General introduction

General introduction to the Marx Engels Collected Works.

Submitted by pogo on April 11, 2015

General Introduction for MECW

Marx Engels Collected Works

General Introduction

KARL MARX and FREDERICK ENGELS were the authors of an integrated body of philosophical, economic and social-political views, the ideology of communism, which in our time has spread more widely and exercised a greater influence on the course of world history than any other.

Theirs was a unique collaboration in theoretical work and in revolutionary leadership. While the leading role in it certainly belongs to Marx, the partnership was so close, many important writings having been undertaken under their joint authorship and the greater part of the work of each from the beginning of their friendship in 1844 to Marx’s death in 1883 having been discussed with the other, that their works must of necessity be collected together.

Both Marx and Engels began their adult lives as free-thinkers and revolutionary democrats in the Germany of the late 1830s and early 1840s. By the time they met and began their lifelong friendship and collaboration each had independently come to recognise in the emergent industrial working class the force that could reshape the future. As convinced materialists and Communists, they decided to collaborate in working out the fundamentals of a new revolutionary outlook. From that time their joint efforts were devoted to the aim of equipping the working-class movement with the scientific ideology and political organisation necessary for the realisation of what they saw as its historical mission, the overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the creation of communism.

They were revolutionary thinkers who assailed old ideas and replaced them by new theoretical constructions, forging new means for scientifically understanding the world and human life. And they were practical revolutionaries who fought for socialism and communism against the established order of society based on capitalist property. Their revolutionary standpoint was summed up in Marx’s famous aphorism: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” This became the point of all their practical activity and theoretical labours.

Marx and Engels were never merely theoreticians, and their work can never be understood simply as productive of a theory. Indeed, the distinctive feature of Marxism, and its strength, lies above all in the combination of a theoretical approach which seeks to be governed by strictly scientific considerations with the will to revolutionary action — its unity of theory and practice. They themselves played an active part in the working-class movement, both as advisers and as active participants. In their theoretical work they drew on the movement’s practical experience. And much of it is devoted to accurate and often very lively analysis of particular events and particular problems, both great and small, immediately affecting the movement at various times. From beginning to end their works show that Marxism arose and developed out of practical revolutionary activity. Both Marx and Engels were essentially fighters. And they hammered out their standpoint in the course of often bitter struggle against bourgeois ideology, petit-bourgeois and other kinds of non-proletarian socialism, anarchism, and opportunism of both the Right- and Left-wing varieties within the working-class movement.

The sum total of achievement of Marx and Engels was truly immense.

Marxism offers to the revolutionary movement of all lands a scientifically-based theory of social life and of the individual, of the laws of development of social-economic formations, of history and human activity, and of the concepts and methods man can employ for comprehending both his own existence and that of the world about him so as to frame and realise human purposes in the world.

In the light of this the character and consequences of the alienation and exploitation of labour in modern capitalist society are made clear and it becomes possible to formulate a practical aim for ending it, and in a comprehensive theory of class struggle to work out principles for deciding practical policies to realise this aim.

In their studies of the past history and present predicament of society Marx and Engels came to grips with the problems of political and state power. In their theory of the state they concluded that state power has always been the product of the development of class contradictions, and exposed the whole character of the repressive apparatus and ideology of the bourgeois state in particular.

The penetrating Marxist analysis of bourgeois society, which was the crowning achievement of Marx and Engels, set out, in Marx’s words, to disclose its “law of motion”, the economic laws of its development and their reflection in class and political struggle. It is from this that Marxism demonstrates the historical necessity for the revolutionary transformation of capitalism into socialism, and of the subsequent building of communist society, the realisation of human aspirations for genuine freedom and social equality. This demonstration is at once a prediction of the future course of human development and an action programme for the social forces capable of realising it.

The revolutionary programme of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the conquest of political power by the working class in alliance with the non-proletarian sections of the working people, was the culminating point of Marxism. The Marxist theory of the socialist revolution gave to the movement practical principles of the strategy and tactics of working-class struggle, demonstrated the need for well-organised independent proletarian parties and for proletarian internationalism, and forecast the basic laws of construction of the new society.

Many decades have now passed since the deaths of Marx and Engels. And from that distance in time we now have to assess the continuing validity of the teachings of Marx and Engels and the progress of the world revolutionary movement they inspired.

During their lifetime the ideas of Marx and Engels became the organising and guiding force in the struggle to overthrow capitalism. The efforts of Marx and Engels themselves made Marxism into the theoretical foundation of the programmes and activity of the first international organisations of the proletariat — the Communist League, and subsequently the First International (the International Working Men’s Association) embracing socialist groups and working-class associations and trade unions of various countries. As the contradictions of the bourgeois system deepened and the working-class movement spread and grew in strength, Marxism won increasingly strong positions and more and more supporters.

The further development of Marxism on a world scale from the close of the nineteenth century is inseparably bound up with the personality, ideas and work of V. I. Lenin. Of all the political leaders and theoreticians of that time who became influential as Marxists, it was Lenin who based himself most consistently on the content and methods of the work of Marx and Engels in philosophy, political economy and the theory and practice of scientific socialism, and achieved the most creative development of their teachings. In so doing he established the organisational and political principles of a party able to lead the working class and the whole working people to the conquest of political power and the construction of socialism.

“Without revolutionary theory,” Lenin said, “there can be no revolutionary movement.” True to this principle, Lenin maintained that revolutionary theory must always keep pace with the march of world events and in doing so remain true to and consolidate the original theoretical positions of Marxism. To him the movement owes an analysis of imperialism, of monopoly and state-monopoly capitalism, which continued that made by Marx and Engels of capitalism in the earlier phases of its development. His immense contributions to the creative theoretical and practical development of Marxism cover the theory and practice of socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, the agrarian, nationalities and colonial problems, the transition period from capitalism to socialism and the ways and means of building communist society, the principles of organisation and leading role of revolutionary working-class parties and, in general, the motive forces and prospects of the world revolutionary process in the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolutions. Marxism organically absorbs the new features that were introduced by Lenin and represents in the modern epoch the integrated international doctrine of Marx, Engels and Lenin, constituting the foundation of the international communist movement.

The October Socialist Revolution of 1917 in Russia carried out, in the conditions obtaining at the time, Marx’s, Engels’ and Lenin’s conception of the revolutionary conquest of power by the working class. It began a new epoch in world history, in which to the power of the old possessing classes are opposed not only the struggle against it of the working-class movement in capitalist countries and of the peoples dominated by.imperialism, but the rule of socialism which is becoming ever more consolidated throughout a large territory of the world.

In the years that have followed, the working people of socialist countries have faced and continue to face immense problems of socialist planning and administration, of overcoming objective difficulties of development and, in a number of cases, errors, of resolving new contradictions and of organising creative labour to strengthen the socialist system and move towards the goal of communism. Marxism-Leninism has been and continues to be the basis of all the achievement of socialist countries. The same is true of the working-class movement in the capitalist countries, where a struggle is spreading for profound economic and social-political changes, for true democracy, for a transition to the road to socialism; one of the vital conditions of victory in this struggle is to eliminate the consequences of opportunism and division in the working-class movement. In the countries that have freed themselves from colonialism and are developing on new lines, leading forces of the national liberation movements are turning more and more to the guidance of this teaching in the struggle to eliminate the results of colonial slavery, neo-colonialism and racialism, and to achieve economic and cultural renaissance.

At the present time, moreover, with growing social tensions set up by the deepening of the contradictions of capitalism and the advent of the new scientific-technological revolution, Marxism attracts many people beyond the working-class movement itself. More and more do perceptive minds come to realise that in the theory of Marxism they can find the thread to lead the way out of the labyrinth of the social and political problems of modern times. The appeal of Marxism to progressive-minded people lies in its scientific approach and revolutionary spirit, its genuine humanism, its combination of a sober realistic attitude to facts with confidence in the creative abilities of working men and women the world over. The breadth and consistency of Marxism affords hope for the solution not only of economic and sociological problems but of problems of philosophy, law and ethics, including various aspects of the future of human personality, which are of particular concern to the present generation. Thus it is that despite the efforts to discredit and refute Marxism, which have been going on for well over a century and are continually stepped up, the interest in Marxism, and its influence, grow unceasingly.

The undertaking of collecting together and publishing the complete works of Marx and Engels was begun on a broad scale in the twenties of this century in the Soviet Union. In 1927, the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow launched the publication in the original languages of Marx/Engels, Gesamtausgabe, initially under the general editorship of D. Ryazanov and later under the editorship of V. Adoratsky, a project that was never completed. A Russian edition was commenced and published between the years 1928 and 1947. A second Russian edition was launched in 1955, embodying an all-round study by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union of everything by then discovered written by Marx and Engels, of all the documents having any bearing on their work, and also of newspapers and periodicals in which their works were published in their lifetime. This edition at present consists of 39 basic and 4 supplementary volumes (47 books in all, since some of the volumes are published in two or more parts). Following this, the further labours of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany in Berlin led to the publication, beginning in 1956, of Marx/Engels, Werke. It also comprises 39 basic and 2 supplementary volumes (44 books in all).

Both in the USSR and in the German Democratic Republic new supplementary volumes continue to be prepared, containing early writings of Marx and Engels, their legacy of manuscripts, and works and letters recently discovered.

A complete edition of the works of Marx and Engels in the original languages (Marx/Engels, Gesamtansgabe — MEGA) has been projected jointly by the Moscow and Berlin Institutes of Marxism-Leninism. Besides containing all the works and letters of Marx and Engels, this edition will include all the extant manuscript preparatory materials for various of their published works — synopses, excerpts, marginal notes, etc.-as well as all the available letters written to them.

Many of the works of Marx and Engels, particularly their major works, are available to readers in the English-speaking countries, particularly in Great Britain and the USA, where some were translated and published while their authors were still alive (not to mention numerous articles, reports and pamphlets they themselves wrote in English and which were published in the British or American press), and many more have been translated and published since.

A whole series of major works, particularly the economic manuscripts, remain, however, largely or even completely unknown to English readers. Many of Marx’s early writings, nearly all the writings of the young Engels, the bulk of Marx and Engels’ numerous contributions to the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (1848-49), and most of their letters, have never yet appeared in English. Many of their articles which were published in the British and American press of their day have not been republished in English and are now bibliographical rarities. From the available scattered publications in English it is difficult to gain any clear conception of the formative process of Marxist ideas, to study them in their historical development. Some of the existing translations, moreover, do not meet present-day requirements, and notes and commentaries are not always up to the standard now demanded in studies of the history of Marxism and of the international working-class movement.

In preparing this first English-language edition of the collected works of Marx and Engels these circumstances have been kept in mind. It is intended that the composition and character of this edition should reflect the present level of development of Marxist studies and be guided by both English and international expedience in the publication of social-economic and political literature. The task is to take into account and use to the fullest advantage the best traditions established in this field in Great Britain, the USA, the USSR, the German Democratic Republic, and other countries, as well as the results achieved by world science in investigating the literary legacy of Marx and Engels and the history of Marxism. Thus this edition will provide for the first time to the English-speaking world a practically complete, organised and annotated collection of the works of the founders and first teachers of the international communist movement.

This English edition will include the works and letters already contained in the main volumes of the above-mentioned second Russian and German editions as well as in the supplementary volumes of these editions already published or in preparation. It will embrace all the extant works of Marx and Engels published in their Lifetime and a considerable part of their legacy of manuscripts-manuscripts not published in their lifetime and unfinished works, outlines, rough drafts and fragments. The contents of the main sections of the volumes will include authorised publications of speeches by Marx and Engels or reports of their speeches which they themselves verified. Author’s revisions of various works are regarded as works in their own right and will be included alongside the original texts. Of the available preliminary manuscript versions, however, only those that differ essentially from the final text will be published in this edition. Nor will versions of printed works (the texts of articles published simultaneously in various organs of the press, and various lifetime editions of one and the same work) be duplicated. Any important changes in these texts made by the authors themselves will be brought to the reader’s attention, usually in footnotes.

The edition will include all the letters of Marx and Engels that have been discovered by the time the volumes appear.

Synopses and excerpts made by Marx and Engels are considered selectively and will appear in this edition only if they contain considerable author’s digressions and commentaries. Such works, and also the rough versions and drafts of individual works the final texts of which are published in the body of a given volume, will usually be grouped together in a special section under the heading “From the Preparatory Materials”.

Several of the volumes of this edition will be supplied with appendices containing documents and materials of a biographical nature, such as official applications and other legal documents written by Marx or Engels, newspaper reports and minutes, reports of speeches and lectures never verified by the authors, interviews which they gave to various correspondents, documents which they helped to draw up for various organisations and letters written on their instructions.

The whole edition will comprise fifty volumes, organised into three main groups: (1) philosophical, historical, political, economic and other works; (2) Marx’s Capital, with his preliminary versions and works directly connected with it, particularly the Economic Manuscripts of 1857-1858 better known under the editorial heading Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie; (3) the letters, beginning from August 1844. According to the preliminary plan of the edition, the first group will run from volumes 1 to 28, the second from 29 to 37, and the third from 38 to 50.

The first three volumes will have certain specific structural features. Before the beginning of their close friendship and co-operation in August 1844, Marx and Engels each developed independently as thinker, writer and revolutionary, and in these volumes their works and letters will be published separately. The first volume will contain works and letters of the young Marx up to March 1843, and the second works and letters of Engels over approximately the same period. The third volume will be divided on the same principle, giving works and letters of Marx and Engels from the spring of 1843 up to August 1844 in two separate sections. In the subsequent volumes the literary legacy of the founders of Marxism, an important feature of whose creative work from August 1844 onwards was constant collaboration, will be published together.

Within each group of volumes the material will be arranged, as a rule, chronologically according to the date when a particular work or letter was written. When the writing was spread over a long period, the date of the first publication will be used. Departures from this chronological principle will be made only when individual works or series of works of similar type are grouped in special volumes.

The distribution of material over the volumes will be determined on current principles of periodisation of the history of Marxism, so that the contents of individual volumes or several consecutive volumes correspond to specific stages in the authors’ work. Provision has been made for including works referring to a particular group of subjects in one or another volume. Within any given volume, articles of a particular series will be published in chronological order. Only series of articles conceived as such by the authors and serialised during their lifetime in newspapers or periodicals will be presented as unified works.

A number of works by Marx and Engels were republished, sometimes more than once, during their lifetime, and the authors usually provided each new edition with a new introduction, preface or afterword. Sometimes these additions were separated from the works for which they were written by decades, and naturally reflect a fresh departure in Marxist thought. These prefaces and the like were essentially independent contributions containing new material and referring to a historical period that differed from that in which the main work was written. Writings of this type will be published according to the date of writing, along with other materials of the given period. Cross-references will be provided to all works that have later author’s prefaces, introductions or afterwards.

All letters, irrespective of addressee, will be published in chronological order.

The editions of the works of Marx and Engels published in their lifetime and, failing these, the author’s manuscripts, will provide the source of the texts used for publication. If several editions authorised by the authors themselves are available, the last of them will, as a rule, be taken as the basic one and any significant variant readings from other authorised editions will be given in footnotes. In cases where such readings are numerous they may be brought together in the form of appendices.

Any extraneous editorial additions to the texts of publications made during the authors’ lifetime will be removed and information concerning them, if necessary with reproduction of the corrupted text, will be provided in the notes.

English translations that appeared during the lifetime of Marx and Engels and under their supervision and editorship are regarded as authorised by them. These texts will generally be reproduced without changes, but only after checking against the texts in the original languages and removal of any obvious mistranslations or misprints that passed unnoticed by the authors. Textual revisions introduced by a translator with the consent of the authors or on their instructions will be preserved, the translation of the text as in the original language being given in a footnote as a variant reading.

All texts will be checked for misprints, inaccuracies in the quoting of proper names, place names, numerical errors, and so on. Obvious misprints or slips of the pen in the original will be corrected without comment, while any assumed errors will be discussed in footnotes. Comments in footnotes or general notes will also be made whenever the correction of a misprint influences the reading of the subsequent text or calls for further correction (for example, in tables, arithmetical calculations, etc.).

Citations by the authors will be checked and obvious mistakes corrected. The author’s deliberate condensation or revision of quoted texts will be preserved and, where this seems necessary, the exact text of the passage cited will be noted. Citations from works in languages other than English will, as a rule, appear in English translation. Deliberate uses of foreign expressions, terms, aphorisms, proverbs in the ancient language or in local dialect, etc., will be reproduced, however, as in the original, an English translation being appended in a footnote when this seems necessary.

The edition will include a detailed reference apparatus for each volume, containing information on texts, sources, bibliography and history, references to theoretical and literary sources, commentaries on obscure passages, and brief notes on persons, newspapers and periodicals referred to in the texts. Each volume will be provided with a subject index. In general, the reference apparatus, more or less uniform for all volumes, will be arranged as follows: an editorial preface for each volume, or group of volumes embracing a single work; notes; a name index; an index of quoted and mentioned literature; an index of periodicals, and a subject index.

Editorial commentary will be found in the form of footnotes and notes at the end of each volume. The footnotes will be concerned mainly with textual criticism. They will seek to explain obscurities in the texts, including oblique references to names, literary works and events. And they will cite variant readings from other authorised editions or from manuscripts and printed versions, provide cross-references, indicate possible misprints, and so on. Explanations concerning books and literary works mentioned will be given in footnotes only where the reader may have difficulty in tracing these works in the index of quoted and mentioned literature.

The notes at the end of each volume will provide more detailed information. They will deal with the history of various works and projects, including those that remained in the form of unfinished manuscripts (brief information on the first publication will also be given at the end of each work). The work of Marx and Engels on various newspapers, and their activities in various organisations, will be one of the main subjects of the notes. Historical commentary will bear mainly on the history of the working-class movement and Marx and Engels’ participation in it. Notes on general historical events will be provided only when circumstances essential to an understanding of the text do not emerge clearly from the authors’ own accounts.

The name index will be provided with brief annotations. A special section will list alphabetically the literary and mythological characters mentioned in the text. The index of periodicals, which includes all the newspapers, magazines, annuals, etc., referred to in the text, will also be annotated. Wherever possible the index of quoted and mentioned literature will indicate the editions used by Marx and Engels. Where this cannot be firmly established, the first edition will be indicated and, in the case of fiction, only the title and the author’s name.

The volumes will include documentary illustrations, with maps and diagrams for articles dealing with military and historical subjects. Original drawings by Engels included in his letters will be reproduced.

This complete edition of the works of Marx and Engels is the product of agreement and collaboration of British, American and Soviet scholars, translators and editors. It is published by Lawrence & Wishart Ltd., London, International Publishers Co. Inc., New York, in consultation respectively with the Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain and the National Committee of the Communist Party of the United States of America, and by Progress Publishers and the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Moscow.

The entire work of preparation and publication is supervised by editorial commissions appointed by the publishers in Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union. Together they form a team responsible for the edition as a whole.

Considerable help is being afforded, too, by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, in Berlin.

All the work of arrangement, preparation and final editing of the texts and of the reference apparatus of each volume is based on agreement in the sharing of obligations between the participating publishers, the key principle being co-ordination of all major decisions and mutual cross-checking of the work. The edition is being printed in Moscow at the First Model Printers.

The general principles governing its preparation and publication were first agreed at a general conference of representatives of the three publishers in Moscow at the beginning of December 1969, and subsequently elaborated further by the agreement of the three editorial commissions. Those who took part personally in the elaboration of these principles are listed alphabetically below:

GREAT BRITAIN: Jack Cohen, Maurice Cornforth, Maurice Dobb, E. J. Hobsbawm, James Klugmann, Margaret Mynatt.

USA: James S. Allen, Philip S. Foner, the late Howard Selsam, Dirk J. Struik, William W. Weinstone.

USSR: for Progress Publishers — N. P. Karmanova, V. N. Pavlov, M. K. Shcheglova, T. Y. Solovyova; for the Institute of Marxism-Leninism — P. N. Fedoseyev, L. I. Golman, A. I. Malysh, A. G. Yegorov, V. Y. Zevin.

The publication of the first volume and preparation of subsequent volumes is being conducted under the supervision of the above-mentioned editorial commissions.