fashion or another,
with the elimination in every form of private rent, interest, profit,
the production will pass over to the collectivist association, that is
to say, will become communistic. Thus will disappear all inequalities,
except those of sex, age, temperament and capacity, that is to say, all
those inequalities will cease which engender economic classes, or which
are engendered by them, and the disappearance of classes will put an end
to the possibility of the state, as domination of man over man. The
technical and pedagogical government of intelligence will form the only
organization of society.

In this fashion, scientific socialism, in an ideal fashion at least, has
triumphed over the state; and its triumph has given it a complete
knowledge both of its mode of origin and the reasons for its natural
disappearance. It has understood it precisely because it does not rise
up against it in a one-sided and subjective fashion, as did more than
once, at different epochs, the cynics, the stoics, the epicureans of all
sorts, the religious sectaries, the visionary monks, the utopians and
finally, in our days, the anarchists of every stripe. Still more,
instead of rising up against it, scientific socialism is proposing to
show how the state continually rises up of itself against itself, by
creating in the means with which it cannot dispense, as, for example, a
colossal system of taxation, militarism, universal suffrage, the
development of education, etc., the conditions of its own ruin. The
society which has produced it will reabsorb it; that is to say, that
just as society in organizing a new form of production will eliminate
the antagonisms between capital and labor, so, with the disappearance of
proletarians and the conditions which render proletarians possible, will
disappear all dependence of men upon his fellow man in any form of
hierarchy, whatever it may be.

The terms in which the genesis and the development of the state evolve,
from its initial point of appearance in a particular community, where
economic differentiation is beginning, up to the moment where this
disappearance begins to foreshadow itself, make it henceforth
intelligible to us.

The State has been reduced till it is but a necessary complement of
certain definite economic forms, and thus the theory which would have
seen in it an independent factor in history is thenceforth forever

It is henceforth relatively easy to take account of the fashion in which
_law_ has been raised up to the rank of a decisive factor of society,
and thus of history, directly or indirectly.

Before all else, we must remember in what fashion arose this philosophic
conception of justice generalized, which is the principal foundation of
the theory which maintains that history is dominated by the progress of
independent legislation.

With the precocious dissolution of the feudal society in certain parts
of Central and Northern Italy, and with the birth of the Communes, which
were republics of production grouped in trade guilds and merchant
guilds, the Roman law was forced into a place of honor. This law
flowered anew in the Universities. It entered into a struggle with the
barbaric laws and also in part with the canon law; it was then evidently
a form of thought which answered better to the needs of the
bourgeoisie, which was beginning to develop.

In fact, considering the peculiarities of rival laws, which were either
customs of barbarous nations, or corporation privileges, or papal or
imperial concessions, this law appeared as the universality of _written
reason_. Had it not arrived at the point of regarding human personality
in its most abstract and human relations, since a certain Titius is
capable of becoming debtor and creditor, of selling and buying, of
making a cession, a donation, etc.? Roman law, although elaborated in
its last editing at the command of emperors by servile parasites,
appeared then, amid the decline of mediæval institutions, as a
revolutionary force, and as such it constituted a great step of
progress. This law, so universal that it gave the means of overthrowing
barbaric laws, was certainly a law which corresponded to human nature
considered under its generic relations; and by its opposition to private
laws and privileges it appeared as a natural law.

We know, moreover, how this ideology of natural law arose. It acquired
its greatest distinction in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries;
but it had long been prepared for by the jurisprudence which took for
its base the Roman law, whether it adopted it, revised it, or corrected

To the formation of the ideology of natural law another element
contributed, the Greek philosophy of later epochs. The Greeks, who were
the inventors of those definite arts of the mind which are sciences,
never, as is known, drew from their multiple local laws a discipline
corresponding to that which we call the science of law. On the contrary,
by the rapid progress of abstract research in the circle of their
democracies, they arrived very soon at a logical, rhetorical and
pedagogical discussion on the nature of justice, the state, the law,
penalty; and in their philosophy we may trace the rudimentary forms of
all later discussions. But it is not until later, that is to say, in the
Hellenistic epoch, when the limits of Greek life were sufficiently
enlarged to be mingled with those of the civilized world, that, in the
cosmopolitan environment which carried with it the need of searching in
each man for the generic man, the rationalism of justice arose--of
justice or of natural right in the form given it by the stoic
philosophy. The Greek rationalism which had already furnished a certain
formal element to the logical codification of Roman law reappeared in
the eighteenth century in the doctrine of natural right.

That ideology, whose criticism has served as an arm and an instrument
for giving a juridical form to the economic organization of modern
society, has had, consequently, various sources. Yet, in fact, this
juridical ideology reflects, in the struggle for law and against law,
the revolutionary period of the bourgeois spirit. And, although it takes
its doctrinal point of departure in a return to the traditions of the
ancient philosophy, in the generalization of Roman jurisprudence, in
everything else, and in all its development, it is completely new and
modern. Roman law, although it was generalized by scholasticism and by
modern elaboration, still remains within itself a collection of special
cases which have not been deduced according to a preconceived system,
nor preordained by the systematic mind of the legislator. On the other
hand, the rationalism of the stoics, their contemporaries and their
disciples, was a work of pure contemplation, and it produced no
revolutionary movement around it. The ideology of natural law, which
finally took the name of philosophy of law, was, on the contrary,
systematic, it started always from general formulae, it was aggressive
and polemic, and still more, it was at war with orthodoxy, with
intolerance, with privilege, with constituted bodies; in fine, it fought
for the liberties which to-day constitute the formal conditions of
modern society. It is with this ideology, which was a method of
struggle, that arose for the first time, in a typical and decisive form,
that idea that there is a law which is one and the same with reason. The
laws against which the struggle was carried on appear as deviations,
backward steps, errors.

From this faith in rational law arose the blind belief in the power of
the legislator, which grew into fanaticism at the critical moments of
the French Revolution.

Thence the belief that society as a whole is to be submitted to one
single law, equal for all, systematic, logical, consistent. Thence the
conviction that a law guaranteeing to all a legal equality, that is to
say, the privilege of contracting, guaranteed also liberty to all.

The triumph of true law assures the triumph of reason, and the society
which is regulated by a law equal for all is a perfect society!

It is useless to say that there were illusions at the bottom of these
tendencies. We all know to what this universal liberation of men was to
lead. But what is most important here is the fact that these persuasions
arose from a conception of law, which considered it as detached from the
social causes which produced it. Likewise that reason, to which these
ideologies appealed, reduced itself to relieving labor, association,
traffic, commerce, political forms and conscience from all limits and
all obstacles which prevented free competition. I have already shown in
another chapter how the great Revolution of the eighteenth century may
serve us for experience. And if there is still some one to-day who
insists on speaking of a rational law which dominates history, of a law,
in short, which would be a _factor_, instead of being a simple _fact_ in
historic revolution, that means that he is living out of our time and
that he has not understood that our liberal and equalitarian
codification has already, in fact, marked the end and the term of that
whole school of natural law.

By different ways we have arrived in this century at reducing law,
considered previously as a rational thing, into a material thing, and
thus into a thing corresponding to definite social conditions.

In the first place, the interest in history gained in extent and in
depth, and it led students to recognize that to understand the origins
of law, it was not sufficient to stop at the data of pure reason, nor at
the study of Roman law alone. Barbaric laws, the usages and customs of
nations and societies, so despised by the rationalists, have been
theoretically restored to honor. That was the only way to arrive,
through the study of the most ancient forms, at an understanding of how
the most recent forms could have been successively produced.

Codified Roman law is a very modern form; that personality, which it
assumes as a universal subject, is an elaboration of a very advanced
epoch, in which the cosmopolitanism of social relations was dominated by
a military-bureaucratic constitution. In this environment, in which a
written code of reason had been built up, there was no longer any trace
of spontaneity or popular life, there was no more democracy. This same
law, before arriving at this crystallization, had arisen and had
developed: and if we study it in its origins and in its developments,
and especially if, in this study, we employ the comparative method, we
recognize that, upon many points, it is analogous to the institutions of
inferior societies and nations. It therefore becomes evident that the
true science of law can be nothing less than the genetic history of the
law itself.

But, while the European continent had created in the codification of
civil law the type and the textbook of practical bourgeois judgment, was
there not in England another self-originating form of law, which arose
and developed in a purely practical manner, from the very conditions of
the society which produced it without system, and without the action of
methodical rationalism having any part in it? The law, which actually
exists and is applied, is therefore a much simpler and much more modest
thing than was imagined by the enthusiasts who sing the praises of
written judgment, of the empire of reason. For their defense, it must
not be forgotten that they were the ideal precursors of the great
Revolution. For ideology it was necessary to substitute the history of
legal institutions. The philosophy of law ended with Hegel; and if
objectors mention the books published since, I reply that the works
published by professors are not always the index of the progress of
thought. The philosophy of law thus became the philosophical study of
the history of law. And it is not necessary to repeat here again how
historic philosophy ended in economic materialism and in what sense
critical communism is the reversal of Hegel.

This revolution, apparently a revolution in ideas alone, is merely an
intellectual reflection of the revolutions which have been produced in
practical life.

In our century, legislating has become an epidemic; and reason enthroned
in legal ideology has been dethroned by parliaments. In these the
antitheses of class interests have taken on the form of parties; and the
parties struggle for or against definite laws; and all law appears as a
simple fact, or as a thing which it is useful or not useful to do.

The proletariat has arisen; and wherever the struggle of the laborers
has taken definite form, the bourgeois codes have been convicted of
falsehood. Written judgment has shown itself powerless to save the
wage-workers from the oscillations of the market, to guarantee women and
children against the oppressive hours of the factories, or to find an
expedient to solve the problem of forced idleness. The partial
limitation of the hours of labor has, itself alone, been the subject and
the occasion of a gigantic struggle. The small and the large
bourgeoisie, agrarians and manufacturers, advocates of the poor and
defenders of accumulated wealth, monarchists and democrats, socialists
and reactionaries, have bitterly contended over extracting profit from
the action of the public authorities and over exploiting the
contingencies of politics and parliamentary intrigue, to find the
guaranty and the defense of certain definite interests in the
interpretation of existing law, or in the creation of a new law. This
new legislation has more than once been revised, and the strangest
oscillations may be observed in it; extending from the humanitarianism
which defends the poor and even animals, to the promulgation of martial
law. Justice has been stripped of its mask and has become merely a
profane thing.

The consciousness of experience has come to us and has given us a
formula as precise as it is modest; every rule of law has been and is
the customary, authoritative, or judicial defense of a definite
interest; the reduction of law to economics is then almost immediately

If the materialistic conception finally came to furnish to these
tendencies an explicit and systematic view, it is because its
orientation has been determined by the visual angle of the proletariat.
This last is the necessary product and the indispensable condition of a
society in which all the persons are, from an abstract point of view,
equal before the law, but where the material conditions of development
and the liberties of each are unequal. The proletarians are the forces
through which the accumulated means of production reproduce themselves
and reconstitute themselves into new wealth; but they themselves live
only by enrolling themselves under the authority of capital; and from
one day to the next they find themselves out of work, impoverished and
exiles. They are the army of social labor, but their chiefs are their
masters. They are the negation of justice in the empire of law, that is
to say, that they are the irrational element in the pretended domain of

History then has not been a _processus_ for arriving at the empire of
reason in law; it has thus far been nothing else than a series of
changes in the form of subjection and servitude. History then consists
entirely in the struggle of interests, and law is but the authoritative
expression of the interests which have triumphed.

These formulæ indeed do not permit us to explain, by the immediate
examination of the various interests which are at its base, every
particular law which has appeared in history. The facts of history are
very complicated; but these general formulæ suffice to indicate the
style and the method of research which has been substituted for legal


Here I must give certain formulæ.

Granted the conditions of the development of labor and the instruments
appropriated to it, the economic structure of society, that is to say,
the form of production of the immediate means of life, determines, on an
artificial field, _in the first place and directly_, all the rest of the
practical activity of those associated, and the variation of this
activity in the _processus_ which we call history, that is to say:--the
formation, the frictions, the struggles and the erosions of the
classes;--the corresponding regulations relative to law and
morality;--and the reasons and modes of subordination and subjection of
men toward men and the corresponding exercise of dominion and authority,
in fine, that which gives birth to the State and that which constitutes
it. It determines, _in the second place_, the tendency and in great
part, _in an indirect fashion_, the objects of imagination and of
thought in the production of art, religion and science.

The products of the _first_ and of the _second stage_, in consequence of
the interests which they create, the habits which they engender, the
persons whom they group and whose spirit and inclinations they specify,
tend to fix themselves and isolate themselves as independent entities;
and thence comes that empirical view, according to which different
independent factors, having an efficacy and a rhythmic movement of their
own, contribute to form the historic _processus_ and the social
configurations which successively result from it. It is the social
classes, in so far as they consist in differentiations of interests,
which unfold in definite ways and in forms of opposition (--whence come
the friction, the movement, the process and the progress--), which have
been the factors--if it was ever necessary to employ this
expression:--the real, proper and positive factors of history, from the
disappearance of primitive communism until to-day.

The variations of the underlying (economic) structure of society which,
at first sight, show themselves intuitively in the agitation of the
passions, develop consciously in the struggles against law and for law,
and become realized in the shaking and in the ruin of a definite
political organization, have in reality their adequate expression only
in the change in the relations which exist between the different social
classes. And these relations change with the change of the relations
which previously existed between the productivity of labor and the
(legal-political) conditions of co-ordination of those who co-operate in

And finally, these connections between the productivity of labor and
the co-ordination of those who co-operate in it are changed with the
changing of the instruments--in the broad sense of the word--necessary
to production. The _processes_ and the progress of technique, as they
are the index, are also the condition of all the other _processus_ and
of all progress.

Society is for us a fact, which we cannot solve, unless it be by that
analysis which reduces the complex forms to the simpler forms, the
modern forms to the older forms: but that is to remain always,
nevertheless, in a society which exists. History is but the history of
society--that is to say, the history of the variations of human
co-operation, from the primitive horde down to the modern State, from
the immediate struggle against nature, by the means of a few very simple
tools, down to the present economic structure, which reduces itself to
these two poles; accumulated labor (capital) and living labor
(proletarians). To resolve the social _complexus_ into simple
individuals, and to reconstruct it afterwards by the acts of free and
voluntary thought; to construct, in fine, society with its reasons, is
to misunderstand the objective nature and the immanence of the historic

Revolutions, in the broadest sense of the word, and in the specific
sense of the destruction of a political organization, mark the real and
proper dates of historic epochs. Seen from afar, in their elements, in
their preparation and their effects, at long range, they may appear to
us as moments of a constant evolution, with minute variations; but
considered in themselves, they are definite and precise catastrophes,
and it is only as catastrophes that they are historic events.


Ethics, art, religion, science, are they then but products of economic
conditions?--expositions of the categories of these very
conditions?--effluvia, ornaments, emanations and mirages of material

Affirmations of this sort, announced with this nudity and crudity, have
already for some time passed from mouth to mouth, and they are a
convenient assistance to the adversaries of materialism, who use them as
a bugbear. The slothful, whose number is great even among the
intellectuals, willingly fit themselves to this clumsy acceptance of
such declarations. What a delight for all careless persons to possess,
once for all, summed up in a few propositions, the whole of knowledge,
and to be able with one single key to penetrate all the secrets of life!
All the problems of ethics, æsthetics, philology, critical history and
philosophy reduced to one single problem and freed thus from all

In this way the simpletons might reduce the whole of history to
commercial arithmetic; and finally a new and authentic interpretation of
Dante might give us the Divine Comedy illustrated with the process of
manufacturing pieces of cloth which the wily Florentine merchants sold
for their greater profit!

The truth is that the declarations which involve problems are converted
very easily into vulgar paradoxes in the heads of those who are not
accustomed to triumph over the difficulties of thought by the methodical
use of appropriate means. I shall speak here, in general terms, of these
problems, but, as it were, by aphorisms; and certainly I do not propose
to write an encyclopedia in this short essay.

And first of all, ethics.

I do not mean systems and catechisms, religious or philosophic. Both of
these have been and are above the ordinary and profane course of human
events in most cases, as Utopias are above things. Neither do I speak of
those formal analyses of ethical relations, which have been elaborated
from the Sophists down to Herbart. This is science and not life. And it
is formal science, like logic, geometry and grammar. The one who latest
and with so much profundity defined these ethical relations (Herbart),
knew well that ideas, that is to say, the formal points of view of the
moral judgment, are in themselves powerless. Therefore he put into the
circumstances of life and into the pedagogic formation of character the
reality of ethics. He might have been taken for Owen if he had not been
a retrograde.

I am speaking of that ethics which exists prosaically and in an
empirical and current fashion, in the inclinations, the habits, the
customs, the counsels, the judgments and the appreciations of ordinary
mortals. I am speaking of that ethics which as suggestion, as impulse
and as bridle, appears in different degrees of development, and more or
less unmistakably, although in a fragmentary fashion, among all men; by
the very fact of association because each occupies a definite position
in the association, they naturally and necessarily reflect upon their
own works and the works of others, and they conceive obligations and
appreciations and all the first elements of general precepts.

There is the _factum_; and what is most important is that this _factum_
appears to us varied and multiple in the different conditions of life,
and variable through history. This _factum_ is the _datum_ of research.
Facts are neither true nor false, as Aristotle already knew. Systems, on
the contrary, theologic or rational, may be true or false because they
aim to comprehend, explain and complete the fact, by bringing that fact
to another fact, or integrating it with another.

Some points of preliminary theory are henceforth settled, in all that
concerns the interpretation of this _factum_.

The will does not choose of itself, as was supposed by the inventors of
_free will_, that product of the impotency of the psychological analysis
not yet arrived at maturity. Volitions, in so far as they are facts of
consciousness, are particular expressions of the psychic mechanism.
They are a result, first of necessities, and then, of all that precedes
them up to the very elementary organic impulse.

Ethics does not place itself nor does it engender itself. There is no
such universal foundation of the ethical relations varied and variable,
as that spiritual entity which has been called the _moral conscience_,
one and unique for all men. This abstract entity has been eliminated by
criticism like all other such entities, that is to say, like all the
faculties of the soul. What a beautiful explanation of the fact, in
truth, to assume the generalization of the fact itself as a means of
explanation. People reasoned thus: the sensations, the perceptions, the
intuitions at a certain moment are found imagined, that is to say,
changed in their form, therefore the imagination has transformed them.
To this class of inventions belongs the _moral conscience_, which was
accepted as a postulate of the ethical estimates, which are always
conditioned. The moral conscience which really exists is an empirical
fact; it is an index or a summary of the relative ethical formation of
each individual. If there can be in it material for science, this cannot
explain the ethical relations by means of the conscience, but the very
thing it needs is to understand how that conscience is formed.

If volitions are derived, and if morality results from the conditions of
life, ethics, in its completeness, is but a formation; its problem is
altogether pedagogic.

There is a pedagogy which I will call individualistic and subjective,
which, granted the generic conditions of human perfectibility,
constructs abstract rules by which men, who are still in a period of
formation, may be led to be strong, courageous, truthful, just,
benevolent, and so on through the entire extent of the cardinal or
secondary virtues. But again, can subjective pedagogy construct of
itself a social background upon which all these beautiful things ought
to be realized? If it constructs it, it simply elaborates a Utopia.

And, in truth, the human race, in the rigid course of its development,
never had time nor occasion to go to the school of Plato or of Owen, of
Pestalozzi or Herbart. It has done as it has been forced to do.
Considered in an abstract manner, all men can be educated and all are
perfectible; as a matter of fact, they have always been perfected and
instructed as much as and in the measure that they could, granted the
conditions of life in which they were obliged to develop. It is here
precisely that the word environment is not a metaphor, and that the use
of the word compact is not metaphorical. Real morality always presents
itself as something conditioned and limited, which the imagination has
sought to outgrow, by constructing Utopias, and by creating a
supernatural pedagogue, or a miraculous redemption.

Why should the slave have had the ways of seeing and the passions and
the sentiments of the master whom he feared? How could the peasant
relieve himself of his invincible superstitions, to which he was
condemned by his immediate dependence upon nature and his mediate
dependence upon a social mechanism unknown to him, and by his blind
faith in the priest, who stands to him as a magician and sorcerer. In
what fashion could the modern proletarian of the great industrial
cities, exposed continuously to the alternatives of misery or
subjection, how could he realize that way of living, regulated and
monotonous, which was the one suited to the members of the trade guilds,
whose existence seemed imbedded in a providential plan? From what
intuitive elements of experience could the hog merchant of Chicago, who
furnishes Europe with so many products at a cheap rate, extract the
conditions of serenity and intellectual elevation which gave to the
Athenian the qualities of the noble and good man, and to the Roman
citizen, the dignity of heroism? What power of docile Christian
persuasion will extract from the souls of the modern proletarians their
natural reasons of hate against their determined or undetermined
oppressors? If they wish that justice be done, they must appeal to
violence; and before the love of one's neighbor as a universal law can
appear possible to them, they must imagine a life very different from
the present life, which makes a necessity of hatred. In this society of
differentiations, hatred, pride, hypocrisy, falsehood, baseness,
injustice and all the catechism of the cardinal vices and their
accessories make a sad appendage to the morality, equal for all, upon
which they constitute the satire.

Ethics then reduces itself for us to the historical study of the
subjective and objective conditions of how morality develops or meets
obstacles to its development. In this only, that is to say, within these
limits, we can recognize some value in the affirmation that morality
corresponds to the social situations, and, _in the last analysis_, to
the economic conditions. Only an idiot could believe that the individual
morality of each one is proportionate to his individual economic
situation. That is not only empirically false, but intrinsically
irrational. Granted the natural elasticity of the psychic mechanism, and
also the fact that no one lives so shut up in his own class that he does
not undergo the influence of other classes, of the common environment
and of the interlacing traditions, it is never possible to reduce the
development of each individual to the abstract and generic type of his
class and his social status. We are dealing there with the phenomena of
the mass, of those phenomena which form, or should form, the objects of
_moral statistics_: the discipline which has thus far remained
incomplete, because it has taken for the objects of its combinations
groups which it creates of itself by the addition of numbers of cases
(for example, adulteries, thefts, homicides) and not the groups which,
as classes, conditions, or situations exist really, that is to say,

To recommend morality to men while assuming or ignoring their
conditions, this was hitherto the object and the class of argument of
all the catechists. To recognize that these are given by the social
environment, that is what the communists oppose to the utopia and the
hypocrisy of the preachers of morality. And as they see in morality not
a privilege of the elect, nor a gift of nature, but a result of
experience and education, they admit human perfectibility through
reasons and arguments which are, in my opinion, more moral and more
ideal than those which have been given by the ideologists.

In other words, man develops, or produces himself, not as an entity
generically provided with certain attributes, which repeat themselves,
or develop themselves, according to a rational rhythm, but he produces
and develops himself as at once cause and effect, as author and
consequence, of certain definite conditions, in which are engendered
also definite currents of ideas, of opinions, of beliefs, of
imaginations, of expectations, of maxims. Thence arise ideologies of
every sort, as also the generalization of morality in catechisms, in
canons and in systems. We must not be surprised if these ideologies,
once arisen, are afterwards cultivated alone by themselves, if they
finally appear, as it were, detached from the living field whence they
took their birth, nor if they hold themselves above man as imperative
rules and models.

The priests and the doctrinaires of every sort have given themselves
for centuries to this labor of abstraction, and have forced themselves
to maintain the resulting illusions. Now that the positive sources of
all ideologies have been found in the mechanism of life itself, we must
explain realistically their mode of generation. And as that is true of
all ideologies, it is true also and, in particular of those which
consist in projecting ethical estimates beyond their natural and direct
limits, making of them anticipations of divine announcements or
presuppositions of universal suggestions of conscience.

Therein lies the object of the special historic problems. We cannot
always find the tie which unites certain ethical ideas to practical
definite conditions. The concrete social psychology of past times often
remains impenetrable to us. Often the commonest things remain for us
unintelligible, for example, the animals considered as unclean, or the
origin for the repugnance at marriage between persons of remote degrees
of relationship. A prudent course of study leads us to conclude that the
motives of many details will remain always concealed. Ignorance,
superstition, singular illusions, symbolisms, these with many others are
causes of that unconscious element, often found in customs, which now
constitutes for us the unknown and the unknowable.

The principal cause of all difficulty is precisely in the tardy
appearance of what we call reason, so that the traces of the proximate
motives of ideas have been lost or have remained enveloped in the ideas

On the subject of science we can be much more brief.

For a long time history has been made in an artless fashion. Granted and
admitted that the different sciences have their statements in manuals
and encyclopedias, it seemed sufficient to work out chronologically the
appearance of the different formulas, resolving the total of the
systematic summary into the elements which have successively served to
compose it. The general presupposition was simple enough; underneath
this chronology is the rational conception which develops and

This method, if so it could be called, had within itself a certain
disadvantage; it permitted us at best to understand how, one stage of
science being granted, another stage of science may be derived from it
by reason, but it did not permit us to discern by what condition of
facts men were driven to discover science for the first time, that is to
say, to reduce considered experience into a new and definite form. The
question was, then, to find why there is an actual history of science,
to find the origin of the scientific necessity, and what unites in a
genetic fashion that necessity to our necessities in the continuity of
the social _processus_.

The great progress of modern technique, which really constitutes the
intellectual substance of the bourgeois epoch, has worked, among other
miracles, this one also, of revealing to us for the first time the
practical origin of the _scientific attitude_. (We can never forget the
Florentine Academy, which produced this phrase, when Italy was in the
twilight of its past grandeur and when modern society was in the dawn of
the great industry.) Henceforth we are in a position to take up the
guiding thread of what, by abstraction, is called the scientific spirit;
and no one is any longer astonished at finding that everything in
scientific discoveries has come about, as was the case in other
primitive times, when the clumsy elementary geometry of the Egyptians
arose from the necessity of measuring the fields exposed to the annual
inundations of the Nile, and when the periodicity of these inundations
suggested, in Egypt and in Babylon, the discovery of the rudiments of
the astronomical movements.

It is certainly true that when science is once created and partially
ripened, as had already happened in the Hellenic period, the work of
abstraction, of deduction and of combination continues among scientists
in such a way that it possibly obliterates the consciousness of the
social causes of the first production of science itself. But if we
examine in their main features the epochs of the development of science,
and if we confront the periods which the ideologists would characterize
as periods of progress and of retrogression of intelligence, we perceive
clearly the social reason for the impulses, sometimes increasing,
sometimes decreasing, toward scientific activity. What need had the
feudal society of Western Europe for this ancient science, which the
Byzantines preserved, at least materially, while the Arabs, free
agriculturists, industrious artisans, or skillful merchants, had
succeeded in increasing it a little. What is the Renaissance, if not the
joining of the initiatory movement of the bourgeoisie to the traditions
of ancient learning, which had become usable? What is all the
accelerated movement of scientific knowledge, since the seventeenth
century, but the series of acts accomplished by intelligence, refined by
experience, to assure human labor, in the forms of an improved
technique, the dominion over natural forces and conditions? Thence
arises the war against darkness, superstition, the Church, religion;
thence arise naturalism, atheism, materialism; thence the installation
of the domain of reason. The bourgeois epoch is the epoch of minds in
full play. (Vico.) It is worth remembering that this government of the
Directory, which was the prototype and the compendium of all liberal
corruption, was the first to introduce in the University and at the
Academy in a formal and solemn fashion the science of free inquiry with
Lamark! This science, which the bourgeois epoch has, through its
inherent conditions, stimulated and made to grow like a giant, is the
only heritage of past centuries which communism accepts and adopts
without reserve.

It would not be useful to stop here for the discussion of the so-called
antithesis between science and philosophy. If we accept those fashions
of philosophizing which are confounded with mysticism and theology,
philosophy never means a science or doctrine separate from its
appropriate and particular things, but it is simply a degree, a form, a
stage of thought with relation to the things which enter into the domain
of experience. Philosophy is, then, either a generic anticipation of the
problems which science has still to elaborate specifically, or a summary
and a conceptual elaboration of the results at which the sciences have
already arrived. As for those who, that they may not appear behind the
times, talk now of scientific philosophy, if we do not wish to stop over
the humorous element that there is in that expression, it will suffice
to say that they are simply fools.

I said some pages back, in my statement of formulas, that the economic
structure determines in the second place the direction, and in great
part and indirectly, the objects of imagination and of thought in the
production of art, of religion and of science. To express this
otherwise, or to go further, would be to put one's self voluntarily on
the road toward the absurd.

Before all else, in this formula, we are opposing the fantastic opinion,
that art, religion and science are subjective developments and
historical developments of a pretended artistic, religious or scientific
spirit, which would go on manifesting itself successively through its
own rhythm of evolution, favored or retarded on this side or that by
material conditions. By this formula, it is desired to assert, moreover,
the necessary connection, through which every fact of art and of
religion is the exponent, sentimental, fantastic and thus derived, of
definite social conditions. If I say _in the second place_, it is to
distinguish these products from the facts of legal-political order which
are a true and proper projection of economic conditions. And if I say
_in great part and indirectly the objects_ of these activities, it is to
indicate two things: that in artistic or religious production the
mediation from the conditions to the products is very complicated, and
again that men, while living in society, do not thereby cease to live
alone by themselves in nature, and to receive from it occasion and
material for curiosity and for imagination.

After all, this is all reduced to a more general formula; man does not
make several histories at the same time, but all these alleged different
histories (art, religion, etc.) make up one alone. And it is not
possible to take account of that clearly except at the characteristic
and significant moment of the production of new things, that is to say
in the periods which I will call revolutionary. Later, the acceptance of
the things that have been produced, and the traditional repetition of a
definite type, obliterated the sense of the origins of things.

Try, if you will, to detach the ideology of the _fables_ which are at
the foundation of the Homeric poems, from that moment of historic
evolution where we find the dawn of Aryan civilization in the basin of
the Mediterranean, that is to say, from that phase of the higher
barbarism in which arises, in Greece and elsewhere, the epic. Or try to
imagine the birth and the development of Christianity elsewhere than in
Roman cosmopolitanism, and otherwise than by the work of those
proletarians, those slaves, those unfortunates, those desperate ones,
who had need of the redemption of the Apocalypse and of the promise of
the Kingdom of God. Find, if you will, the ground for supposing that in
the beautiful environment of the Renaissance the romanticism should
begin to appear, which scarcely appeared in the decadent Torquato Tasso;
or that one might attribute to Richardson or to Diderot the novels of
Balzac, in whom appears, as a contemporary of the first generation of
socialism and sociology, the _psychology of classes_. Far back, farther,
farther, at the first origins of the mythical conceptions, it is evident
that Zeus did not assume the characters of father of gods and men until
the power of the _patria potestas_ was already established, and that
series of _processus_ began which culminated in the State. Zeus thus
ceases to be what was at first the simple _divus_ (brilliant) or the
Thunderer. And it is to be observed that at an opposite point of
historic evolution, a great number of thinkers of the past century
reduced to a single abstract God, who is a simple regent of the world,
all that variegated image of the unknown and transcendental type,
developed in so great a wealth of mythological, Christian or pagan
creations. Man felt himself more at home in nature, thanks to
experience, but felt himself better able to penetrate the gearing of
society, the knowledge of which he possessed in part. The miraculous
dissolved in his mind, to the point where materialism and criticism
could afterwards eliminate that poor remnant of transcendentalism,
without taking up war against the gods.

There is certainly a history of ideas; but this does not consist in the
vicious circle of ideas that explain themselves. It lies in rising from
things to the idea. There is a problem; still more, there is a multitude
of problems, so varied, multiple, multiform and mingled are the
projections which men have made of themselves and of their
economic-social conditions, and thus of their hopes and their fears, of
their desires and their deceptions, in their artistic and religious
concepts. The method is found, but the particular execution is not easy.
We must above all guard against the scholastic temptation of arriving by
deduction at the products of historic activity which are displayed in
art and in religion. We must hope that philosophers like Krug, who
explained the pen with which he wrote by a process of dialectic
deduction, have remained forever buried in the notes of Hegel's logic.

Here I must state certain difficulties.

Before attempting to reduce secondary products (for example, art and
religion) to the social conditions which they idealize, one must first
acquire a long experience of specified social psychology, in which the
transformation is realized. Therein consists the justification of that
sum of relations, which is designated in another form of language, under
the name of Egyptian _world_, Greek _consciousness_, _spirit_ of the
Renaissance, _dominant ideas_, _psychology of nations_, of society or of
classes. When these relations are established, and men have become
accustomed to certain conceptions and certain modes of belief or of
imagination, the ideas transmitted by tradition tend to become
crystallized. Thus they appear as a force which resists new formations;
and as this resistance shows itself through the spoken word, through
writing, through intolerance, through polemics, through persecution, so
the struggle between the new and the old social conditions takes on the
form of a struggle between ideas.

In the second place, through the centuries of history properly
so-called, and as a consequence of the heredity of the pre-history of
savagery and of the conditions of subjection and those of inferiority in
which the majority of men were and are placed, resulted acquiescence in
what is traditional, and the ancient tendencies are perpetuated as
obstinate survivals.

In the third place, as I have said, men living socially, do not cease to
live also in nature. They are not, of course, bound to nature as animals
are, because they live on an artificial groundwork. Every one
understands, moreover, that a house is not a cave, that agriculture is
not natural pasturage, and that pharmacy is not exorcism. But nature is
always the immediate subsoil of the artificial groundwork, and it is the
environment which contains us. The industrial arts have put between us
social animals, and nature, certain intermediaries which modify, set
aside or remove the natural influences; but it has not for all that
destroyed the efficacy of these, and we continually feel their effects.
And even as we are born men or women, as we die almost always in spite
of ourselves, and as we are dominated by the instinct of generation, so
we also bear in our temperament certain special conditions which
education in the broad sense of the word, or social compact, can modify,
it is true, within certain limits, but which they can never suppress.
These conditions of temperament, repeated in infinite cases throughout
the centuries, constitute what is called the race. For all these
reasons, our dependence upon nature, although it has diminished since
prehistoric times, continues in our social life, just as the food which
the sight of nature affords to the curiosity and the imagination
continues also in our social life. Now these effects of nature, and the
sentiments immediate or mediate which result from it, although they have
been perceived, since history began, only on the visual angle which is
given us by the conditions of society, never fail to reflect themselves
in the products of art and of religion, and that adds to the
difficulties of a realistic and complete interpretation of both.


In employing this doctrine as a new principle of research, as a precise
means of defining our position, and as a visual angle, will it really be
possible finally to arrive at a new narrative history? It is not
possible to make an affirmative answer in general to this generic
demand. Because, in fact, if we assume that the critical communist, the
sociologist of economic materialism, or as he is commonly called, the
Marxist, has the necessary critical preparation, the habit of historical
study, and also the gift required for an orderly and vivacious
narration, there is no reason for affirming that he cannot write
history, as heretofore the partisans of all other political schools have
written it.

We have the example of Marx, and there is an argument from fact which
admits of no reply. But he was the first and the principal author of the
decisive concepts of this doctrine, reducing it at once into an
instrument of political orientation, in his character of an incomparable
publicist, during the revolutionary period of 1848 to 1850. And then he
applied it with the greatest precision in that essay entitled Eighteenth
Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, of which it may be said today, at a great
distance, and after so many publications, if we except certain
infinitesimal details and certain false forecasts, that it would be
possible to make neither corrections nor important complements. I will
not repeat, since I am not writing a bibliography, the list of the
different writings of Marx or Engels--of which we have so many attempts
from the Peasants' War (1850) down to his posthumous writings on The
Present Unity of Germany--which are an application of the doctrine, nor
those of their successors and of the popularizers of scientific
socialism. Even in the socialist press we may read, from time to time,
valuable attempts at explanation of certain political events, in which
is found, precisely by reason of historic materialism, a clearness of
vision which would be sought in vain among the writers and the
disputants who have not yet torn away the fantastic veils and
ideological envelopes of history.

Here is not the place to take up the defense of an abstract thesis, as
an advocate would do. It is evident, nevertheless, in all the histories
which have been written up to the present time, that there is always at
bottom, if not in the explicit intentions of the writers, certainly in
their spirit, a tendency, a principle, a general view of life; and so
this doctrine, which has enabled us to study the social structure in an
objective manner, must finally direct with precision the researches of
history, and must end in a narrative complete, transparent and integral.

Helps are not lacking.

_Economics_, which, as everyone sees it today, had its birth and
development as the science of bourgeois production, after being puffed
up with the illusion of representing the absolute laws of all forms of
production, has through the dear school of experience entered since, as
everyone knows, upon a period of self-criticism. Just as this
self-criticism gave birth, on one side, to critical communism, so on the
other side it has given birth, through the labor of the calmest, the
wisest and the most prudent of the academic tradition, to the
_historical school of economic phenomena_. Thanks to this school, and
through the effect of the application of the descriptive and comparative
methods, we are henceforth in possession of a vast sum of knowledge on
the different historical forms of _economics_, from the most complex
facts and those best specified through essential differences of types,
down to the special domain of a cloister or a trade guild of the Middle
Ages. The same thing has taken place with _statistics_, which, by the
indefinite combination of its sources, succeeds now in throwing light,
with a sufficient approximation, upon the movement of population in past

These studies, certainly, are not made in the interest of our doctrine,
and oftener than not they are made in a spirit hostile to socialism;
something not observed, we may say in passing, by those foolish readers
of printed papers who so often confuse _economic history_, _historical
economics_, and _historical materialism_. But these studies, apart from
the materials which they gather, are remarkable in that they witness the
progress which is in course of making the _internal history_ which,
little by little, is taking the place of the _external history_ with
which, for centuries, the men of letters and artists were occupied.

A good part of these materials that have been gathered must always be
submitted to new corrections, as for that matter happens in every domain
of empirical knowledge, which oscillates continually between what is
held for certain and what is simply probable, and what must, later, be
integrated or eliminated.

The deductions and the combinations of the historians of economics, or
of those who relate history in general, availing themselves of the
guiding thread of economic phenomena, are not always so plausible or so
conclusive, that one does not feel the need of saying to them: All this
must be taken back and worked over. But that which is undoubted is the
fact that in this present time all writing of history tends to become a
science, or, better, a social discipline; and when that movement, now
uncertain and multiform, shall be accomplished, the efforts of the
scholars and inquirers will lead inevitably to the acceptance of
economic materialism. By this incidence of efforts and of scientific
labors, which start from points so opposite, the materialistic
conception of all history will end by penetrating men's minds as a
definite conquest of thought; and this will finally take away from
partisans and adversaries the attempt to speak _pro_ and _con_ as for
partisan theses.

Apart from the direct helps just enumerated, our doctrine has many
indirect helps, so that it can profitably employ the results of many
disciplines, in which by reason of the greater simplicity of the
relations, it has been possible more easily to make the application of
the genetic method. The typical case is furnished by glottology, and in
a more special fashion by the study which has for its object the ancient

The application of historical materialism is certainly, hitherto, very
far from that evidence and that clearness of _processus_ of analysis and
of reconstruction. It would be consequently a vain attempt to try, at
this moment, to write a summary of universal history, which should
propose to develop all the varied forms of production in order to deduce
from them afterwards all the rest of human activity, in a particular and
circumstantial fashion. In the present state of knowledge, he who should
try to give this _compendium_ of a new _Kulturgeschichte_ would do
nothing but translate into economic phraseology the points of general
orientation which, in other books, for example, in Hellwald, give it in
Darwinian phraseology.

It is a long step from the acceptance of the principle to its complete
and particular application to the whole of a vast province of facts, or
to a great succession of phenomena.

So the application of our doctrine must be kept for a moment to the
exposition and the study of definite parts of history. The modern forms
are clear to all. The economic developments of the bourgeoisie, the
manifest knowledge of the different obstacles which it has had to
overcome in the different countries, and, consequently, the development
of the different revolutions, taking this word in its broadest sense,
contribute to make our understanding of it easy. To our eyes the
pre-history of the bourgeoisie, at the moment of the decline of the
Middle Ages, is equally clear, and it would not be difficult to find,
for example, in the development of the city of Florence, an attested
series of developments, in which the economic and statistical movement
finds a perfect correspondence in the political relations and a
sufficient illustration in the contemporary development of intelligence
already reduced into prose and stripped, in great part, of ideological
illusions. Nor would it be impossible to reduce, now, under the definite
visual angle of materialism, the whole of ancient Roman history. But for
that, and particularly, for the primitive period, there are no direct
sources; they are, on the contrary, abundant in Greece, from popular
tradition, the epic, and the authentic juridical inscriptions, down to
the pragmatic studies of the historical social relations. At Rome, on
the other hand, the struggles for political rights carry with them
almost always the economic reasons upon which they rest. Thus, the
decline of definite classes, the formation of new classes, the movement
of conquest, the change of the laws and of the forms of political array,
appear to us with perfect clearness. This Roman history is hard and
prosaic; it was never clad with these ideological complements which
were suited to Greek life. The rigid prose of conquest, of planned
colonization, of institutions and of the forms of law, conquered and
devised for solving the problems arising from definite frictions and
contrasts, makes all Roman history a chain of events which follow each
other in a sequence which is grossly evident.

The true problem consists, indeed, not in substituting sociology for
history, as if the latter had been an appearance which conceals behind
it a secret reality, but in understanding history as a whole, in all its
intuitive manifestations, and in understanding it through the aid of
economic sociology. It is not a question of separating the accident from
the substance, the appearance from the reality, the phenomenon from the
intrinsic kernel, or applying any other formula used by the partisans of
any species of scholasticism, but of explaining the connection and the
_complexus_ precisely in so far as it is a connection and a _complexus_.
It is not merely a question of discovering and determining the social
groundwork, and then of making men appear upon it like so many
marionettes, whose threads are held and moved, no longer by Providence
but by economic categories. These categories have themselves developed
and are developing, like all the rest--because men change as to the
capacity and the art of vanquishing, subduing, transforming and
utilizing natural conditions; because men change in spirit and attitude
through the reaction of their tools upon themselves; because men change
in their respective and co-associated relations; and therefore as
individuals depending in various degrees upon one another. We have, in
fine, to do with history, and not with its skeleton. We are dealing with
narration and not with abstraction, with the explaining and treating of
the whole, and not merely with resolving and analyzing it; we have to
do, in a word, now, as always, with an art.

It may be that the sociologist who follows the principles of economic
materialism proposes to keep himself simply to the analysis, for
example, of what the classes were at the moment when the French
Revolution broke out, and to pass then to the classes that result from
the Revolution and survive it. In that case the titles, the indications
and the classifications of the materials to analyze are definite; they
are, for example, the city and the country, the artisan and the laborer,
the nobles and the serfs, the land which is freed from feudal charges,
and the small proprietors who came into being, commerce which frees
itself from so many restrictions, money which accumulates, industry
which prospers, etc. There is nothing to object to in the choice of this
method, which, because it follows the track of embryonic origins, was
indispensable to the preparation of historical research according to the
direction of the new doctrine.[29]

But we know that the study of embryonic origins does not suffice to
make us understand animal life, which is not a scheme, but is composed
of living beings which struggle, and in their struggle employ forces,
instincts and passions. And it is the same, _mutatis mutandis_, with men
also, in so far as they live historically. These particular men, moved
by certain passions, urged by certain circumstances, with such and such
designs, such intentions, acting in such an attempt with such an
illusion of their own, or with such a deception, of another, who,
martyrs of themselves or of others, enter on harsh contests and
reciprocal suppressions of each other--there is the real history of the
French Revolution. If, however, it is true that all history is but the
unfolding of definite economic conditions, it is equally true that it
develops only in definite forms of human activity,--whether the latter
be passionate or reflective, fortunate or unsuccessful, blindly
instinctive or deliberately heroic.

To understand the interlacings and the _complexus_ in its inner
connection and its outer manifestations; to descend from the surface to
the foundation, and then to return from the foundation to the surface;
to analyze the passions and the intentions, in their motives, from the
closest to the most remote, and then to bring back the data of the
passions and of the intentions and of their causes to the most remote
elements of a definite economic situation; there is the difficult art
which the materialistic conception must realize.

And as we must not imitate that teacher who on the bank taught his
pupils to swim by the definition of swimming, I beg the reader to await
the examples which I shall give in other essays in a real historical
narration, working over into a book which for some time I have already
been doing in my teaching.

In this way certain secondary and derivative questions are once for all
cleared up.

What, for example, is the meaning of the lives of the great men?

In these later times, answers have been given, which, in one sense or
another, have an extreme character. On the one side, there are the
extreme sociologists, on the other side the individualists who, after
the fashion of Carlyle, put the heroes into the first rank of their
history. According to some it is sufficient to show what were the
reasons, for example, of Cæsarism, and Cæsar matters little. According
to others, there are no objective reasons of classes and social
interests which suffice to explain anything; it is the great minds which
give the impulse to the whole historic movement; and history has, so to
speak, its lords and its monarchs. The empiricists of narration extract
themselves from embarrassment in a very simple fashion, putting together
at hazard men and things, objective necessities of fact and subjective

Historical materialism goes beyond the antithetical views of the
sociologists and the individualists, and at the same time it eliminates
the eclecticism of the empirical narrators.

First of all the _factum_.

Let this particular Cæsar, as Napoleon was, be born in such a year, let
him follow such a career, and find himself ready for the Eighteenth
Brumaire. All this is completely accidental with relation to the general
course of things which was pushing the new class, mistress of the field,
to save from the Revolution that which appeared to it necessary to save,
and that necessitated the creation of a bureaucratico-military
government. It was, however, necessary to find the man, or the men. But
what actually happened came about in the fashion that we know. It
depended on this fact, that it was Napoleon who directed the enterprise
and not a pitiable Monk, or a ridiculous Boulanger. And from that moment
the accident ceases to be accident, precisely because it is this
definite person who gives his imprint and physiognomy to the events,
determining the fashion or the manner in which they have unfolded.

The very fact that all history rests upon antitheses, contrasts,
struggles and wars, explains the decisive influence of certain men in
definite occasions. These men are neither a negligible accident of the
social mechanism, nor miraculous creators of what society, without them,
could have made in no other fashion. It is the very interlacings of the
antithetic conditions, which causes the fact that definite individuals,
generous, heroic, fortunate, mischievous, are called at critical moments
to say the decisive word. As long as the particular interests of the
different social groups are in such a state of tension, that all the
parties in the struggle reciprocally paralyze each other, then to make
the political gearing move, there is need of the individual
consciousness of a definite individual.

The social antitheses, which make of every human community an unstable
organization, give to history, especially when it is seen and examined
rapidly and in its main features, the character of a drama. This drama
in all its relations is repeated from community to community, from
nation to nation, from state to state, because the inner inequalities
concurring with the external differentiations, have produced and produce
the whole movement of wars, conquests, treaties, colonizations, etc. In
this drama have always appeared, in the role of leaders of society, the
men who are characterized as eminent, as great, and empiricism has
concluded from their presence that they were the principal authors of
history. To carry back the explanation of their appearance to the
general causes and the common conditions of the social structure, is a
thing which harmonizes perfectly with the data of our doctrine; but to
try to eliminate them, as certain affected objectivists of sociology
would willingly do, is pure capriciousness.

And to conclude, the partisan of historical materialism who sets himself
the task of explaining, or relating, cannot do it through schemes.

History has always received a definite form, with an infinite number of
accidents and variations. It has a certain grouping, it has a certain

It is not enough to have eliminated preventively the hypothesis of
factors, because the narrator constantly finds himself in the presence
of things which seem incongruous, independent, and self-directing. To
present the whole as a whole, and to discover in it the continuous
relations of the events which border on each other, there is the

The sum of events narrowly consecutive and precise gives the whole of
history; and this is equivalent to saying that it is all that we know of
our being, in so far as we are social beings and not simply natural


In the successive whole, and in the continuous necessity of all
historical events, is there, then, some ask, any meaning, any
significance? This question, whether it comes from the camp of the
idealists, or whether it comes to us from the mouth of the most
circumspect critics, certainly, and in all cases, demands our attention,
and requires an adequate answer.

In fact, if we stop at the premises, intuitive or intellectual, from
which is derived the conception of _progress_ as an idea which incloses
and embraces the total of the human _processus_, it is seen that these
presumptions all rest upon the mental need, which is in us, of
attributing to one or more series of events a certain sense and a
certain signification. The conception of progress, for whoever examines
it carefully in its specific nature, always implies judgments of
estimation, and therefore, there is no one who can confuse it with the
crude and bare notion of simple development, which does not contain that
increment of clue which makes us say of a thing that it is progressing.

I have already said, and, it seems to me, at sufficient length, how it
is that progress does not exist as something imperative or regulative
over the natural and immediate succession of the generations of men.
That is as intuitive as is the actual coexistence of peoples, of nations
and of states, which find themselves, at the same time, in a different
stage of development; so undeniable is the actual condition of relative
superiority and inferiority of nation as compared with nation; and again
so certain is the partial and relative retrogression which has been
produced several times in history, as Italy has exemplified for
centuries. Still more, if there is a convincing proof of how progress
must be understood in the sense of immediate law, and, to use a strong
expression, of a physical and inevitable law, it is precisely this
fact,--that social development by the very reasons of the _processus_
which are inherent in it, often leads to retrogression. It is evident,
on the other hand, that the faculty of progressing, like the possibility
of retrogressing, does not constitute, to begin with, an immediate
privilege, or an innate defect of a race, nor is either one the direct
consequence of geographical conditions. And, in fact, the primitive
centers of civilization were multiple, those centers have been removed
in the course of centuries, and finally the means, the discoveries, the
results and the impulses of a definite civilization, already developed,
are, within certain limits, communicable to all men indefinitely. In a
word, progress and retrogression are inherent in the conditions and the
rhythm of social development.

Now then, the faith in the universality of progress, which appeared with
so much violence in the eighteenth century, rests upon this first
positive fact, that men, when they do not find obstacles in external
conditions, or do not find them in those which result from their own
work in their social environment, are all capable of progress.

Moreover, at the bottom of this supposed or imagined unity of history,
in consequence of which the _processus_ of the different societies would
form one single series of progress, there is another fact, which has
offered motive and occasion for so many fantastic ideologies. If all
nations have not progressed equally, still more, if some have stopped
and have followed a backward route, if the _processus_ of social
development has not always, in every place and in all times, the same
rhythm and the same intensity, it is nevertheless certain that, with the
passage of the decisive activity from one people to another people in
the course of history, the useful products, already acquired by those
who were in decadence, have been transmitted to those who were growing
and rising. That is not so true of the products of sentiment and
imagination, which nevertheless are themselves preserved and perpetuated
in literary tradition, as of the results of thought, and especially of
the discovery and of the production of technical means, which, once
found, are communicated and transmitted directly.

Need we remind the reader that writing was never lost, although the
peoples who invented it have disappeared from historic continuity? Need
we recall again that we all have in our pockets, engraved on our
watches, the Babylonian dial, and that we make use of algebra, which was
introduced by those Arabs, whose historical activity has since been
dispersed like the sands of the desert? It is useless to multiply these
examples, because it is sufficient to think of technology and the
history of discoveries in the broad sense of the word, for which the
almost continuous transmission of the instruments of labor and
production is evident.

And after all, the provisional summaries which are called universal
histories, although they always reveal, in their aim and in their
execution, something forced and artificial, would never have been
attempted if human events had not offered to the empiricism of the
narrators a certain thread, even though subtle, of continuity.

Take for example the Italy of the sixteenth century, which is evidently
in decadence; but while it is declining, it transmits to the rest of
Europe its intellectual weapons. These are not all that pass to the
civilization which continues, but even the world market establishes
itself upon the foundation of those geographical discoveries, and those
discoveries in the naval art, which were the work of Italian merchants,
travelers and sailors. It is not only the methods of the art of war and
the refinements of political diplomacy which passed outside of Italy
(though it is only with these that men of letters ordinarily concerned
themselves), but even the art of making money, which had acquired all
the evidence of an elaborate commercial discipline, and one after the
other the rudiments of the science, upon which is founded modern
technique, and to begin with all the methodical irrigation of fields and
the general laws of hydraulics. All that is so precisely true, that an
amateur in conjectural theses might come to the point of asking himself
this question: what would have become of Italy, in this modern bourgeois
epoch, if, executing the project of the Venetian Senate (1504) of making
something which would have resembled in its effects a piercing of the
Isthmus of Suez, the Italian navy had found itself in a direct struggle
with the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean, at the very moment when the
shifting of historical activity from the Mediterranean to the ocean
prepared the decadence of Italy? But enough of fantasy!

A certain historical continuity, in the empirical and circumstantial
sense of the transmission and the successive increase of the means of
civilization, is then an incontestable fact. And, although this fact
excludes all idea of preconceived design, of intentional or hidden
finality, or pre-established harmony, and all the other whimsicalities
in regard to which there has been such a deal of speculation, it does
not exclude, for all that, the _idea of progress_, which we can utilize
as an _estimation_ of the course of human development. It is undeniable
that progress does not embrace _materially_ the succession of
generations, and that its conception implies nothing categorical,
considering that societies have also been in retrogression, but that
does not prevent this idea from serving as a guiding thread and a
_measure_ to give a meaning to the historical _processus_. There is no
common ground for critics who are prudent, in the use of specific
concepts as in the method of their application, and those poor extreme
evolutionists, who are scientists without the grammar and the principle
of science, that is to say, without logic.

As I have said several times, ideas do not fall from heaven, and even
those which, at a given moment arise from definite situations with the
impetuosity of faith and with a metaphysical garb, carry always within
themselves the index of their correspondence with the order of the
facts, of which the explanation is sought or attempted. The idea of
progress, as the unifier of history, appears with violence and becomes a
giant in the eighteenth century, that is to say, in the heroic period of
the intellectual and political life of the revolutionary bourgeoisie.
Just as this engendered, in the order of its works, the most intensive
period of history that is known, it also produced its own ideology in
the notion of progress. This ideology in its substance means that
capitalism is the only form of production which is capable of extending
all over the earth and of reducing the whole human race to conditions
which resemble each other everywhere. If modern technique can be
transported everywhere, if all the human race appear on a single field
of competition and all the world as a single market, what is there
astonishing in the ideology which, reflecting intellectually these
conditions of fact, reaches the affirmation that the present historical
unity has been prepared by everything which precedes it? Translating
this concept of pretended _preparation_ into the altogether natural
concept of _successive condition_, and there is opened before us the
road by which the passage is made from the ideology of progress to
historical materialism; and now we arrive at the affirmation of Marx,
that this form of bourgeois production is the last antagonistic form of
the _processus_ of society.

The miracles of the bourgeois epoch, in the unification of the social
_processus_, find no parallel in the past. Here are the whole New World,
Australia, Northern Africa, and New Zealand! And they all resemble us!
And the rebound in the extreme East is made through imitation, and in
Africa through conquest! In the presence of this universality and this
cosmopolitanism, the acquisition of the Celts and the Iberians to Roman
civilization, and of the Germans and that the Slavs to the cycle of
Roman Byzantine Christian civilization shrink into insignificance. This
ever-growing unification is reflected more every day in the political
mechanism of Europe; this mechanism, because founded on the economic
conquest of the other parts of the world, oscillates henceforth with the
flux and reflux which come from the most distant regions. In this most
complicated mingling of action and reactions the war between Japan and
China, made with methods imitated, or directly borrowed, from European
technique, leaves its traces, deep and far-reaching, in the diplomatic
relations of Europe, and still clearer traces in the stock exchange,
which is the faithful interpreter of the consciousness of our time. This
Europe, mistress of all the rest of the world, has recently seen the
relations of the politics of the states of which it is composed
oscillate in consequence of a revolt in the Transvaal, and in
consequence of the ill success of the Italian armies in Abyssinia in
these last days.[30]

The centuries which have prepared and carried to its present form the
economic domination of bourgeois production have also developed the
tendency to a unification of history under a general view; and in this
fashion we find explained and justified the ideology of progress, which
fills so many books of the philosophy of history and of
_Kulturgeschichte_. The unity of social form, that is to say, the unity
of the capitalistic form of production, to which the bourgeoisie has
tended for centuries, is reflected in the conception of the unity of
history in more suggestive forms than the mind could ever have received
from the narrow cosmopolitanism of the Roman empire or the one-sided
cosmopolitanism of the Catholic Church.

But this unification of the social life, by the working of the
capitalist form of production, developed itself from the beginning, and
continues to develop itself, not according to preconceived rules, plans
and designs, but, on the contrary, by reason of frictions and struggles,
which in their sum form a colossal complication of antitheses. War
without and war within. Struggle incessant among the nations, and
struggles incessant between the members of each nation. And the
interlacings of the deeds and the action of so many emulators,
competitors and adversaries is so complicated, that the co-ordination of
events very often escapes the attention, and it is a very difficult
thing to discover their intimate connection. The struggle which actually
exists among men, the struggles which now, with various methods, are
unfolding among nations and within nations, have come to make us
understand better in the midst of what difficulties the history of the
past has unfolded. If the bourgeois ideology, reflecting the tendency to
capitalist unification, has proclaimed the progress of the human race,
historical materialism, on the contrary, and without proclamation, has
discovered that these are the antitheses which have thus far been the
cause and the motive of all historical events.

Thus the movement of history, taken in general, appears to us as it were
oscillating;--or rather, to use a more appropriate image, it seems that
it is unfolding on a line often interrupted, and at certain moments it
seems to return upon itself, sometimes it stretches out, removing itself
far from the point of departure:--in an actual zigzag.

Granted the internal complication of every society, and granted the
meeting of several societies on the field of competition (from the
ingenuous forms of robbery, rapine and piracy to the refined methods of
the elegant sport of the stock exchange) it is natural that every
historical result, when it is measured in the one measure of individual
expectation, appears very often like chance, and afterwards, considered
theoretically, becomes for the mind more inextricable than the track of

Speaking of the irony which sits as a sovereign above history is not a
simple phrase; because, in truth, if there is no god of Epicurus
laughing above over human affairs, here below human affairs are of
themselves playing a divine comedy.

Will this irony of human destinies ever cease? Will that form of
association ever be possible which gives room for the possible complete
development of all aptitudes, in such a way that the ulterior
_processus_ of history may become a real and true evolution? And, to
speak like the amateurs of high-sounding phrases, will there ever be a
humanization of all men? When once in the communism of production the
antitheses which are now the cause and the effect of economic
differentiations are eliminated, will not all human energies acquire a
very high degree of efficacy and intensity in co-operative effects, and
at the same time will they not develop with a greater liberty of
self-expression among all individuals?

It is in the affirmative answers to these questions that consists what
_critical communism_ says, that is to say foresees, of the future. But
it does not say it and it does not foretell it as if it were discussing
an abstract possibility, or like him who wishes, by his will, to give
life to a state of things which he desires and which he dreams. But it
says and predicts because what it announces must inevitably happen by
the immanent necessity of history, seen and studied henceforth in the
foundation of its economic substructure.

"It is only in an order of things where there will no longer be classes
and class antagonisms that social revolutions will cease to be political

"To the old bourgeois society with its classes and class antagonisms
will succeed an association in which the free development of each is the
condition of the free development of all.[32]

"The relations of bourgeois production are the last antagonistic form of
the social _processus_ of production--a form antagonistic not in the
sense of individual antagonism, but of the antagonism which proceeds
from the conditions of the social life of individuals; but the
productive forces which are developing in the lap of bourgeois society
are creating at the same time the material conditions to terminate that
antagonism. With this social organization ends the prehistory of the
human race.[33]

"With the taking possession of the means of production on the part of
society, is excluded the production of commodities, and with it the
dominance of the product over the producer. The anarchy which dominates
in social production will be succeeded by conscious organization. The
struggle for individual existence will cease. Only in this way man will
detach himself, in a certain sense, from the animal world in a definite
fashion, and will pass from a condition of animal existence to
conditions of human existence. The entire sum of the conditions of life
which has thus far dominated men will pass under the rule and the
examination of men themselves, who will thus for the first time become
the real masters of nature, because they will be the masters of their
own association. The laws of their own social activity, which had been
outside of them like foreign laws imposed upon them, will be applied and
mastered by the men themselves, with full knowledge of their cause.
Their very association, which appeared to men as if imposed by nature
and history, will become their own and their free work. The foreign and
objective forces, which till then dominated history, will pass under the
care of men. Only from that moment will men make their own history with
full understanding; only from that moment will the social causes which
they put in motion, be able to arrive, in great part and in a proportion
ever increasing, at the desired effects. It is the leap of the human
race from the reign of necessity into that of liberty. To accomplish
this action emancipating the world, such is the historic mission of the
modern proletariat."

If Marx and Engels had been phrasemakers, if their spirit had not been
made prudent, even scrupulous, by the daily and minute use and
application of scientific methods, if the permanent contact with so many
conspirators and visionaries had not given them a horror of every
Utopia, opposing it indeed up to the point of pedantry, these formulas
might pass for good-natured paradoxes, which criticism need not examine.
But these formulas are, as it were, the close, the effective conclusion
of the doctrine of historic materialism. They are the direct result of
the criticism of economies and of historical dialectics.

In these formulas, which may be developed, as I have had occasion to
show elsewhere, is, summed up every forecast of the future, which is not
and is not intended for a romance or a Utopia. And in these very
formulas there is an adequate and conclusive response to the question
with which this chapter began: Is there in the series of historic events
a meaning and a significance?



[28] This genetic study forms the subject of my first essay, _In Memory
of the Communist Manifesto_, which is the indispensable preamble to an
understanding of all the rest.

[29] (I allude to the excellent work of Karl Kautsky, _Die
Klassengensaetze von 1789_.)

[30] The Italian edition of this Essay bears the date of March 10, 1896.

[31] Marx, Misere de la Philosophie, Paris, 1817, p. 178.

[32] Communist Manifesto, p. 16.

[33] Marx, Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie, Berlin, 1859, p. 6
Pref. Compare my first Essay, pp. 48-50.

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