Rudolf Rocker's accusations against Marx in Marx and Anarchism

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Vlad The Inhaler
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Nov 17 2017 17:32
Rudolf Rocker's accusations against Marx in Marx and Anarchism

I'd never read the article/pamphlet Marx and Anarchism by Rduolf Rocker before, I'd never even heard of it until I read a reference to it in the Anarchist FAQ appendix: Reply to errors and distortions in David McNally's pamphlet "Socialism from Below". I rooted out the document at link

In this piece of writing Rocker makes a number of accusations against Marx, not the least of which is Rocker's rejection of Marx's metaphysics (otherwise known as the widely accepted laws of Historical Materialism & the Labour theory of Value), but what really caught my attention is Rocker's accusation that Marx was not an original or contributory figure in the milieu of political economy and revolutionary politics.

Rocker argues that Marx & Engels copied the Communist Manifesto wholesale from Victor Considerant's Manifesto of Democracy. I've been unable to find a copy of said work but would be interested in Libcom'ers thoughts. Was Rocker off his Rocker or has Marx's contribution all these years been dramatically overstated?

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Nov 18 2017 09:49

Yes, the structural and stylistic similarities between Considerant's and M-E's Manifestos are considerable (no pun intended). This is an older observation that predates Rocker's pamphlet by a few decades, I think. However, Considerant's manifesto is a defense of a the reconciliation of classes based on democratic ideals (embedded within a vision of constitutional monarchy in France), while M-E's work is famously a celebration of class struggle, revolution, the necessity of a complete overthrow of the present order, and the abolition of classes. A rather important difference, I'd say. The dashing young Stalin responds to the accusation of plagiarism, with his usual "style", in "Anarchism or Socialism?" (1907).

Of course Marx and Engels copied a lot from the earlier authors. In this respect, I think the academic or scholarly culture of the 19th century (and before) was quite different than today; much of what is now considered plagiarism was then a normal modus operandi of authors (this applies even to classics like Smith's Wealth of Nations). If you look at The German Ideology (an unpublished manuscript by M and E, roughly from the time of the Manifesto), some passages look like they're straight out of Adam Ferguson, down to paragraph structure (there's an excellent 2009 paper in German about this by an author called Danga Vileisis, unfortunately not online).

However, I'd say Marx's key contribution is the critique of political economy, as contained in Capital, Vol. 1 and the related unpublished manuscripts. In this field, he of course had many important predecessors (classical political economy, the Ricardian socialists, and to a lesser extent, Proudhon), but it is not difficult to show that the theory as a whole is an original contribution unmatched by any of the predecessors or any of the left critics, socialist or anarchist. (Which is also why most class struggle anarchists accept Marx's critique, there's simply no match for that in the anarchist tradition.)

ajjohnstone
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Nov 18 2017 11:29
Quote:
the academic or scholarly culture of the 19th century (and before) was quite different than today; much of what is now considered plagiarism was then a normal modus operandi of authors

I knew my copy and paste was from a rich tradition... smile

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Dec 10 2017 18:22
Quote:
while M-E's work is famously a celebration of class struggle, revolution, the necessity of a complete overthrow of the present order, and the abolition of classes.

Well, that's the reputation its gained now but most of the text of the manifesto in regards to political activity advocates communists collaborating with other political factions in several countries and contains a 10 point program for the building of a national economy, most of its comments on internationalism and class abolition are pretty sparse.

There is a reason why so many people think Marxism is state control and nationalisation and usually leads to a citation from the Manifesto.

comrade_emma
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Apr 21 2018 17:54

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Dec 11 2017 05:49

Reddebrek, what I meant was that unlike Considerant, M-E are clearly hostile to class collaboration and to any idea of achieving social peace in capitalism. I agree that there are important flaws in the Manifesto and this was acknowledged by the authors themselves.

Anarcho
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Dec 11 2017 11:53

Kropotkin made similar points (in 1912 French edition of Modern Science and Anarchy, which is out -- finally! -- in full English-translation next year! thanks to AK Press). He was basing his comments on work by Warlaam Tcherkesoff -- such as Pages of Socialist History.

I would not be surprised if they did borrow from Considerant -- Marx "borrowed" from others, not least Proudhon, without acknowledgement (often, as with Proudhon, misrepresenting their ideas).

Anarcho
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Dec 11 2017 11:58
comrade_emma wrote:
Marx and Engels even write in their 1872 preface that the ten point program isn't really relevant anymore. The people who get the interpretation that it's about nationalization have either not actually read the manifesto, or they read it through an anarchist or stalinist lens.

They did not quite say that in 1872 -- they suggested that some elements of it may need revision.

As for being about nationalisation, it most certainly was. As can be seen not only from the text itself but from articles written around the same time. That was how it was read by Marx's followers -- during his lifetime and after.

Those who read it otherwise have always been in a very small minority -- not least because the text is so clearly about nationalisation.

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Dec 11 2017 13:48

I think Cherkesov/Cherkezishvili was the first who brought up the plagiarism issue.

comrade_emma
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Apr 21 2018 17:54

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Apr 21 2018 19:35
Anarcho wrote:
I would not be surprised if they did borrow from Considerant -- Marx "borrowed" from others, not least Proudhon, without acknowledgement (often, as with Proudhon, misrepresenting their ideas).

I was just wondering what the technical difference is between borrowing ideas without acknowledgement and misrepresenting them, and presenting different ideas altogether?

Otherwise, as Lautréamont wrote:
"Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It holds tight an author's phrase, uses his expressions, eliminates a false idea, and replaces it with just the right idea."

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Apr 29 2018 18:48
jura wrote:
Reddebrek, what I meant was that unlike Considerant, M-E are clearly hostile to class collaboration and to any idea of achieving social peace in capitalism. I agree that there are important flaws in the Manifesto and this was acknowledged by the authors themselves.

Well see that's the point, Marx and Engels were clearly hostile to class collaboration in reputation, but in practice they were rather muddled and contradictory. Virtually all the political methods argued in the Manifesto involve class collaboration as its means for success. The fourth section is literally a list of various Communist groups in nations taking part in large coalitions of other classes in struggles that don't seem to be about advancing class struggle. This is not really an aberration, you can find quite a few articles and speeches which were similar collaborationist methods are advocated.

He did after all in 1870 publicly argue that the French workers should support the Republican government. Which seems to have been a regressive step since in the Class struggles in France he criticises the workers of Paris for allying with a Bourgeois republic.

Marx and Engels were both members of the German democratic movement the same time they were members of the Communist League and their paper the Rheinish Zeitung often carried articles in support of a German republic. The last issue it published before Marx went into exile ends predicting the triumph of the Republican terror over the old nobles of the German states.

Quote:
Marx and Engels even write in their 1872 preface that the ten point program isn't really relevant anymore. The people who get the interpretation that it's about nationalization have either not actually read the manifesto, or they read it through an anarchist or stalinist lens.

For the record I read the Manifesto when I was a Marxist with a very poor view of Stalin. also the preface doesn't really say that assuming you meant this one https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf
it says it would be written differently in 1872 because of economic developments it doesn't repudiate it though.

It even says this " The practical application of the principles will depend, as the Manifesto itself states, everywhere and at all times, on the historical conditions for the time being existing"

Which to me suggests that the points could still be applicable if in part. It is after all very close to what the Manifesto originally said about the ten points.

Also in terms of nationalisation, I don't see how anyone could deny that about the ten points, since point two is about establishing a progressive tax policy, and points five and six are about centralising credit under a national bank with access to state capital and the state ownership of transport and communications.

I've honestly never encountered someone who disagrees with this interpretation before. What grounds does such and argument stand on?

Edit: I was looking through MIA's timeline of Marx and Engels publications after finishing Class Struggles in France, and found this article by Marx from 1872 about the need to nationalise land https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1872/04/nationalisation-land.htm

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Apr 22 2018 20:04

Reddebrek, I largely agree with your assessment, but I still think that there are important differences between Considerant's and Marx's & Engels' manifestoes (in their politics), which is what this thread is about.