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Marx, Engels, and 'Anti-Dühring'

 Political Studies (1983), Vol. 31, pp. 284-294


Gordon Welty
Wright State University
Dayton, OH 45435 USA


[//284] There is no reason to suppose that Marxist scholarship should deviate from the canons of philology. Those canons require initially the scientific establishment of a text. There must be a stemma of manuscripts and editions whereby variant texts can be identified, as well as a list of conjectured readings for corrupted passages, etc. Next, these canons require attribution of the textual passages to authors, to joint authors, or to some other hand. Where the composition period was brief, the temporal order of the several passages can be indicated; where composition or publication was more protracted, the passages can be dated as well. A third step (which can be omitted for certain purposes) is the interpretation of the established, attributed, and dated text in terms of themes, motives, intended audiences, etc. Finally, the philological approach includes an evaluation, with suggestions for further study.


An interesting and important topic of Marxist scholarship is the theoretical accord or divergence of Marx's and Engels' thought. It has frequently been asserted that they diverged substantially in their theoretical writings; as Shlomo Avineri has expressed it "Marx's views cannot be squared with Engels' theories as described in Anti-Dühring..." But these assertions have not gone unchallenged; Stefan Anguelov among others has argued for the unity of Marx and Engels' theoretical contributions. "Marx, far from being against Engels' published philosophical essays, entirely shared Engels' conceptions; Marx revised Engels' manuscript Anti-Dühring ..." etc.1


Since Anti-Dühring was intended to summarize and popularize the doctrines of historical materialism, dialectics, and Marxian political economics, it has become the focal point for much of this debate. If Marx and Engels agreed upon a `division of labor' as Anguelov suggests, whereby Marx was to concentrate on political economy while Engels concentrated on philosophical topics, then Anti-Dühring transcended that division by incorporating sections on political economy as well as natural philosophy./2/ Thus the rather neat distinctions that [284/285] can be drawn by attributing the authorship, say, of Capital I to Marx and Dialectics of Nature to Engels are obscured in the case of Anti-Dühring.

Engels acknowledged in the `Preface' to the second, 1886 edition of Anti-Dühring that "the outlook expounded in this book was founded and developed in far greater measure by Marx, and only in an insignificant degree by myself" and that "I read the whole manuscript to [Marx] before it was printed."/3/ Terrell Carver comments on this passage that "there is nothing in the Marx-Engels correspondence, in their works, or anywhere else to support this."/4/ Thus Carver's argument against the theoretical accord of Marx's and Engels' thought turns upon Engels' veracity.

In cases such as the "Marx-Darwin correspondence," veracity is indeed impugned. But, in such a case, (a) credibility is questioned in terms of evidence independent of the text in question, and (b) the 'authority' in question must be of less than credible character anyhow; recall the "disreputable dog," Aveling, implicated in the "Marx-Darwin correspondence."/5/ Apart from these two conditions, an argument such as Carver's is quite problematic, involving as it does the disordering of the canons of scholarship. Attribution of authorship thereby turns illicitly upon the interpretation of the 'author's' motives.

Before returning to Carver's main argument, consider for an instance his characterization of Engels' motives. Carver avers that in Engels' Dialectics of Nature, "his views on the 'general nature of dialectics' were formulated explicitly, which was not the case in the first edition of Anti-Dühring. He continues "Engels, it seems, was canny enough to avoid creating disagreements with Marx."/6/ After Carver has thus impugned Engels' intellectual honesty, one turns to the text of Anti-Dühring and is perhaps surprised to find Engels stating that "dialectics, however, is nothing more than the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society, and thought."/7/ And that passage was unchanged by Engels throughout the three editions of the book./8/

Returning then to Carver's main contention, he reiterates that "Marx said nothing [in the 'surviving Marx-Engels correspondence'] to confirm Engels' claim that he was familiar with the lengthy text of Anti-Dühring."/9/ In contrast to much of the argument for the theoretical divergence of Marx and Engels, turning as it does on subtle issues of emphasis and tone, Carver's bold textual claim has the merit that it can be addressed rather directly. Moreover, the focus on Anti-Dühring has benefit of the scientifically established text in the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA). There are several possibilities here. Marx may have been familiar with a draft of Anti-Dühring as a result of his or Engels' reading of [285/286] it; or, he may have discussed the substance of Anti-Dühring with Engels (without necessarily having been familiar with a draft). In light of the review of Dühring's Critical History of National Economy which Marx contributed to Anti-Dühring, the second possibility cannot seriously be questioned./10/ The question thus is Marx's familiarity with draft materials of Anti-Dühring.

Marx makes an interesting reference in a letter to Wilhelm Freund which bears upon this issue. Carver observes that "Anti-Dühring appeared during 1877-78 in installments in Vorwarts, which Marx could easily have read."/11/ Of course this is quite beside the point, as many people did read the serialized Anti-Dühring; the issue is whether and what Marx knew of the contents prior to serialization. On 21 January 1877, Marx asked Freund to remind Dr Moritz Traube to send along citations of Traube's writings, because Engels is "laboring on a work of philosophy and, as it happens, Traube's achievements are emphasized."/12/ Thus Marx had some familiarity at that date with the contents of Anti-Dühring. But the chapter of Anti-Dühring which addressed the 'Traubesche Kunstzellen' was published in Vorwarts, Number 24, only on 25 February 1877./13/

Why should Marx have asked for Traube's citations and have known a month before publication that Traube's discoveries would be addressed in the serialized Anti-Dühring, unless Marx was familiar with this material in draft. And, on Carver's own argument, this would not have been the most likely topic of Anti-Dühring with which Marx would have been familiar; it was a less likely topic, for instance than those from the social sciences./14/ If it seems at all likely that Marx was familiar with draft material of Anti-Dühring on topics of organic chemistry, it is much more likely that he had read (or listened while Engels read from) other draft materials as well. Be that as it may, it seems that Marx's correspondence, contrary to Carver's assertions, does tend to confirm the veracity of Engels' claim that Marx had knowledge of some if not all of the draft materials of Anti-Dühring.

At this juncture, attention can properly focus on motives. On the one hand, Marx did not publicize either his familiarity with, or his contributions to Anti-Dühring. At the personal level, this can be imputed to Marx's modesty and sense of propriety. At the political level, this can be imputed to Marx's and Engels' perception of the issue of Marx's 'authority' in the Continental working-class movement in the 1870s./15/ On the other hand, after Marx's death, Engels did acknowledge his lifelong collaborator's familiarity with, and contributions to Anti-Dühring in the 1886 'Preface'. In correspondence with Franz Mehring, Engels explains his relationship to Marx and incidentally sheds light on his acknowledgements of 1886. "When one had the good fortune to work for forty years with a man like Marx, one usually does not during his lifetime get the [286/287] recognition one thinks one deserves. Then, when the greater man dies, the lesser easily gets overrated and this seems to me to be just my case at present."/16/ Thus the 'Preface' of 1886 can be imputed to Engels' own well-known modesty and sense of propriety.


The resolution of these issues permits the consideration of another point that also involves the rather careful reading of the text of Anti-Dühring. Engels defines the subject matter of political economy at the beginning of Part II as "the science of laws governing the production and exchange of the material means of subsistence in human society."/17/ Turning from subject matter to the method of political economy, he continues "it must first investigate the special laws of each individual stage in the evolution of production and exchange, and only when it has completed this investigation will it be able to establish the few quite general laws which hold good for production and exchange in general." Engels concludes with the proviso that "the laws which are valid for definite modes of production and forms of exchange hold good for all historical periods in which these modes of production and forms of exchange prevail."/18/ This is surely a concise and intriguing formulation of the subject matter and method of political economy. On the one hand, it suggests that the object of Marx's and Engels' political economic studies was not limited to bourgeois society./19/

On the other hand, it has been proposed that Engels' characterization of political economy differs substantially from Marx's own. Lucio Colletti, for instance, holds that the views of Engels and that of Marx represent "two profoundly different ways of seeing things."/20/ Indicting Engels among others for a "total lack of understanding of the relationship between the logical process and the process of reality," Colletti charges that the logical categories of Capital I, namely commodities, money, capital, etc., have been applied historically (and thereby illicitly) to a "succession of the various forms of society."/21/

Were these charges true, of course, they would evidence a serious misspecification on Engels' part. When we turn to Engels' text, however, we quite another set of categories than those of Capital I applied to the historical cases./22/ For instance: communal property in land corresponds to fairly equal distribution of the labor product, while the dissolution of community corresponds to considerable inequality of distribution. (Indeed Marx had addressed with great brevity this inverse relationship of communal property and impoverishment in his notebooks dating from the late 1850s)./23/ Consider an [287/288] historical example. As the Israelite patriarchal communal form was dissolving during the ninth and eighth centuries, the prophets reacted strongly to the ever increasing inequality among the populace. In Ephraim, Amos condemned the extreme inequality manifested in debt-slavery (Amos 2:6) and foretold alienation of the land, i.e. the complete dissolution of communal or redemptive property in land (Amos 7:17); in Judah, Micah likewise condemned debt-slavery (Micah 2:2) and also anticipated alienation of the land (Micah 2:4). For another instance: agriculture on a large scale corresponds to a class-antagonistic social structure, while agriculture on a small scale corresponds to the absence of such class antagonisms. (Later, Kautsky and Lenin were to address the relationship of the scale of agricultural production and class antagonism; both Arthur Stinchcombe and Jeffrey Paige have recently made extensive studies of this relationship.)/24/ As Engels continues, it becomes evident that the categories he utilizes in his general political economy not only are not simply those of "commodities, money, capital," Engels' are instead more general categories of forms of property, forms of appropriation of the labor product, forms of social antagonism, etc.

These categories may subsume those categories of Capital I; for example, 'capital' is subsumed under the more general 'property' or the category 'social antagonism'. (Similarly, Marx's categories of Capital I subsume those of Capital III: for example, 'finance capital', 'industrial capital', and 'landed capital' are subsumed under the more general category 'capital'.) But Engels cannot be convicted on this evidence of having confounded these several sets of categories. These more general categories give rise to 'laws' of their own which may be nomothetically less satisfying than the laws of Capital (say that treating the tendency of the rate of profit to decline). But Engels admits as much: "political economy in this wider sense has still to be brought into being. Such economic science as we possess up to the present is limited almost exclusively to the genesis and development of the capitalist mode of production."/25/

Thus Engels' categories in Anti-Dühring are not vulgar misappropriations of those of Capital I; even so, the question remains whether Engels' and Marx's understandings of the subject matter and method of political economy accord. This issue can be addressed rather directly, as Marx too has prepared a draft discussion of the topic. In the 'Introduction' to the Critique of Political Economy, Marx has three major sections./26/ The first section addresses 'Production' and the second, the Interrelationship of Production, Distribution, Exchange, and Consumption. These sections indicate the subject matter of political economy. The third section addresses 'The Method of Political Economy'. These three sections comprise a whole; the understanding of any single section depends upon the comprehension of the whole.

Marx's argument in the first section establishes that material production is [288/289] socially determined production by individuals; this implicates production at a definite stage of social development. Marx explicitly considers and rejects defining this stage in an historical account or by taking the stage in isolation. Both these analyses are based on the unreflective standpoint of the individual. Instead, he points out that each stage includes the moment common to several stages of production in general as well as the moment of specific differences of production between stages. By way of illustration, the stage of finance capitalism is understood to incorporate the moment of capitalist relations (i.e. the capitalist appropriation of surplus value) common to any bourgeois society, with the moment of imperialist relations (that is the metropolitan appropriation of super-profits) specific to this stage. This likewise suggests that Marx's political economic study was not to be restricted to bourgeois society. Further, each stage includes the moment of particular productive sectors as well as that of the totality of production, the conjuncture of the set of particular sectors. Finally, these moments organically presuppose 'a definite social corpus' or social subject./27/ Marx's argument thus moves from the abstract, the general moment, through the ever more specific moments, to the concrete, the social corpus. It moreover moves from the inchoate terms of individualism or an ahistorical analysis to the articulated terms of the dialectic. (The logical form of this argument is explicated in the third section of Marx's 'Introduction'.) In sum, it is thus the social corpus that is the object of analysis rather than the process or mode of production which is a characteristic (albeit a crucial characteristic) of the social form.


Marx's argument in the second section of the 'Introduction' establishes the interrelationship of production (in the 'narrower sense'), consumption, distribution, circulation and material exchange. Analyzed superficially, Marx says, these are related as a syllogism: production is the general term, consumption is the individual term, distribution is the proportional middle term, and material exchange is the particular middle term. This superficial analysis restricts itself to the distribution of the product./28/

More profoundly analyzed, production is the presupposition of the moments of consumption and distribution of the products. Production, consumption, and distribution of the means of production are related as content and form (or production, in the 'wider sense')./29/ Finally, circulation is but a moment of material exchange; both are determined by the moments of distribution and consumption./30/ Hence, all these moments are related organically, comprising a concrete unity (again the 'social corpus'), with the mode of production determining the processes or modes of consumption, distribution, etc. Notice how the argument moves even more strikingly from the abstract formulation to the concrete, and from the inchoate to the dialectical. [289/290]

Engels too had discussed the interrelationship of production, distribution, and exchange in Part II of Anti-Dühring. Amplifying upon his definition of the subject matter of political economy, that is "the science of the laws governing production and exchange," he argues that exchange (to the extent it has emerged in a particular society) presupposes production./31/ This of course accords with Marx's characterization, especially where he holds that "the intensity of exchange, its extent and nature, are determined by the development and structure of production."/32/ It likewise accords with Marx and Engels' earlier formulation in the German Ideology where they had argued that a mode of production is always combined with a mode of co-operation or co-ordination, a "materialist connection of humans with one another."/33/ Moreover, Engels argues that modes of production and exchange determine the mode of distribution of the product, while the mode of distribution (in the wider sense) determines the modes of production and exchange. All this accords with Marx's analysis. Only the category of consumption is omitted from Engels' discussion here, perhaps because that category implicates that of the Person./34/


Two points follow from this accord of Marx's and Engels' understanding of the subject matter of political economy. These points can be illustrated in the writings of Jürgen Habermas at the one extreme and John Weeks at the other. The present context permits little more than mention of these points.


Habermas, as is well known, has faulted 'historical materialism' for its 'instrumentalist' (or 'technologistic') bias, its oversight of the symbolic moment of communicative action. He identifies in this regard particularly Engels, Georgi Plekhanov, and Josef Stalin./35/ On the one hand, the specifics of Marx and Engels' understanding of the subject matter of political economy give Habermas' critique the appearance of being a misspecification. 'Exchange' is indeed 'social intercourse' (Verkehr) which encompasses both moments of 'material' exchange and 'ideal' forms of interaction./36/ On the other hand, Habermas' account differentiating human social intercourse from communication is warranted only by Habermas' history of the species. He differentiates anthropoids from hominids, not in terms of hominid symbolic behavior but in terms of development of the 'hunting mode of production'./37/ In evidentiary terms, Habermas' notion of the proto-human as hunter has been rejected by Engels as [290/291] well as current anthropologists./38/ In theoretical terms, Habermas' notion that anthropoid behavior was "based on symbolically mediated interaction in [George Herbert] Mead's sense" must similarly be rejected./39/ Thus Habermas' account of the emergence of the human mode of life (Lebensweise) essentially misspecifies the problem. The proto-human was a gatherer who occasionally 'hunted', thus at one with the anthropoids; the proto-human was accultured, a symbol and tool user, hence distinct from the anthropoids. When human social intercourse is acknowledged to incorporate communication, Habermas' critique of historical materialism must in large part be set aside.

Weeks, by contrast, has faulted Engels for his 'circulationist' bias as well as overlooking the role of force in societal transformations. Following Colletti, Weeks holds that Marx and Engels' "views on fundamental issues differed diametrically."/40/ But Weeks faults Engels precisely for what Habermas considers to be a virtue.

On the one hand, the 'circulationist' theory of economic crises holds either inadequate aggregate demand or else the 'profit squeeze' generate the crisis./41/ In either case the understanding is that the crisis is located within the sphere of circulation; by contrast, the Marxian understanding is that it is located in the sphere of production. In Anti-Dühring, Engels explicitly defines and analyses crises in terms of the overproduction of means of production, hence he cannot be characterized on this evidence as an 'underconsumptionist'./42/ He likewise holds that the proletarian standard of living is determined by the division of labor under the regime of capital, hence Engels cannot be accused of supposing that the distribution of 'factor income' to wage fund ('labor's share') and profits is in some sense exogenous to the sphere of production./43/ Thus Engels subscribed to neither an underconsumption theory nor a 'profit squeeze' hypothesis; hence he [291/292] cannot be identified with Paul Sweezy, Michael Kalecki, Samir Amin et al. as 'circulationists'.

On the other hand, Weeks makes much out of Engels' statement in Anti-Dühring that "the whole process [of the development of capitalism] can be explained by purely economic causes; at no point whatever are robbery, force, the state or political interference of any kind necessary."/44/ Weeks simply treats this passage apart from its context. In the nineteenth (and even in the twentieth) century, some social theorists held that society was politically conflictual in essence. (These were not necessarily Social Darwinists.) Eugen Dühring was an important member of this tradition; Engels took pains to dissociate his and Marx's writings from this tradition./45/ Engels, with considerable dialectical skill, showed in the Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State how the earliest fundamental (or generic) transformation of human society, that of the "world-historic overthrow of mother-right" was to be explained without presupposing the existence of the several institutions listed in the book's title./46/ Likewise, he shows in Anti-Dühring how subsequent generic transformations of society such as the rise of the state apparatus or the emergence of domestic and chattel slavery were to be explained without begging the question./47/

When he turns to the capitalist transformation, it is thus not surprising that Engels proceeds similarly. In Anti-Dühring he shows, dialectically (and in this instance echoing Capital I), that the necessity which underlay the earlier transformations of society was present in the development of capitalism as well./48/ This is not to say that chance has no significance in societal transformation, but that it is a determinate significance. Plekhanov, in reviewing just this issue, pointed out that "conquests, confiscations and monopolies" have occurred throughout recorded history. But, he continued, all these 'political' events, "far from determining the direction of economic development were, on the contrary, themselves determined by it in their forms and subsequent social effects."/49/ Hence the appropriateness of Engels' explanation of the development of capitalism in economic terms.

Moreover, Weeks' blatant confounding of the 'logical process' of the accumulation of capital presented in Part VII of Capital I with the 'processes of reality' such as those of primitive accumulation described in Part VIII is precisely the "total lack of understanding" castigated by Colletti. Marx himself indicates at the beginning of Part VII that "an exact analysis of the process [of accumulation] demands that we...disregard all phenomena that hide the play of its inner [292/293] mechanism," while he describes Part VIII of Capital I as "actual history."/50/ But this focuses attention on the method of political economy.

In sum, where Habermas tries to differentiate Marx from Engels by alleging that the latter tended especially towards single-factor technologism, Weeks tries to differentiate the two by alleging that Engels tended towards a circulationist (or even a 'revisionist') dualism while it was Marx who was the monist. But Weeks' discussion withstands close scrutiny no better than does Habermas'.


Thus it can be concluded that, in terms of their conceptions of the subject matter of political economy, Engels' and Marx's views hardly represent "profoundly different ways of seeing things." What of their conceptions of method? Marx' argument in the third section of the 'Introduction' to the Critique of Political Economy establishes the method of political economy./51/ The social corpus is the starting point, say twentieth century English society. Through the process of analysis of the immediate concept into its constituent genera and differentiae, increasingly abstract concepts such as class, wage-labor, price, etc. are reached. Given the most simple terms, those terms and other terms subsumed within them articulate so as to represent the social corpus as an organic synthesis, a concrete unity. On the one hand it will not do to dispense with analysis and take society as it is experienced (the 'process of reality'). As Georg Lukacs has commented on this section, "knowledge that is oriented in this way towards the immediately given reality always ends up with merely notational ideas. These therefore have to be more exactly defined with the aid of isolating abstractions."/52/ On the other hand, it will no more do to begin with abstract terms and undertake a 'logical process' of synthesis. Lukacs continues "inference by deduction from categorial ideas easily leads to unsupported speculative conceptions."/53/ In either case one has inchoate terms and relationships, abstractly empiricist or abstractly rational as the case may be, and in neither case can the terms and relations be assimilated to the concrete whole.


A few pages before his characterization in Anti-Dühring of the subject matter and method of political economy, Engels had discussed 'Dialectics'./54/ This passage illustrates his understanding of the method of political economy. Engels recounted that Marx examined the historical processes, the "processes of reality" in Colletti's terms, which characterize both the social corpus of mercantile capitalism and that of capitalism per se. These were analyzed in terms of forms of property. Capitalistic private property sublates individual private property. But an expanding and deepening class struggle attends capitalistic production to the point where capitalistic property itself is sublated in social revolution. Hence the synthesis: it is the negation of the negation./55/ Through this 'logical process' (Colletti's terms), through the workings of this 'dialectical law in history' (in [293/294] Carver's terms), the concrete unity of capitalism is concisely revealed in its organic complexity and potentiality.

Thus it appears that Engels' and Marx's conceptions of the method of political economy are in accord no less than their conceptions of its subject matter. Of course this is not difficult to comprehend if Marx was familiar with the drafts of Anti-Dühring.

It would be the height of presumption to suggest that a topic so complex and rich as Marx and Engels' theoretical accord could be definitively addressed in this brief statement. More modestly, it can be proposed that future discussions of this topic be obliged to be couched in scientific rather than doctrinaire terms. This is a timely proposal. On the one hand, the completion of the Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) and the English translation of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels have scientifically established the texts in the former and have made them readily accessible in the latter. On the other hand, the ever widening recognition of the scientific stature of historical materialism demands no less. [294//]


1. S. Avineri, The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), p. 69; Anguelov "Reflection and Practice," Philosophical Currents, Vol. 5 (1973), p. 76. Anguelov follows Lenin here; see V.I. Lenin Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), Vol. 21, p. 84.1. S. Avineri, The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), p. 69; Anguelov "Reflection and Practice," Philosophical Currents, Vol. 5 (1973), p. 76. Anguelov follows Lenin here; see V.I. Lenin Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), Vol. 21, p. 84.

2. On this 'division of labor', see Marx's testimony in Herr Vogt, K. Marx and F. Engels, Collected Works, (New York: International Publishers, 1975 ff), Vol. 17, p. 114; and Engels in K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962). Vol. 1, p. 549.

3. F. Engels, Anti-Dühring (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962), p. 14

4. T. Carver "Marx, Engels and Dialectics," Political Studies, Vol. 28 (1980), p. 357.

5. See Lewis S. Feuer "Is the Darwin-Marx Correspondence Authentic?" Annals of Science, Vol. 32 (1975), pp. 11-12. See also R. Colp, Jr. "The Contacts of Charles Darwin with Edward Aveling and Karl Marx," Annals of Science, Vol. 33 (1976), pp. 387-394; also M.A. Fay "Did Marx offer to Dedicate Capital to Darwin?" Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 39 (1978), pp. 133-146 and M.A. Fay "Marx and Darwin" Monthly Review Vol. 31 (1980), pp. 40-57.

6. Carver "Marx, Engels and Dialectics," p. 361.

7. Engels, Anti-Dühring, p. 194.

8. K. Marx and F. Engels Gesamtausgabe (Moscow: Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute, 1935), I. Abteilung: Anti-Dühring/Dialektic der Natur (Sonderausgabe herausgegeben von V. Adoratskii), S. 144. This is the document Carver cites in his note 12.

9. Carver "Marx, Engels and Dialectics," p. 360.

10. Engels, Anti-Dühring, p. 312 ff; also Gesamtausgabe, I. Abteilung, S. 341-371; cf. Engels, Anti-Dühring, pp. 14, 22.

11. Carver "Marx, Engels and Dialectics," p. 360.

12. See Marx's letter to Wm. Freund, 21 January 1877; K. Marx and F. Engels Werke (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1956 ff), Bd. 34, S. 245-6.


13. Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, I. Abteilung: Anti-Dühring, S. 85.

14. Carver "Marx, Engels and Dialectics," p. 361

15. See Engels' letter to E. Bernstein, 25 October 1881, K. Marx and F. Engels Selected Correspondence (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 324. See also the symptomatic discussion of Wilhelm Liebknecht during the 1850s and 1860s in Herr Vogt, Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 17, p. 113.

16. See Engels' letter to F. Mehring, 14 July 1893, Marx and Engels Selected Correspondence p. 433.

17. Engels, Anti-Dühring, p. 203.

18. Engels, Anti-Dühring, p. 204.

19. Cf. also G. Welty, "The Materialist Science of Culture and the Critique of Ideology," Quarterly Journal of Ideology, Vol. 5 (1981).

20. L. Colletti Marxism and Hegel (London: NLB, 1973), p. 132.

21. Colletti, Marxism and Hegel. p. 130 ff.

22. Engels, Anti-Dühring, pp. 204-5.

23. K. Marx Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations (New York: International Publishers, 1965), p. 83.

24. K. Kautsky La Question Agraire (Paris: Maspero, 1970); V.I. Lenin, The Development of Capitalism in Russia (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), esp. ch. II; also A. Rochester, Lenin and the Agrarian Question (New York: International Publishers, 1942), esp. chs. I and III; A.L. Stinchcombe, "Agricultural Enterprise and Rural Class Relations," American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 67 (1961); J.M. Paige Agrarian Revolution (New York: Free Press, 1975), ch. 2.

25. Engels, Anti-Dühring, pp. 207-8.

26. K. Marx Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970), Appendix, pp. 188-214.

27. Marx, 'Introduction', pp. 188-91.

28. Marx, 'Introduction', pp. 193-4; cf. also G Lukacs, The Ontology of Social Being Pt. I, iv (London: Merlin Press 1978), pp. 59-60.

29. This distinction anticipates that of Departments I and II in Capital II. Cf. also Lukacs The Ontology of Social Being, pp. 60-7.

30. Marx, 'Introduction', pp. 195-204.

31. Engels, Anti-Dühring, p. 203.

32. Marx 'Introduction', p. 204.

33. K. Marx and F. Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 5, p. 43. J. Weeks argues that this passage was the source of the differences he finds between Marx and Engels; cf. his Capital and Exploitation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), pp. 61-2.

34. Cf. K. Marx and F. Engels, Gesamtausgabe (Berlin: Dietz Verlag 1976), II. Abteil, Bd. I, Teil I, S. 26.

35. J. Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979), chs. 3 and 4, esp. p. 145; also his Knowledge and Human Interests (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), chs. 2 and 3. See T. McCarthy, The Critical Theory of Jürgen Habermas (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1978), chs. 1.2 and 3.5.

36. Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 5, p. 32.

37. Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society, p. 135.

38. K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962), Vol. II, p. 186; also K. Marx, The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1972), p. 99. See S. Slocum, "Woman the Gatherer" in R.R. Reiter (ed.), Toward an Anthropology of Women (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975), pp. 36-50; N. Tanner and A. Zihlman, "Women in Evolution," Signs, Vol. 1 (1976) and Vol. 4 (1978); E. Leacock, "Women's Status in Egalitarian Society," Current Anthropology, Vol. 19 (1978). See also Charles Woolfson The Labor Theory of Culture (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982).

39. G.H. Mead, Philosophy of the Act (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1938), pp. 109-10: "It is only man who has entered into a social relation with his environment..."

40. Weeks, Capital and Exploitation, chs. 1 and 2 [with appendix], esp. p. 51. Weeks' inability in general to give an intelligible reading of Engels is beyond the scope of this article. One illustration must suffice for now. Weeks supposes that Geist, when used by Werner Sombart, meant "a mental construct" (p. 14). In fact, this is precisely the opposite of what Sombart (or Engels) meant by the term; see Sombart's Die drei Nationalokonomien (Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1930) or Engels, "Law of Value and Rate of Profit," Capital III, Appendix. Weeks' discussion is thereafter a hopeless morass of the views of Conrad Schmidt, Marx and Engels, and a half dozen other writers.

41. Weeks Capital and Exploitation, p. 9.

42. Engels, Anti-Dühring, pp. 393-4. See also Michael Bleaney, Underconsumption Theories: A Historical and Critical Analysis (New York: International Publishers, 1976) for an extensive discussion.

43. Engels, Anti-Dühring, p. 376. This 'profit-squeeze' hypothesis can be traced at least as far back as Pareto; see V. Pareto Treatise on General Sociology (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1935) §§ 2203-36. It is associated in Great Britain with Andrew Glyn and B. Sutcliffe, British Capitalism, Workers and the Profit Squeeze (London: Penguin Books, 1972) and in the United States with Raford Boddy and J. Crotty, "Class Conflict and Macro-Policy," Review of Radical Political Economics, Vol. 7 (1975).

44. Engels, Anti-Dühring, p. 226; see also Weeks, Capital and Exploitation, p. 20, p. 57.

45. Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 34, note 'b'; also Engels, Anti-Dühring, p. 41 (added in the 1882 edition: Socialism: Utopian and Scientific).

46. Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 217; again Engels follows Lewis H. Morgan, and Marx, The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx, pp. 119-121. This line of discussion renders quite suspect Habermas' notion that the nuclear family initiated human society; cf. his Communication and the Evolution of Society, p. 136. In support of Habermas, see C.O. Lovejoy, "The Origin of Man," Science, Vol. 211 (1981).

47. Engels, Anti-Dühring, pp. 247-248 on the State; pp. 248-249 on slavery.

48. Engels, Anti-Dühring, pp. 225-226; earlier Engels noted that without an understanding of this inevitability of capitalism, the previous forms of socialism were moralistic and utopian (p. 42).

49. G. Plekhanov Selected Philosophical Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1980), Vol. IV, pp. 89-90.

50. Marx, Capital (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1954), Vol. I, pp. 565, 714.

51. Marx, 'Introduction', p. 205 ff.

52. Lukacs, The Ontology of Social Being, p. 27.


This is taken from and is being published with the ermission of Professor Welty

Administrator, Radical Socialist, 29.11.2010

On Engels’ Anti-Dühring

28 November was the birth anniversary of Frederick Engels, who along with karl Marx was a co-founder of te scientific basis of working class emancipation and socialism. In Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science, Engels expounded for the first time ever in a comprehensive way the views of Marx and himself. We publish two essays on this classic work. The first onbe, published here, is by David Riazanov, a Russian Marxist and a major Marx and Engels scholar of the early twentieth century. The essay is republished here with due acknowledgements from the Marxists Internet Archive.

Administrator, Radical Socialist

David Riazanov

On Engels’ Anti-Dühring


Preface to Anti-Dühring, Moscow 1928. [1]
English Translation: Labour Monthly, May & June 1929.
Transcribed by Adam Buick.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Fifty years have passed since the appearance of Anti-Dühring as a separate book. The Preface to the first edition was signed by Engels, June 11, 1878. This date, however, is not quite accurate. The articles against Dühring were first printed inVorwärts, the central organ of united German Social Democracy. The first article appeared in January 3, 18 77. The first section of the book, Philosophy, was published in nineteen issues ending May 13, 1877. After this there was an interruption. The second section, Political Economy, began to appear on July 27, occupied nine numbers and was finished on December 30, 1877. The third section, Socialism, followed, after a considerable gap lasting more than four months. It was published in five numbers, beginning May 5 and ending July 7, 1878. Thus, the last chapter was printed in Vorwärts a month later than is shown in the preface.

When we speak of the significance of Anti-Dühring it is necessary to bear in mind the position of German Social Democracy at that time. It is well known – especially to those who have studied the disputes around the Gotha Programme – how inadequate was the Marxist equipment of German Social Democracy in 1875. The disputes which took place around this compromising project of a Programme are well known. But this still does not give a complete picture of the extraordinarily low Marxist level which at that time was characteristic of German Social Democracy. In one respect, Mehring was right. If Marx and Engels were dissatisfied with Liebknecht because of the compromise which he concluded with the Lassalleans in the sphere of programme and tactics, it was because they over-estimated the Marxist understanding in the ranks of the “Eisenachers,” i.e., in the ranks of that Party which considered itself Marxist. If we take the central organ of Social Democracy, even after the union, we find there nothing more than an incredibly confused, almost vulgar, socialism. It was a monstrous mixture of some propositions of Marx, with some of Lassalle, and with a whole series of theses, the origin of which is to be found in contemporary bourgeois literature. It is sufficient to remark how from 1873 onwards the authority of Dühring grew greater and greater.

Comrades acquainted with Anti-Dühring usually have an impression of Dühring as almost an absolute cretin. But Dühring was no idiot. He was a big figure. He had in him that which makes many such active men immediately attractive to youth, namely, the qualities of a man with an encyclopedic education, who could orientate himself unusually freely in questions of natural science, philosophy, political economy, and socialism. He was a man who could give to the younger generation, in the old popular term, “a system of truth.” He gave a complete system of world outlook, he gave answers to all the troublesome questions. Moreover, he was a man known to the younger generation by his hatred of the professors, and in his personal life not especially happy, as might be expected from a man who lost his sight at the age of twenty-eight, and was compelled to acquire all his knowledge with the aid of other, almost accidental, persons. He was a man living in great poverty. All this created sympathy towards him.

The chief apostle of Dühring in German Social Democracy was Bernstein. We have, at least, five separate recollections of Bernstein’s on this interesting phase of his life. Each time he acknowledges that he was a very zealous and fervent disciple. He infected Fritsch, Most, Bebel, and Bracke with “Dühringism”. He writes that in 1873 he never missed an occasion of hearing the lectures of Dühring and he carried with him in his enthusiasm a whole series of comrades, including foreigners, for the most part Russians. He gave Dühring’s book to Bebel, then in prison, and Bebel wrote from prison in March, 1874, an article entitled A New Communist.

Bebel ends his article in the following fashion:–

“All our considerations against Dühring’s conception do not militate against his fundamental views. We consider them irreproachable, and regard him with complete approval. And we will never hesitate to declare that after Marx’s Capital, the new work of Dühring belongs to the best that the new era has produced in the economic sphere. We, therefore, heartily recommend the study of his book.”

This was the response of Bebel, who was dissatisfied with the Gotha unity, with the Gotha compromise. It can easily be imagined how this article was received in London. We have evidence that Engels immediately sent a request to Berlin as to who wrote this article. Liebknecht hastened to re-assure Engels (June 13, 1874):–

“Of course, it is impossible to avoid foolishnesses, but as soon as they are recognised they are, as far as possible, corrected. Have you any basis for believing that Dühring is worthless or a hidden enemy? Everything known to me about him strengthens me in the belief that, although he is confused, he is indubitably honest and stands unreservedly on our side. The article denounced by you was not altogether correct and was written with an unbounded measure of enthusiasm. In any case the intentions of the author were certainly good and the article has not produced a bad effect.”

Somewhat later Bloss declares to Engels, writing from prison:

“In regard to Dühring you are right ... in his Critical History of Socialism and Political Economy he wrote much stupidity. I have only now read this book.”

After Liebknecht and particularly Bloss had become more acquainted with Dühring, Liebknecht sent a request to Engels on February 1, 1875, that he should write an article about Dühring. Unfortunately, there are no letters of Engels and Marx in regard to this, but, obviously, they had created no little disturbance. Liebknecht writes:–

“When will it be possible to receive from you some work on Dühring, who in the second edition of his History of Political Economy has again repeated all his numerous stupidities about Marx? I was attending the lectures of this man before Christmas. Megalomania, and at the same time a furious hatred of Marx, that is all. But he has entrenched himself very strongly among our people, especially in Berlin, and consequently it is necessary to examine him fundamentally. You probably have the second edition. If you have not, we will send it to you.”

In a second letter, not immediately to Engels or Marx, but to Engels’ wife, Liebknecht adds,

“You must tell Engels that he must deal with Dühring fundamentally, but it is necessary to remember one thing: Dühring is literally dying of hunger”.

Engels did not agree particularly willingly. He resisted for a long time. From his correspondence with Marx we know that this task did not particularly attract him, the more so because just at this time he was in the full fervour of his occupation with natural science. It was only shortly before that he had communicated to Marx and to Schorlemmer the basic theses of his dialectics of nature. He was about to expand them in a special work, and he did not wish to throw aside this labour and occupy himself with a polemic against Dühring who was better known to him than to Liebknecht. Marx and Engels had already finished with Dühring. The latter had interested them as early as the sixties, when he wrote one of the first criticisms of Capital. They had already found out at that time that he was a “privat-docent” in political economy and a collaborator of the official newspaper Staatsanzeiger, to which Marx had definitely refused to contribute, and that Dühring had had a lawsuit with the well-known Privy Councillor Wagener in regard to the authorship of a certain production, a memorandum report written for Bismarck, on how to settle the socialist question. Wagener thought that he had to do with an ordinary “privat-docent” and put his own signature to the report. Dühring brought a lawsuit against him and won it. Marx and Engels were aware that Dühring in the sphere of political economy was a great worshipper of Carey and List, which was not known to the so-called young comrades.

Accordingly, Engels, who had just begun to take up a more interesting subject, was very unwilling to occupy himself with Dühring. And from the correspondence it is possible to see how much pressing was needed on the part of Liebknecht before Engels finally undertook the work.

In 1875-76 the cult of Dühring became stronger and stronger.

“Instead of the fighting slogan ‘Lassalle or Marx’”, writes Bernstein in his latest autobiography, “it seemed that there was put forward a new slogan ‘Dühring or Marx and Lassalle.’ And in all this I was not a little to blame.”

Attempts were made to use the Vorwärts to advertise Dühring. In fact, Liebknecht had to carry on a stubborn struggle, once having permitted this error on the part of Bebel, in order not to allow Vorwärts to be converted into an organ which exalted Dühring as a thinker on a level equal with Marx. The matter became more complicated still when Most wrote a big philosophical article on Dühring and sent it to Liebknecht. In 1876, Most even exceeded Bernstein in his Dühring worship; as an energetic worker and a magnificent agitator, he won for Dühring great popularity among the Berlin workers, theBerliner Freie Presse, the organ of the Berlin organisation, being greatly under the influence of Most.

On receiving Most’s article, Liebknecht purposely sent it to Engels, because he presumed that Engels after reading it would understand that, whether he liked doing so or not, it was necessary to set to work about Dühring. Engels finally agreed to write a series of articles on Dühring and began the task.

I will not dwell in more detail on this point, because the correspondence of Marx and Engels gives a whole series of indications of the unwillingness with which in the beginning Engels addressed himself to this subject. In any case, he was not able to dispatch the first article before the autumn of 1876. This was the first section, on Philosophy.

But here there occurred a little mishap: Liebknecht had not expected that Engels would send his article so late. He expected them earlier, at the beginning of the electoral campaign – the elections took place in January, 1877. It is understandable that Liebknecht and a number of other comrades were extremely occupied with the electoral campaign, too much so to pay attention as to how Engels’ articles would be printed. It is clear that Engels was fully justified in his dissatisfaction. It would have been impossible to make use of Engels’ articles in a worse fashion than was done by Vorwärtsduring January, 1877. The chapters of the section on Philosophy were printed with the most abundant printer’s errors, and were divided up senselessly without any basis. Receiving his articles in this shameful form, Engels was nearly beside himself and thundered at the editors in his letters, seeing in all this almost an intrigue of the Dühringites. Such a thought would, in fact, very naturally occur to anyone who sees how this section of Anti-Dühring was printed.

Finally, Engels wrote one of his fiercest letters to Liebknecht. Engels’ letters to Liebknecht were always in very sharp terms, but this was an extra sharp letter. Engels accused Liebknecht of all the mortal sins. But Liebknecht always showed great patience in relation to the “old man.” He explained to Engels that it was all due to the electoral campaign, and finally peace was made between them, but this was immediately followed by a new incident, that of the famous Gotha Congress of 1877. The last portion of the part on Philosophy was printed on May 13, 1877, and the Gotha Congress took place on May 27 to 29, 1877. Let us see how the history of this Congress is given by two authors. We will first of all hear Mehring:–

“How greatly Engels’ book was necessary was shown perhaps in the most striking fashion by the rather unfavourable reception that it received from the Party. Most and others were not far removed from closing the columns of the Vorwärts to it, thus giving to the heretic Engels a similar fate to that already dealt out to Dühring by the official university clique. Fortunately, the Congress of 1877 did not take this step. Solely on the basis of agitational and practical considerations, it decided to continue the publication of this purely scientific polemic in its paper, but only in a scientific supplement to the central organ. Not a few sharp words, however, were said. Neisser accused the editorial board of Vorwärts of not making sufficient efforts for a proper supervision of Engels’ work, and Walteich remarked in his arrogant manner, which had already antagonised Lassalle, that Engels’ tone was bound to lead to the ruin of literary taste and because of him the spiritual fare provided by Vorwärts was becoming absolutely uneatable.”

This is Mehring’s account. Now let us turn to Bebel’s story:–

“Still more unpleasant were the debates provoked by Most on the subject of Engels’ articles in Vorwärts directed against Dühring. The latter had succeeded in getting on his side almost all the leaders of the Berlin working-class movement. I was also of the opinion that for the purposes of agitation it was necessary to support and utilise every literary tendency which, like the works of Dühring, sharply criticised the existing social order and declared in favour of Communism. From this point of view, I had already in 1874 written from prison for the Volkstaattwo articles under the heading A New Communist, in which I examined the works of Dühring. They had been sent to me by Edward Bernstein, who, at that time, together with Most, Fritsch, &c., belonged to the most fervent admirers of Dühring. The circumstance that Dühring had very quickly come into conflict with the university authorities and the Government – a conflict which ended with his dismissal in June, 1877, from Berlin University – still more raised his prestige in the eyes of his followers. All this led Most to introduce the proposal that for the future such articles as those of Engels against Dühring, which did not present any interest for the great mass of readers, or evoked the dissatisfaction of the readers, should not be published any more in the central organ.”

Both Bebel and Mehring, however, do not quite accurately represent what took place at the Congress. There were even more unpleasant things. Neisser’s remarks have already been given by Mehring. Liebknecht waxed indignant against Neisser. Then Most and his comrades introduced a resolution that the Congress should declare that “articles such as the recent articles of Engels against Dühring are entirely devoid of interest for the readers of Vorwärts, and should be removed from the central organ.” Liebknecht, of course, wanted to protest, but there was immediately introduced another proposal by Kleimich and his comrades, that “discussions on the proposal of Most, and on other proposals relating to Engels’ articles in the Vorwärts, should be introduced only from the point of view of material expediency and not in any case from the point of view of principle or of science.”

This resolution of Kleimich was passed by thirty-seven votes to thirty-six. After this, Liebknecht declared that the discussions lost all significance if on this question it was possible to speak only of material expediency. Then Bebel and his comrades introduced a resolution as follows:–

“Taking into consideration the length (!) of the articles of Engels against Dühring and presuming that in future they will become even longer, and taking into account that the polemic which is being conducted by Engels in the columns of Vorwärts against Dühring or against his adherents will give to the latter or his adherents the right to reply with equally lengthy articles and in this way to take up excessively the space of Vorwärts, and taking into account that our cause has nothing to gain from this, since it is a matter of a purely scientific dispute, the Congress resolves that the publication of the articles of Engels against Dühring in the chief portion of Vorwärtsshall cease, and that all these articles shall be printed in the scientific: supplement of Vorwärts or as a separate pamphlet. And in the same way all further debates in regard to this special subject must be removed from the main portion of Vorwärts.”

This resolution was accepted by the Congress after Most had withdrawn his resolution and identified himself with the proposal of Bebel. Thus, Bebel at this Congress played a part considerably different from that described in his memoirs.

Liebknecht, in one of his letters to Engels, writes that, unfortunately, he had not had a chance of talking things over with Bebel, and Bebel committed this blunder. At any rate, the whole of this episode concerning Dühring and Engels’ articles in the central organ, the chief editor of which was Liebknecht, and in which Bebel had great influence, is very characteristic of the intellectual calibre of the German Social Democratic Party at that time.

The police and the university authorities again came to the assistance of Dühring. The Congress ended in May, 1877. Engels had to take up the continuation of his articles. Just at this period, Dühring reached the zenith of his popularity. The Ministry for Education raised the question about Dühring’s dismissal from Berlin University. This was one of the great sensational events in Europe at the time, and was not less attentively followed in our own fatherland, where already prior to this people had begun to be interested in Dühring. Mikhailovsky wrote a lengthy article in Notes of the Fatherland on the Scandal in Berlin UniversityVorwärts and Liebknecht were also compelled to come to the defence of Dühring, for it was impossible to leave him at the mercy of the university authorities. A series of articles appeared in Vorwärts in defence of Dühring, and this time not as the author of a definite system, but simply as the defender of the freedom of science which it was necessary to defend in the Prussian police state. The Vorwärts also even printed poems and odes in honour of Dühring, just at the time of the gap between the printing of the first and second sections of Anti-Dühring. Many young students – Schippel, Emmanuel Wurm, Firek, Manfred Wittich – came to the defence of Dühring together with Fritsch and Most, the last named arranging workers’ meetings, &c. The others on their side organised a series of students’ meetings, where Dühring was defended as a representative of oppressed science. Mehring declares in his History of German Social Democracy that this was the last idealistic movement among German students.

Dühring, however, who attracted sympathy for himself as a State-persecuted savant, drove away almost all his adherents by his unbearable character. Just at the moment when he had achieved his greatest success in coming close to the Berlin workers and their leaders, he committed a series of acts which made any kind of joint work with him impossible. Thus, to the State university he wished to oppose a free academy, and he drew up regulations for this academy, but of such a kind that he disgusted the Berlin social democrats. He opposed his free academy to the idea of a labour university, which he refused to consider, for he did not intend, as he wrote, to give anyone an opportunity to exploit him. Bernstein suspected Dühring, as he writes in two variants of his memoirs, of having together with Most organised the campaign against Engels at the Gotha Congress. For this suspicion he had certain grounds.

The Berliner Freie Presse, in which Most and his comrades participated, as late as October, 1878, was still defending Dühring in toto. But by the beginning of November a complete rupture had taken place. Dühring definitely came to the conclusion that Most and his company were intending to sacrifice him to Liebknecht, and that they did not fulfil their promises, in that they did not succeed in securing the cessation of Engels’ articles in Vorwärts. So Bernstein writes. Dühring declared that the social democrats simply wished to utilise him for their party, and thus to ruin his scientific career.

Bernstein, in another variant of his memoirs, writes: “It was not Engels who killed Dühring, but Dühring who killed himself.”

The same idea is to be found in a letter of Liebknecht’s to Engels. Naturally, this is an exaggeration. Dühring had lost personal prestige, but the cult of Dühring was still unvanquished; it was still necessary to fight him, and this was shown most clearly precisely in 1878. A new journal The Future was founded, the predecessor of which was the scientific supplement ofVorwärts. The programme of this paper, which was intended to serve as the central scientific organ of the party, constituted such an eclectic mixture that Engels could write to Marx with full justification that there was developing in Germany a new German vulgar socialism, which was worthy to rank with the “true socialism” of 1845. Consequently, Engels wrote the subsequent articles against Dühring, those of the sections Political Economy and Socialism, in a different manner. He struck at Dühring, but he aimed his blows at Most, Fritsch, Liebknecht, and Bebel. In some places, Engels directly polemicises against them, although he does not mention them by name.

It remains to say something on the significance of Anti-Dühring. I have already pointed out the chief causes of Dühring’s popularity. This must always be kept in mind. Dühring gave the revolutionary youth a philosophy of the world. He gave them a system of ideas; he gave them a system of answers to troublesome questions. What had a Marxist at that time? There was the Communist Manifesto. But the Communist Manifesto without all that had preceded it, without all the preparatory data, of which it was the conclusion, without the appropriate historical knowledge, was less intelligible than Lassalle’s Programme of the Workers. It must be added also that it was only when a new edition was published in 1872, after it had been unobtainable for a long time, that it attained a really large circulation. Capital was rather widely read. But, even for Liebknecht, Capital was principally a book which gave him material for a Reichstag speech on working-class legislation, which provided him with material for an anniversary speech, if he wished to show to what degree the workers had been exploited by capitalism. Liebknecht was frankly convinced in 1874 that Buckle was the greatest of all historians and the creator of a new conception of world history, whilst Marx was only the creator of a new economic system. Just as in Russia, Capital in its philosophical and historical-materialist parts remained for the readers of Marx “an unread chapter of a favourite book” – as Plekhanov expressed it.

Engels’ literary connection with the Volksstaat (the People’s State), which appeared under Liebknecht’s editorship, began as early as 1873. He had to answer various practical questions. A certain Mühlberger wrote an article on the housing problem which showed that the People’s State had forgotten the difference between Proudhonism and Marxism, and Engels used this opportunity to give a magnificent exposition of the difference between Proudhonism and Marxism in this concrete example. This was the German, more scholarly and more fundamental way – to write for a concrete occasion. A description of the whole system of the world philosophy was still lacking. This was given for the first time in Anti-Dühring. Engels himself tells us wherein lies the significance of Anti-Dühring:–

“It (the polemic against Dühring) gave one, on the one hand, the opportunity to develop from the positive side, in the very varied subjects treated in the book, my views on questions of more general scientific or practical interest to-day ... It was necessary for me to go into all his conceptions and state mine in opposition to his. Negative criticism became, thanks to this, positive; the polemic was turned into a more or less connected exposition of the dialectical method and communist world-philosophy upheld by Marx and myself, and this, moreover, over a fairly comprehensive range of subjects.”

Engels thus himself recognises that the polemic against Dühring had induced him to put forward a system in opposition to a system, a world philosophy in opposition to a world philosophy. And in this lies the chief significance of Anti-Dühring. Marx and Engels naturally knew – what we only now know – that in their letter files lay the manuscript of German Ideology. They knew that they had the possibility in the forties of putting forward in opposition to the current bourgeois philosophy of “true Socialism” their system of Communist world philosophy. But only Marx and Engels knew that. Liebknecht who had worked and lived in the closest co-operation with Marx and Engels for twelve years did not know it; the innumerable readers did not know it, and, of course, no single reader of the Gotha Programme could have had any idea of it. For the first time, in 1878, in Anti-Dühring was given a system of Communist philosophy which could refute petty-bourgeois philosophy in all its different varieties – and in this Marx and Engels naturally based themselves on the earlier work already done by them.

Now (and this is a very interesting point), when we read the chapters in the German Ideology devoted to Feuerbach – they have been printed in the Archives issued by the Marx- Engels’ Institute – it is possible to establish how far Marx and Engels had changed their point of view. Not since the time of the Holy Family then, Comrade Stepanov would be correct – for the point of view adopted by Marx and Engels in this work had already been “withdrawn” in the German Ideology. That was a still earlier stage. That was a close approach to Marxism, but it was not yet Marxism.

In one of his articles against Heinzen, Marx said:–

“Where he succeeds in observing the diversity, he does not see the unity, and where he sees the unity, he does not see the diversity. When he manages to establish various definitions they immediately become petrified in his hands, and he regards it as the most harmful sophistry to set these conceptions against each other in such a way that they catch fire and come to life.”

Between the standpoint of the “German Ideology” and that developed in the first volume of Capital there is not any kind of “jump.” The basic conceptions which Engels developed in Anti-Dühring in the section Philosophy, even in those parts relating to natural science, were already completely formulated in Capital in a series of remarks, which were so distorted by Dühring. In Anti-Dühring Engels develops the dialectical method which Marx and he had created and which they had employed since 1846, since the time of the German Ideology.

When I published Engels’ Dialectics of Nature, which I had discovered, I emphasised, in my foreword, that in comparison with what Engels had said in Anti-Dühring this contained no single new idea. I wrote “no single new idea” intentionally. The quite untenable attempt of some comrades to find certain differences between Anti-Dühring and the Engels of the eighties, who had reached “completely opposite conceptions,” arises from the unclear understanding of a number of remarks in Anti-Dühring and from an inattentive reading of Engels’ foreword to the second edition of Anti-Dühring.

What does Engels say in this foreword? He is dealing with Dühring at a time when he was undergoing a “moulting process” with regard to the natural sciences. He uses a terminology that is not quite exact; all that he needed was not at his disposal, and he hoped that he would later be able to give his conception in a more carefully thought-out form. He wrote this in 1885. Whoever reads carefully the foreword to the second edition knows that Engels quite consciously, out of a feeling of peculiar literary tact, looked out for any change. One must read the letters of Engels to Marx to understand how difficult it was for Engels, for purely human reasons, to write polemics against Dühring. He said that it was very difficult for him to write against a blind person. He had to struggle with himself for a long time in order to overcome this clearly sentimental feeling. And, therefore, he said again in his foreword, that he could not have written otherwise than as he did in 1878.

I have already pointed out in my introduction to the Dialectics of Nature that Engels did not know Mendeleyev’s periodic law when he wrote Anti-Dühring. One must not forget that the articles of the section Philosophy were all printed previous to May, 1877, and had been sent for publication by the autumn of 1876. Engels had no opportunity of studying the technical literature of chemistry which was scattered through the various scientific journals. It may be mentioned in justification of him that only in 1877 did there appear in such a “compendium” as the comprehensive text book of chemistry as that of by Roscoe and Schorlemmer any exposition of Mendeleyev’s law. Engels could have used it for the second edition in 1885, when he had at his disposal a mass of material which confirmed his basic conceptions, but he deliberately did not do so. In the foreword to the second edition he gives a hint of a future work, but he does not change his views. It is the same basic conception which he had formulated in Anti-Dühring, which appears in the notes and drafts of articles written after 1878, only more fully explained. In this relation, any attempt to prove a contradiction between Engels in 1878 and in 1882, based on the desire to stick a new label on an old idea, is doomed to utter failure.

After Anti-Dühring, Engels had the opportunity to develop more fully some of the conceptions which he had briefly formulated in the philosophical section of his polemic against Dühring. In his special work on Feuerbach, he gave a detailed exposition of his own and Marx’s relations to the philosophy of Hegel and Feuerbach. In connection with this, Engels also gave a positive answer to a large number of questions relating to philosophy, ethics and social science. In this way, Engels’ book on Feuerbach becomes not only an important supplement, but also an excellent commentary on the corresponding chapters of Anti-Dühring . Not less important now in this connection are those parts which I have published from Engels’German Ideology and Dialectics of Nature.

One must specially draw attention to Engels’ brilliant description, in the first section, of the origin and development of the idea of equality. Marx had already shown in Capital that the determination of the value of commodities by labour and the free exchange of these products of labour on the basis of this value, is the real foundation of the whole political, judicial and philosophical ideology of the modern bourgeoisie.

The sketch of Engels served as the stimulus for a series of Marxist works – in particular by Lafargue, Kautsky and Plekhanov – in which the origin of various kinds of “eternal” ideas is investigated.

The second section of Anti-Dühring is devoted to the basic problems of Marxist economic theory and to this day forms the most authoritative introduction to a study of Capital. Engels gives definitions of the subject matter, the method and the tasks of political economy. On this point I do not agree with those who regard political economy as a science which investigates only the economy of commodities and the capitalist commodity relations, and who conceive right only as the right of the producers of commodities. All such attempts constitute a desire to give a “beginning " and an “end” to everything, to define exactly, to point out precisely where development is still in progress, where a succeeding form abolishes the preceding, explains it and is itself fully explained by its antecedent conditions.

The second section contains noteworthy articles devoted to the theory of force, in which the mutual relations between the economic and political factors in the history of human society are explained in a masterly fashion. In addition, Engels gives a concise history of the art of war, showing what great significance the study of the history of the art of war has for the materialist interpretation of history .The full importance of these chapters will only be fully apparent when all Engels’ writings on military questions have appeared, but, together with the foreword to Borkheim’s book (1887) and the articlesCan Europe Disarm? (1893), the sketch which Engels gave in Anti-Dühring represents the clearest formulation of the views which he had evolved in long years of study of the history and theory of warfare.

He was able to foretell the future imperialist war and to sketch its probable consequences with almost prophetic accuracy. It is true that the sketch of the history of the art of war which we have in Anti-Dühring finishes with 1877. The Franco-German War of 1870 was the last great war which Engels examined. In this respect Engels’ sketch stands in need of considerable supplementation.

It can be said that some of Engels’ assertions are not altogether incontestable. Especially when he wrote that armaments as used at the time of the Franco-German War “had reached such perfection that further improvements in this direction could not have any decisive influence.” Even firearms have undergone considerable development since 1878. New branches of military technique have appeared, based on the development of aircraft and the chemical industry. The submarine has brought about changes in the sphere of naval warfare. It is true that the experiences of the war of 1914-1918 have fully justified the conclusions at which Engels arrived on the basis of his examination of the question of the competition between armour-plating and artillery .Even in the form of dreadnoughts, the armoured-cruiser “has been brought to such a height of perfection that it has become so invulnerable as to be unsuitable for use.”

But Engels has excellently revealed the inner dialectic of militarism. Militarism, in its modern imperialist form, bears within itself all the seeds of its own destruction.

“What the bourgeois democracy of 1848 could not bring about, just because it was bourgeois and not proletarian, viz., to give the working masses a conscious will, corresponding to their class position, will inevitably be achieved by Socialism (Communism). And that means the destruction from within of militarism and with it of all standing armies.”

The third section of Anti-Dühring deals with Socialism. We have already seen how Bebel appraised the predecessors of Marx and Engels, the Utopian Socialists. Dühring in his works distorted not only the history of political economy but also with the history of Socialism. Engels’ book gave a new and powerful impetus to the study of Socialism. All the works of Kautsky, Bernstein, Plekhanov and Mehring on these subjects have their starting point, both as regards theme and as regards their general construction, in the fundamental thesis which Engels formulated in his excursus on the subject of the history of Socialism.

But this was not all that Engels achieved in the third section of Anti-Dühring. For the first time since the Communist Manifesto, on the basis of the experiences of the revolution of 1848, of the First International and of the Paris Commune, the fundamental questions of programme, strategy and tactics for the proletariat were put forward in a comprehensive manner. For the first time it was shown what inexhaustible treasure Marx’s Capital contained for the answers to these questions. Engels for the first time fully expounded how capitalism gives rise to and prepares all the material and intellectual elements of the future order of society. In the same section of Anti-Dühring, for the first time, the Marxist conception of the role and origin of the State, already hinted at in German Ideology, was developed in detail in opposition not only to Dühring but also to the Anarchists, the Lassalleans and even the Eisenachers, who had not been able to free themselves from the influence of the Lassallean cult of the State.

It is by no means an accident that careful working out of the questions of the programme only begins after the appearance of Anti-Dühring. The Erfurt Programme of German Social Democracy, which in its essence is partly the work of Engels, would have been inconceivable had it not been for the tremendous preparatory work which Engels had put into Anti-Dühring. The same can be said of the programme of the group for “Liberation of Labour”, and the first programme of our party. The most important part of Engels’ book entitled The Development of Socialism from Utopia to Science, which equally with the Communist Manifesto is to this day the best manual for mastering the foundations of Marxism, is taken from the third section of Anti-Dühring.

In the book of Antonio Labriola, Socialism and Philosophy, we find the following interesting thought:–

“Every country, unfortunately, has its Dühring. Who knows what other ‘Antis’ might have been written by the Engels’s of other countries. In my opinion, the real significance of Anti-Dühring is that it gives the Socialists of other countries and other tongues the possibility of arming themselves with those critical methods without which no ‘Anti-’ can be written, and which are essential for the fight against all those who distort or corrupt Socialism in the name of various sociological systems.”

Labriola was right. In every country where Marxism begins to develop it must cease to be in the position of a product of a “foreign creation”. Marxism can only triumph in a country if it succeeds in explaining, on the basis of fundamental Marxist principles, the concrete realities of the country concerned; if it succeeds in showing that the dialectical method, dialectical materialism, represents an all-embracing method in the sense that the concrete reality in question, with whatever particular “qualities” it may be endowed finds its explanation through it itself, by the struggle of its internal contradictions; that all these “specific characters” result from the inner class conflict, from the development of the struggle of contradictions in that particular section – be it historical, economic or geographical.

In his pamphlet Who are the Friends of the People? Lenin again emphasises the same idea, namely, that Marxism can only lead the proletariat against the bourgeoisie of the country in question when it becomes for the proletariat and for the revolutionary intelligentsia a new Communist world philosophy in opposition to all varieties of bourgeois philosophy. The immortal service of Engels in this respect – and those are correct who say that Anti-Dühring is, after and alongside ofCapital, the most important Marxist work, is that, in opposition to bourgeois world philosophy, he for the first time put forward this Communist world philosophy. He left it to later Marxists to develop this Communist world philosophy on the basis of new and ever-developing national and international experiences, and to make it ever more complete, more comprehensive, without ever forgetting that the result can only be reached thanks to the aid of such an incomparable weapon as the method of dialectical materialism.



1. English translation of the preface to the 50th anniversary edition of Anti-Dühring published in Moscow in 1928, Labour Monthly May and June 1929 (the section dealing with the influence of Anti-Dühring on the development of Marxist ideas in Russia was not translated).


Tories, Liberals at War with School Children in Britain

Riot police get brutal with students

Riot police get brutal with students large. Image source: of school and university students turned out on the streets of London today to voice their anger at the Con-Dem coalition's vicious assault on Britain's education system.

Following their embarrassment earlier this month, when thousands of students beseiged and invaded Tory HQ, riot police reacted against peaceful protesters with a brutal containment strategy, corralling crowds in Whitehall for several hours.

The University of London Union's Carnival of Resistance, which began with a few hundred people, swelled to over 5,000 as it passed Trafalgar Square - ignoring Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's plea for students to call off the protests.

The procession was expected to end with a rally in Trafalgar Square but the bulk of students broke away from the official route, weaving through traffic to end up on Whitehall.

Reading University lecturer Hannah Sawtell, who joined the march in support of students, said that young people had a right to be angry.

With plans to introduce £9,000 a year tuition fees and and brutal cuts to university budgets which are causing services such as crèches to close she said that she "definitely wouldn't have been able to go to university now.

"I was a single mum and, at the time, I got 80 per cent of my childcare paid for plus money to live on plus help with loans. And when I was a student it was only a grand a year to go to university."

Samba bands, drum and bass and hip-hop sound systems kept the atmosphere upbeat at first as students shouted "Tory scum here we come" and "No ifs no buts, no education cuts."

But then riot police and officers on horses threw a cordon around protesters, known as "kettling" and on a number of occasions police lines surged into students unprovoked.

Labour MP John McDonnell said: "There was no violence whatsoever but the police surged and pushed them into a tight corner, putting people in danger of being hurt. It was a peaceful and good-humoured march and the police should have respected that but now they have provoked anger."

Forward Intelligence Teams from the Metropolitan Police could also be seen taking photographs of students and a number of arrests were made. these teams are notorious for taking photographs of protesters once they have been kettled, and creating files on them as "domestic extremists" even though they have committed no offence.

Earlier in the day police monitoring group Fitwatch had offered activists legal observer training before the ULU procession set off to ensure an increased level of protection for protesters from the pervasive police presence.

Protesters were forced to push away barriers erected for road maintenance to create more space and avoid being trampled. Those who tried to escape the kettled area were violently pushed back by police.

Angry students responded by throwing smoke bombs and lightweight placard sticks, lighting bonfires and, at one point, a police van which was left in the middle of the sea of students was spray painted and smashed.

 From Morning Star, 24 November  

Jadavpur University Faculty Protest Clamp Down on Campus Democracy

Jadavpur University, rated by the University Grants Commission as one of India's best univiersities, has been the site of repeated student agitations in recent times. The bourgeois media have been calling for firm action, and The Statesman suggested that the installation of CCTV is needed to keep Maoists out of the campus, while The Telegraph has been claiming, without producing evidence, that a handful of student leaders are forcing the vast majority of Engineering students to boycott the examinations. Below, we publish the letter from over forty JU academics to the Vice Chancellor, indicating that it is not simply a case of hot headed student politics  as the bourgeois media would like its readers to believe. The letter, circulated over the internet, has been given the title Is Jadavpur University Becoming A Police University.

The Vice-Chancellor
Jadavpur University
Calcutta 700 032
Dated, Jadavpur University
11 November 2010

Dear Sir,

We, the undersigned teachers of Jadavpur University, express our deep sense of shock and indignation at the police assault within the campus on a group of demonstrating students in the afternoon of 9th November 2010 – an unprecedented incident in the 55-year old history of our University. It is clear from the accounts of eye-witnesses and audio-visual media coverage of incident that in the immediate trail of the Chief Minister Sri Budhhadeb Bhattacharjee’s arrival in the campus, the concerned students were shouting slogans against the authority’s decision to invite a Chief Minister who they felt was responsible for the police atrocities on the people of Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh. These demonstrators were evidently unarmed and had not committed any act of violence while protesting against the Chief Minister’s visit. Baton-wielding police, who had practically besieged the campus in drones just before the arrival of the Chief Minister ruthlessly beat up the demonstrators, many of whom were female students, taking care to bruise them all over their bodies. Media coverage showed girl students being dragged by the hair and severely thrashed.

Our indignation is all the greater because this incident of police violence ties up with a wider picture that has started looming large for all of us to see. We have already witnessed an acute anxiety on the part of our University authorities to initiate surveillance on campus life with the aid of CCTV cameras. More recently, in the immediate trail of   a seminar in which some outsiders swarmed in to create a ruckus, the authorities have decided to have an EC resolution to the effect that the themes, list of speakers and content of presentations of all future seminars in the University shall be under the surveillance of the authorities who will allow/disallow the holding of respective seminars accordingly. Consequently, we feel that the incident of 9th November 2010 really represents yet another instance of the way in which our University is becoming less of a University and more of a police state in the miniature. We find this development very embarrassing for our identity as academics.


We strongly urge the University authorities to clarify to us:

  1. Whether as a University Jadavpur is not an inheritor of the uniqueness – globally recognized – of Universities as entities very different and distinct in spirit from the state or government. After all, demonstrating students were only voicing their own opinion and not physically hurting anybody. Recently, JNU students similarly demonstrated against P. Chidambaram, the Union Home Minister, in his presence and were not taken to task by the Delhi police. Universities, we emphasize, are sites of free thinking and critical questioning and should be retained as such if our systems are to be prevented from taking a Fascist turn.
  2. Whether the police action was advised by the University authorities. If not, how could the police be allowed to unleash such atrocities in a place which has its own administration distinct from that of the state.
  3.  Has the University listened to the account of the police-assaulted, aggrieved students who have every right to be heard especially as they were beaten up by the police within the sanctified environs of a campus life; conventionally, campus life all over the world is specially insulated from police action.
  4. Why has a paranoia come to grip our University authorities – a paranoia that has completely subverted the openness and eclecticism that is the hallmark of a University environment? Is it that this paranoia is a mark of the isolation of the authorities from the student and the teaching communities as well as from the wider world outside. Such isolation, we are afraid, can only spell the death of an academic institution which need to be perpetually in touch with the wider social reality albeit intellectually and reflectively.
  5. Finally, has the University really missed the significance of a police assault on unarmed students taking place in front of a hall that ironically bears the name of Gandhi, a person who is regarded by many as an ‘apostle of non-violence’     


We demand that

a)    the University authorities should verify whether the police have framed criminal charges against the demonstrating students

b)    if such charges have actually been framed then the University should come to the protection of the students as it was the police who had initiated action against unarmed students in their own turn unsolicited by the University authorities as the authorities themselves have claimed in the media. It goes without saying that the University should also see to it that these charges are withdrawn.

c)     the authorities should also give appropriate hearing to the injured students and ensure immediate medical treatment for them.

d)    The authorities should ensure that justice is done to the victims of police brutality.


Amit Bhattacharyya, Professor of History,

Sudeshna Banerjee, Reader in History

Anindya Majumdar, Reader in International Relations

Tilottama Mukherjee, Lecturer in history

H.N.Toppo,Lecturer in International Relations

Sumita Sen, Professor of International Relations

Gautam Basu, Professor of International Relations

Abhijit Roy, Reader in Film Studies

Gautam Nandi, Reader in Mechanical Engineering

B.C.Pal, Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Chaitali Dutta, Reader in Library & Information Science

Tarun Kumar Mondal, Lecturer in Library & Information Science

Udayan Bhattacharyya, Reader in Library & Information Science

Tarun Kanti Naskar, Reader in Mechanical Engineering

Bhaskar Gupta, Professor of Electronics& Teli-communication Engineering

Amitabha Gangopadhyay, Professor of Civil Engineering

Sanjoy Kumar  Saha, Reader in Computer Science Engineering

Dipak Kumar Bandyopadhyay, Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Nupur Dasgupta, Professor of History

Kalyan Kumar Ray, Professor of Instrumentation and Electronics Engineering

Debi Chatterjee, Professor of International Relations

Kunal Chattopadhyay, Professor of Comparative Literature

Aveek Majumdar, Lecturer in Comparative Literature

Suchorita Chattopadhyay, Professor of Comparative Literature

Subha Chakraborty Dasgupta, Professor of Comparative Literature

Jugaratan Barman, Reader in Economics

Ajitabha Ray Chaudhury, Professor of Economics

Bhaswar Moitra, Professor of Economics

Chandrani Banerjee, Lecturer in History

Anuradha Ray, Professor of History

Himadri Banerjee, Professor of History

Sumit Kumar Barua, Lecturer in Comparative Literature

Sivaji Bandyopadhyay, Reader in Computer Science Engineering

Ranjan Chakrabarti, Professor of History

Bipul Malakar, Professor of Economics

Tuhin Das, Professor of Economics

Samir Das, Lecturer in History  

Maroona Murmu, Senior Lecturer in History

Swati Bandyopadhyay, Professor of Printing Engineering.

Kumardev Banerjee, Reader in Instrumentation & Electronics Engineering

Rajiv Bandyopadhyay, Professor of Instrumentation & Electronics Engineering

Bivas Dam, Professor of Instrumentation & Electronics Engineering

Kalyan Majumdar, Reader in Instrumentation & Electronics Engineering

Abhijit Ghosh, Reader in Sanskrit

Vinayak Purohit (1927-2009)

Veteran Indian Socialist and Prolific Intellectual

By Charles Wesley Ervin
October 10, 2010

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I have received belated news that Dr. Vinayak Purohit, the veteran Indian socialist intellectual, died last December in Pune at the age of 82. Vinayak had been involved in the left movement since 1942, when at age 15 he joined an underground Trotskyist group fighting the British. In 1948 he went into the Socialist Party of India along with his Trotskyist comrades in what turned out to be a fruitless effort to steer that party to the left.

In 1956 Vinayak joined the new, militant Socialist Party that Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia launched to revitalize the movement. In 1962 Vinayak played a key role in bringing a historic motion of no confidence in the Nehru government to the vote in Parliament. After Lohia died in 1967, his Socialist Party disintegrated, leaving Vinayak adrift. He became an independent political journalist, well known for his biting attacks on just about every politician and party.

But Vinayak Purohit was not a man who lived by politics alone. He steeped himself in the rich culture of India. He became a music, drama, art, architecture, and film critic. In mid-life he earned a PhD in art history. He also wrote plays, made a film, and designed an immense architectural monument, the Gitai Mandir in Wardha. He wrote fluently in English, Gujarati, Hindi, and Marathi.

I interviewed Vinayak once, in 1974, when I was starting to research the history of the Trotskyist movement in India. I renewed contact with him in 2004, as I was finishing my book, Tomorrow is Ours: The Trotskyist Movement in India and Ceylon, 1935-48. His politics had changed dramatically (and in my opinion, for the worse). Having “moved through Marxism and Trotskyism,” as he put it, he evolved his own very nationalistic brand of what he called “revolutionary democratic-socialism.”

In 2005 Vinayak published, in pamphlet format, the first chapter of what he envisioned to be an open-ended autobiography, which he aptly titled "A Life of Surfeit and Overflow." He published two more chapters in 2006 and 2008. He died while preparing the fourth. Unless otherwise indicated, the quotes in this article are taken from these pamphlets.

Family Background and Upbringing

Vinayak Purohit was born in Calcutta in 1927. His father, Kailashnath Jagannath Purohit, was a wealthy, London-educated Gujarati businessman who ran a successful auditing firm. He was a deeply cultured man whose interests ranged across history, literature, classical Indian music, art, and politics. He was also a nationalist who surreptitiously contributed money to the clandestine Bengali revolutionary groups who terrorized the British officialdom in those days.

A child of affluence, Vinayak grew up with servants in a bungalow on Ray Street in Bhowanipore, which then was a posh residential area of South Calcutta. A stone’s throw away was the ancestral home of the nationalist leader, Subhas Chandra Bose. Vinayak was privately schooled at Bhowanipore Gujarati Shala, which his parents had founded, and then at St. Xavier's Collegiate School, a prestigious Jesuit institution. Driven by curiosity even as a boy, he read books from his father's vast library, including studies of the Irish, Turkish, Persian, and Chinese nationalist movements and Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution.

In 1938, after his father died prematurely, the family moved to Bombay. Vinayak attended a progressive Montessori school in Vile Parle from 1939 to 1942 and then entered Elphinstone College, which was like the Harvard of India.

In August 1942, as Japanese forces pushed through Burma, Gandhi called upon the Indian people to commence a non-violent mass struggle to force the British to "quit India." The panic-stricken British government arrested Gandhi and the top-echelon Congress leaders. Vinayak, who was then 15 years old, went to a protest demonstration in Shivaji Park. A policeman clubbed him and left him on the ground with a fractured skull. As he joked later, "the hole in the skull allowed my brain scope for expansion."

Vinayak threw himself into the tumult of the Quit India revolt. In December 1942 he was arrested for "attempting to burn a policeman alive" while leading a torchlight procession.

Recruitment to the Revolution

As the protests subsided, Vinayak joined an underground cell of militants who were trying to keep the movement going. One of them recognized that this young hothead had real potential. He arranged for Vinayak to meet two Trotskyists, introduced as “Comrade Rup Singh” and “Comrade Dias.” Only later did he learn that they were actually Philip Gunawardena and Colvin R. de Silva, the two main leaders of the Trotskyist party in Ceylon (Lanka Sama Samaja Party) who had come up to India to help build a Trotskyist party, the Bolshevik Leninist Party of India (BLPI).

Vinayak recalls being "bowled over" by the articulate speech of the duo. They put their brainy 15-year-old recruit through a crash course in Marxism.

“The most memorable lesson that I learnt from Philip [Gunawardena] was his description of the comprador bourgeoisie as a ‘squad of Tuppiahs.’ This is the Sinhala term meaning the trained monkeys used by coconut growers to climb the tall trees and harvest the monthly crop of coconuts.”

This contempt for the Indian elites who aped Western culture or enriched themselves as agents of the imperialists became one of his core values for the rest of his life.

Into the Underground

The clandestine BLPI group in Bombay became his new family. He lived in one of the party’s communal flats in Bombay with a half dozen or more other young comrades. That made him prey for the police, who were combing Bombay, looking for the Trotskyists. Before dawn on July 15, 1943 the police raided their hideout and he was jailed in the Worli detention camp.

After his release seven months later, on the basis of his youth, he went back into the underground to continue the struggle. He found shelter in the slums with members of the Forward Bloc (followers of Subhas Chandra Bose), who were very sympathetic to the Trotskyists. He continued to study.

"I remember that I had begun to read the Encyclopedia Britannica in the Mumbai University Library from 1944 as though they were a set of novels, from cover to cover."

Detour into the Socialist Party

In 1948 Vinayak joined the Socialist Party along with the rest of his Trotskyist comrades. The BLPI had made that decision only after a prolonged internal debate. Vinayak had been part of the faction in the BLPI that wanted to merge with the Congress Socialist Party. His rationale was that the BLPI, as a tiny party, new to the scene, would have better prospects as a Trotskyist ginger group within the Socialist Party, which had recently withdrawn from its mother organization, the Indian National Congress, now the ruling party of independent India.

The Socialist Party assigned Vinayak, who was then 21-years-old, to serve as secretary of one of their unions, the Bombay Press Employees' Union. Though a novice to this kind of work, he learned quickly. As he recounted in his memoirs, he earned a reputation as "a fighting firebrand."

However, the entry into the Socialist Party didn't work out as he had expected. The Socialist leaders were too savvy to allow the Trotskyists to recruit to their own ginger group. No factional activity was allowed. As a result, the Trotskyists started to sink into the quicksand of the Socialist Party.

Dead End

In 1952, after their humiliating rout in the General Elections to the first Lok Sabha, the leadership of the Socialist Party decided, on their own, without calling a party conference, to merge with a breakaway group from the ruling Congress Party. Vinayak and his comrades opposed the merger, called a conference of dissidents, and tried to keep the rump Socialist Party going.

While the rump party had pockets of strength in Madras and a few other areas, Vinayak was isolated. In 1952 he "retired hurt from politics" and moved back to Calcutta. One of his father's associates hired him as a clerk at the National Insurance Company. His health deteriorated. He described this period as "my darkest days of political isolation and abject destitution."

The Break with Marxist-Trotskyist Politics

In 1956 Vinayak, eager to end his isolation, joined a new Socialist Party that had just been formed by Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, the veteran freedom fighter and old Socialist warhorse. In joining Lohia’s party, Vinayak made a definitive break with the Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist politics of his youth. Lohia was a radical nationalist who rejected Marxism as a White European ideology that was at best irrelevant to India. But he was a powerful orator, a charismatic personality, and a creative thinker. He gathered around him a team of talented, ambitious socialists, including Vinayak.

Vinayak became a regular contributor to Mankind, the journal that Lohia launched in 1956, and through his new trade-union connections, resumed his support work in the powerful Socialist trade unions in Bombay. By the ‘sixties the Lohia Socialists (as they were then called) had become the main left opposition to what Vinayak regarded as the “comprador” Nehru government. In 1962 the Socialists tried to topple the Congress government through a no-confidence motion in Parliament. Vinayak played an important, albeit behind-the-scenes role in mustering the support the Socialists needed in Parliament to get the motion on the floor for the vote.

All that came to an abrupt end when Lohia died prematurely in 1967. His Socialist Party quickly disintegrated. Once again, Vinayak was left isolated.

"I would occasionally feel and suffer acutely from this sense of separation and isolation, but on the other hand, I was so absorbed and was in such a headlong rush to develop all sorts of other capabilities and occupations that I hardly had the time to dwell on this loneliness."

A Headlong Rush into the Arts

Like his father, Vinayak was a connoisseur of the arts, especially Indian music. As in politics, so too in music, he was fanatical and a fast learner. In 1956 he became the North Indian Classical Music critic for the premier English-language newspaper in India, the Times of India.

In 1971 Vinayak entered the PhD program at Bombay University, supporting himself by running a small advertising agency. Four years later he submitted his dissertation, The Arts of Transitional India: Twentieth Century, a 1,600-page tour de force covering history, aesthetics, and philosophy.

In 1971 he wrote his first play in Gujarati, Steel Frame, which was an indictment of the corrupt bureaucracy of independent India. (The title is a reference to the well-known phrase that was used to describe the Civil Service in British India.) He followed that with Tribheto, which took up the theme of the criminal bourgeois; Amina ane Teno Zamano, which deals with the criminalized politician; and Byalis, an extended parable of the Quit India movement. He wrote Sociology of Art and Politics (1989-92) and Sociology of Indian Film (1990).

The Revisionist Historian

Meanwhile, Vinayak was reading deeply in Indian history. He presented a series of papers at the annual sessions of the Indian History Congress from 1979 to 1982. These were provocative broadsides aimed at just about every school of thought – from the old British Imperial historians to the so-called Marxists (the Stalinists).

He started by attacking Marx and his thesis of the “Asiatic Mode of Production.” Marx had recognized (in my opinion, correctly) that pre-colonial Indian society seemed to have little in common with the chaotic feudalism of Europe. In order to explain the relative stability of “Asiatic society,” he posited that these societies must have been based on self-sufficient villages where private property in land (and hence class differentiation and struggle) hadn’t developed. Citing a huge body of historical evidence to the contrary, Vinayak argued that this hypothesis isn’t tenable.

But that raises the following question: If pre-British India wasn’t like feudal Europe, and if it wasn’t an “Oriental Despotism” based on an Asiatic Mode of Production, then what was it?  Vinayak answered that question by reversing the terms of the analogy. In his view, the benchmarks for measuring historical progress were the great civilizations that flourished on the Asian landmass for several millennia, not the poor, backward societies of the peripheral western peninsula of Asia, now called Europe that arose much later. In other words, we shouldn’t be asking if Asia had been feudal like Europe. We should be asking if Europe had been feudal like Asia.

Vinayak developed this seminal insight in the next three papers he presented to the Indian History Congress. In brief, he argued that India had evolved from a hunting-fishing-food-gathering society to a pastoral society in the period 7000BC to 4500BC; that the pastoral (or Vedic) society developed into a feudal society by 700BC; and that this feudal society went through four distinct stages prior to the arrival of the European colonialists.

“We had a feudal period which extended over 2,500 years. Indian feudalism was the most prosperous, the richest in export surpluses, and the most powerful that the world had ever known. It was precisely because it was so overwhelmingly strong that capitalism could not win against such an adversary. Capitalism triumphed in Europe from the 11th century onwards precisely because European feudalism was petty, divided, weak and poverty-stricken. The International Feudal Chain broke at its weakest link in Europe!” (Mankind, May 1999).

On the basis of this line of thinking, Vinayak rejected Marxism as hopelessly Eurocentric. I think he threw the baby out with the bath water. His theory is intriguing and deserves further study. And if it turns out to have merit, then I see no reason why this interpretation couldn’t replace the antiquated theory of the “Asiatic Mode” and thereby strengthen, rather than invalidate, Marxism in its totality.

His Credo

In an article in Mankind (October 1997) he wrote the following lines, which seem to me to be a fitting tribute to the man:

I am an atheist. I do not believe in any god who is going to guide us. I am a humanist. I know that we must be guided by what is essentially human, that is within all of us. We are masters of our destiny. We can do that which is good for all of us. There are thousands of arguments - economic, political, sociological, biological, cultural - in favor of socialism. But the most overwhelming are the arguments based on ethics, morality, decency, fairness, justice, aesthetics and truth! This side of the question can never be lost sight of. The case for socialism is really very simple. It is a moral choice.

Vinayak made his choice at age 15 and he lived it to the end.

National Action (Sangharsh) Against Land Acquisition (Act) & Displacement

ansad Gherao !                                               Delhi Chalo !


A Week of National Action (Sangharsh)

Against Land Acquisition (Act) & Displacement

For Right to Life & Livelihood

November 22 – 26, 2010, Jantar Mantar, New Delhi

November 12, 2010

Dear Friends/Comrades,

Greetings !

Many of you participated in the National Consultation on the proposed Land Acquisition (Amendment) and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill that was held on 23rd September 2010 at the Indian Social Institute in New Delhi. The consultation was attended by several peoples’ movements, mass organisations, Trade unions, advocacy groups and members from research and academic community.

The consultation was unanimous in its demand:

-        for the repeal of the current colonial Land Acquisition Act and complete rejection of the proposed Land Acquisition (Amendment) and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bills in their current form

-        to enact a comprehensive National Development, No Enforced Displacement and Rehabilitation Bill instead of two separate legislations

-        for a moratorium on all acquisitions until the process for a new comprehensive legislation is complete

-        that a white paper on all the Land acquired since independence and its current status and the situation of the displaced be presented before the people of India

The consultation emphasised the need to take a comprehensive look at the land acquisitions and ensuing displacement happening in the country and the co-relation between the Land Acquisition Act, Rehabilitation Bill, Forest Rights Act, SEZ Act, EIA Notification, CRZ Notifications, Water Policy, Mine and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, various Forest Laws and a host of other legislations which are facilitating the land acquisitions for various infrastructure projects ranging from transport, communication, defence, power, irrigation, tourism, consumer goods etc. All these together have threatened the right to livelihood of the millions of the people dependent on the land, water, forests and minerals.

It was also decided that during the Winter Session of the Parliament a national week of Action in Delhi and elsewhere in the country will be held by various movements and struggle groups with the key demands as mentioned above.

It is in this context that we invite you all to join us in Delhi atJantar Mantar from November 22 - 26th to resist forced displacement and land acquisitions across the country and demand for a comprehensive legislation on development planning.

The dharna is being joined by the groups whose control over land entitlements ensured by the Forest Rights Act will be threatened by these two legislations are also joining the dharna and so are the fish workers living on the coast and adivasis threatened by mining and peasants and agricultural workers threatened by SEZs and infrastructure projects. The labouring poor from the cities who face eviction from their dwellings and their livelihood threatened by various developmental activities too will join the dharna and so are the peasants whose land is constantly being taken by the urban development authorities in metros.

Other than the general focus on Land Acquisition Act repeal, the key theme based dedicated days will focus on: Dams (especially in North East India, Orissa, Himachal and Central India), Thermal Power projects, SEZs, Mining Projects, Urban displacement, forest rights and community governance, struggles against Corporations (POSCO, Tata, Coca Cola, Vedanta, Mittal, Reliance, Jindal, etc)

We do hope you will be able to join us on these days. Do send in your confirmations for the same and also support our efforts in whatever ways you can. We are looking for volunteers for various things and also resources for meeting the expenses of the programme. For details do get in touch.

VIKAS CHAHIYE ! VINAS NAHI !                                          LADENGE ! JEETENGE !

In solidarity,


Medha Patkar - NBA & NAPM

Ashok Choudhary, Munnilal - NFFPFW

Shanta, Roma – NFFPFW-Kaimur & NAPM-UP

Mata Dayal, Birsa Munda Bhu Adhikar Manch & NFFPFW-MP

Akhil Gogoi, KMSS, Assam

Guman Singh, Him Niti Abhiyan, Himachal Pradesh

Gabriela Dietrich, Pennuruimai Iyyakam & NAPM-Tamil Nadu

Gautam Bandopadhyay, Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh

Simpreet Singh, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan & NAPM-Mumbai

Prafulla Samantara, NAPM Orissa

Dayamani Barla – Adivasi Moolniwasi Asthitva Raksha Manch, Jharkhand

Ulka Mahajan, Suniti S R, Prasad Bhagwe – SEZ Virodhi Manch & NAPM-Maharashtra

Bhupendra Singh Rawat, Rajendra Ravi – Jan Sangharsh Vahini & NAPM-Delhi

Arundhati Dhuru, NAPM - UP

Sunilam, Braj Kishore Chaurasia, Adv. Aradhna Bhargava – NAPM-MP

Vimalbhai, Matu jan Sangathan & NAPM-Uttarakhand

Civil Society Appeal to Sonia Gandhi on Irom Sharmila's Struggle and abolition of AFSPA

Irom Sharmila completes 10 years of hunger fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

will sonia gandhi acknowledge her peaceful struggle and end
her solitary confinement while in imphal on nov 12, 2010?

Over the last few weeks the Manipur valley has been paying tribute to 10 years of the relentless struggle of the Imphal-based poet, Irom Chanu Sharmila, against the AFSPA. In response, the government of Manipur has systematically disrupted peaceful public meetings and banned rallies and concerts that were being attended by people from all over the country who had met to honour Irom Sharmila and re-iterate their long-standing demand for the immediate repeal of the AFSPA - a draconian law that has been force in many parts of the north east as well as Kashmir for almost 60 years now and left a terrible legacy of killings, torture, disappearances, rape, and many other crimes committed with impunity.

For too long, the government has turned a blind eye to excesses by the armed forces committed under AFSPA. For too long, it has refused to implement the recommendations of several of its own Committees – from the Justive Jeevan Reddy Committee to the 2nd Administrative Reforms Committee – to repeal AFSPA. For too long it has suppressed peaceful voices of protest like that of Irom Sharmila by holding her in solitary confinement, without rights of visitation granted even to convicted criminals in the country.

On November 12, 2010 Chairperson, UPA and AICC President, Ms Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to visit the Manipur valley to inaugurate some developmental projects and a Congress Bhawan Annexe Building. But it seems, that like the government she heads, Ms Gandhi has no time or inclination to listen to the voices of the people of Manipur, or indeed to live up to the promises made by her own government – after all, on 2 December 2006, PM Manmohan Singh promised the speedy removal of the AFSPA at the historic Kangla Fort from where she will now address a public meeting.

As Chairperson, National Advisory Council, we urge Ms Gandhi to go beyond political affiliations by meeting Irom Sharmila on her current visit, and initiating proceedings to end the undemocratic way in which Irom Sharmila’s freedom of liberty and speech have been taken away from her.

As democratic voices, peoples’ organisations, women’s and students groups and concerned individuals we demand that if Ms Gandhi truly wishes to do something for the people of the region, she must not remain silent on the spate of aggressions by the state government in the valley and hill areas, especially over the last year. She cannot visit the region and fail to initiate a political dialogue with the people. She cannot ignore the impact of militarization by the State that dominates peoples’ lives. She cannot remain silent on the AFSPA anymore.



1.       Uma Chakravarti, Feminist Historian

2.       Neingulo Krome, Former President, Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights

3.       Bimol Akoijam, JNU, Delhi

4.       Vani Subramanian, Saheli, Delhi

5.      Urvashi Butalia, Zubaan, publisher of Irom Sharmila’s book of poems, The Fragrance of Peace

6.       Harsh Mander, Special Commissioner for Food Security

7.       Yambem Laba, Ex- Member, Manipur Human Rights Commission

8.       Babu Matthew, Former Director, Action Aid

9.       Dr. K.S. Subramaniam, IPS, (Retd)

10.   Vrinda Grover, Lawyer

11.   Babloo Loitongbam, Human Rights Alert

12.   Dr. Th. Suresh Singh, Retd Director of Health Services

13.   Henri Tiphagne, People’s Watch, Madurai

14.   Jiteswar Sarma, Chairman, Manipur Peace Centre

15.   Ammu Abraham, Women’s Centre Mumbai

16.   Anand Chakravarti, Retd Prof Delhi University

17.   Anjuman Ara Begum, Dept of Law, GU

18.   Anuradha Pati

19.   Anusha Hari, JNU

20.   Asha Kotwal, Gen. Sec., NCDHR

21.   B. Prem Sharma, Social Worker

22.   Basantakumar Wareppa, Human Rights Alert

23.   Chit Ranjan Singh, INSAF/ P.V.C.L

24.   Chitra Ahanthem

25.   Cynthia Tiphagne, People’s Watch, Madurai

26.   Daisy Phukan, Photo Journalist

27.   Dhana Loukrakpam, Poknapham

28.   Diamond Vahali Oberoi, Delhi

29.   Dimple Vahali Oberoi, Shimla

30.   Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai

31.   Geeta Charusivam, Tamil Nadu

32.   Geeta Seshu, Mumbai

33.   Geetanjali Gangoli, UK

34.   Honey Vahali Oberoi, Delhi

35.   Jayshree Mutum, S.G. Lecturer

36.   Joshy Joseph, Film maker

37.   Joya Mitra, Writer/ Environment Activist

38.   K.P. Sasi, Film maker/ Visual Search

39.   Kalpana Viswanath

40.   Kalyani Menon-Sen, Gurgaon

41.   Kamal Mitra Chenoy, JNU, Delhi

42.   Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Advocate

43.   Kamla Bhasin, Sangat South Asia

44.   Kh. Imomacha, Media

45.   Khaidem Mani, Advocate

46.   Khelen Thokchom, Media

47.   L. Pardisi, Committee on Human Rights

48.   L. Romikanta, Law Student

49.   Lena Ganesh, Mumbai

50.   M. Labeeb. Theatre

51.   M. Nilomani, Employee, Raj Bhavan

52.   Madhu Mehra, Partners for Law in Development, Delhi

53.   Maya Subrahmanian

54.   Meena Seshu, Sangram and VAMP, Sangli

55.   Meihoubam Rakesh, HRLN

56.   N. Pramod Singh, LMS

57.   Nilanjana Biswas, Bangalore

58.   Ningthuiyang, Law Student

59.   North East Network

60.   O. Jiten, Research Scholar

61.   O. Romen, Just Peace Foundation

62.   Oinam Doren, Photo Journalist/ Film maker

63.   Ojas S.V., Theatre Activist, Pune

64.   P. Biramangol, Teacher/ Writer

65.   Pamela Philipose, Women’s Feature Service, Delhi

66.   Paramita Nath, Independent Filmaker

67.   Penkoottu, Kozhikode, Kerala

68.   Ponni Arasu, Chennai

69.   Pramada Menon, Gurgaon

70.   Pramodini Pradhan, Civil liberty activist

71.   Prasanna Nair. Kochi, Kerala

72.   Pratiksha Baxi, Delhi

73.   Premjit, Businessperson

74.   Priya Thangarajah

75.   Ramlath Kavil, Mumbai

76.   Ratna Appnender, Student

77.   Richa, Jan Abhiyan Sanstha, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh

78.   Rohini Hensmen

79.   S.K. Yumnam

80.   Sajjad Hassan, Centre for Equity Studies, Delhi

81.   Salam Bidyalaxmi, Student

82.   Samrat Sinha, TISS

83.   Saratchand Thiyam, Sahitya Thoupang Lup

84.   Saumya Uma, Consultant - Gender, Law & Human Rights

85.   Shipra Nigam, IIT Delhi

86.   Shruti, Student, JNU

87.   Suneeta Dhar, Jagori, Delhi

88.   Supriya Madangarli, Mumbai

89.   Thresiamma Mathew, Archana Women's Centre, Kottayam

90.   Trupti Shah, Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan) Vadodara

91.   Nisha Biswas, Scientist, Activist

92.   Veena Gowda, Lawyer

93.   Bisakha Dutta, Point of View, Mumbai

94.   Teena Gill, Filmmaker, Delhi

95.   Vineeta Bal, Scientist, New Delhi

96.   Mary John, Director, Centre for Women’s Development Studies