Is Engels very racist or is he being taken out of context?

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Feb 3 2019 14:08
Is Engels very racist or is he being taken out of context?

A guy named George Watson wrote a book, which tried to "prove", among other things, that Adolf Hitler was a marxist. Now, obviously, it's hard to take this view seriously, and most of what Watson says is obviously bullshit with no proper evidence.

However, Watson sometimes quotes Engels saying things that, without context, sound shady. I need to see the context.

I went to MIA to read the articles. The problem is that they're not available in English because of Lawrence & Wishart.

So I went to the German version of MIA, and they did have a link to the articles (they were on another site for some reason).

One of them is by Engels (Watson incorrectly says it's written by Marx), named "Der magyarische Kampf", the other is also by Engels and is named "Der dänisch-preußische Waffenstillstand".

Here are some quotes from the automatic translation of one of the articles:

"Of all the nations and monasteries of Austria, only three are the bearers of progress who have actively intervened in history, which are still viable - the Germans, the Poles, the Magyars . Therefore, they are now revolutionary. All other big and small tribes and peoples have the mission to perish in the revolutionary world-storm. Therefore they are now counterrevolutionary."

"These remnants of a nation which, as Hegel says, are relentlessly trodden down by the course of history, these peoples' trashes are always, and remain until their utter obliteration or denationalization, the fanatical vehicles of counterrevolution, as their whole existence is in itself a protest against a great historical revolution."

"The next world war will not only turn into reactionary classes and dynasties, it will also make entire reactionary peoples disappear from the ground. And that's also progress."

Source: www.mlwerke.de/me/me06/me06_165.htm

Here is a quote from the other article:

"With the same right with which the French have taken Flanders, Lorraine and Alsace and will take Belgium sooner or later, with the same right Germany takes Schleswig: with the right of civilization against barbarism, of progress against stability."

Source: www.mlwerke.de/me/me05/me05_393.htm

Does anybody have a hard copy of these articles in English? Or are there any German-speaking people here?

Dave B
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Feb 3 2019 20:24

I think the ‘Hegelian’ type idea then was ‘peoples’ were defined by the culture and ideology.

Which was due to their ‘previous history’ or aggregate of ‘social relations’ rather than any congenital predisposition?

Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung January 1849
The Magyar Struggle

......….How did this division of the nations come about, what was its basis?

The division is in accordance with all the previous history of the nationalities in question. It is the beginning of the decision on the life or death of all these nations, large and small.

All the earlier history of Austria up to the present day is proof of this and 1848 confirmed it. Among all the large and small nations of Austria, only three standard-bearers of progress took an active part in history, and still retain their vitality — the Germans, the Poles and the Magyars. Hence they are now revolutionary.

All the other large and small nationalities and peoples are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary world storm. For that reason they are now counter-revolutionary.....

https://www.marxistsfr.org/archive/marx/works/1849/01/13.htm

You have to be careful about reading too much anachronistic post Darwinian concepts of natural inferiority or superiority into the 19th century I think.

For discussion?

I suppose their might be a parallel with Barak Obama’s idea of the US being an exceptional nation etc?

Dave B
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Feb 3 2019 20:35

......By the same right under which France took Flanders, Lorraine and Alsace, and will sooner or later take Belgium -- by that same right Germany takes over Schleswig; it is the right of civilization as against barbarism, of progress as against static stability. Even if the agreements were in Denmark's favor -- which is very doubtful-this right carries more weight than all the agreements, for it is the right of historical evolution.

So long as the Schleswig-Holstein movement remained a purely legal philistine agitation of a civic and peaceful nature it merely filled well-meaning petty bourgeois with enthusiasm. When, before the outbreak of the February revolution, the present King of Denmark at his accession promised a liberal.....

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/09/10a.htm

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Feb 4 2019 11:08
Dave B wrote:
I think the ‘Hegelian’ type idea then was ‘peoples’ were defined by the culture and ideology.

Where have you heard that?

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Feb 4 2019 19:59
explainthingstome wrote:
One of them is by Engels (Watson incorrectly says it's written by Marx), named "Der magyarische Kampf", the other is also by Engels and is named "Der dänisch-preußische Waffenstillstand".

I'm not familiar with George Watson and his book seems deeply flawed, but to be fair getting Engels and Marx mixed up isn't uncommon. Partly because they both had a habit of writing in place of the other and Engels did on several occasions write under Marx's name, and often this wasn't discovered until decades later. Eleanor Marx one of Karls daughters for example didn't know that Engels had written a series of articles in Revolution and Counter revolution in Germany under her Fathers name and she wrote the preface to the most common version of it in English.

So it could be a hatchet job or he could've just used a misattributed edition.

Anyway, Engels is infamous for expressing very strong German nationalist sentiments at points in his life, for example several chapters of Revolution and Counter-revolution are pretty appalling in their advocacy for a strong German state with expanded borders and the Germanisation of its minority populations.It also dates the work and calls into question his ideas on development since as we know Slavic nationalisms, culture and identities were growing in popularity at the same time Engels was invoking history to predict their final defeat.

Also I remember the chapter on Irish immigration in Conditions of the Working Class is pretty ugly, it describes extreme poverty and the survival methods used as if this just unique to Irish culture. It also shows that he wasn't above belief in inherited characteristics since he doesn't mention that Ireland's economy was directed largely by the requirements of the UK but links Irish national development to an Irish character.

Quote:
the southern facile character of the Irishman, his crudity, which places him but little above the savage, his contempt for all humane enjoyments, in which his very crudeness makes him incapable of sharing, his filth and poverty, all favour drunkenness.

Its very bizarre reading.

Quote:
And even if the Irish, who have forced their way into other occupations, should become more civilised, enough of the old habits would cling to them to have a strong, degrading influence upon their English companions in toil, especially in view of the general effect of being surrounded by the Irish. For when, in almost every great city, a fifth or a quarter of the workers are Irish, or children of Irish parents, who have grown up among Irish filth, no one can wonder if the life, habits, intelligence, moral status -- in short, the whole character of the working-class assimilates a great part of the Irish characteristics.

Dave B
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Feb 4 2019 22:25

I don’t want to get bogged down with Hegelianism.

Prof. Cassedy

……………HEGEL, MARX, AND ENGELS: A NEW WAY OF LOOKING AT HISTORY

In the Enlightenment, Rousseau’s conception of history was backward-looking (history was a fall from the simplicity of the precivilized state).

In the nineteenth century, G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) introduced a conception of history that is progressive. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels borrowed the logic of this conception of history but modified its content. For Hegel, the content…….

[ ‘external’ driving force? – following Descartes type idea that nothing changes unless something changes it- eg Newton’s first law of motion]

………. was spiritual; for Marx and Engels, the content was material (that is, it had to do with the world of matter, not the world of mind and spirit).

HEGEL’S THEORY OF HISTORY

For Hegel, the mind/spirit follows a progressive, stage-wise development….

---------------------

Actually I think there is a ‘spiritual’ element to it. In the sense we have natural general propensity, or inquisitiveness, to try and understand the world we live in?

Which may be a Darwinian evolutionary acquisition to help us adapt to our environment?

Briefly in 1844 Karl following Feuerbach went back to a kind of Rousseau position?

Where they thought that primitive communism was part of human nature.

Or we were naturally co-operative and communistic and ‘good’ eg Kropotkin and Mutual aid.

And communism would be a return to that condition, post capitalistic development, with technology and a better understanding of the world etc etc.

Thus;

Karl Marx
Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844

Private Property and Communism

(3) Communism as the positive transcendence of private property as human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being – a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development.

This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man – the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/comm.htm

Stirner in his ‘Ego And His Own’, in late 1844 persuaded them otherwise saying that was wishful thinking with no scientific basis.

So Karl and Fred wrote German ideology to clear their heads and get rid of their ‘erstwhile philosophical conscience’; as Fred phrased it.

Stirner, like Nietzsche, Lord Voldemort and Obrien in 1984, believed there was no ‘good or evil’

[ unselfish self sacrifice and egotisitical selfishness etc]

Just power and weakness.

Darwin in his second book provided an evolutionary scientific theory for unselfish self sacrifice or ‘good’ altruism linking it up to Kantian like categorical imperatives and other philosophical shit that people like Nietzsche hated.

http://darwin-online.org.uk/converted/published/1871_Descent_F937/1871_D...

[Neo Social Darwinism is anti Darwinism.]

That is why the ‘Marxists’ went back to early Christian communism.

Feuerbach and Karl in 1844 thought that early Christianity was a psychological and obviously metaphysical expression, or ‘projection’ of frustrated communistic instincts or human essence.

As in Feuerbachs ‘Essence of Christianity.

It was quite clever actually but you have to be tooled up in ‘psychoanalytical’ theory to appreciate it.

On culture and progess etc I think it or modern capitalist development corrupts and destroys it etc.

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Feb 5 2019 10:10
Reddebrek wrote:
Anyway, Engels is infamous for expressing very strong German nationalist sentiments at points in his life, for example several chapters of Revolution and Counter-revolution are pretty appalling in their advocacy for a strong German state with expanded borders and the Germanisation of its minority populations.

Reddebrek wrote:
Also I remember the chapter on Irish immigration in Conditions of the Working Class is pretty ugly, it describes extreme poverty and the survival methods used as if this just unique to Irish culture.

Are there any signs that Engels had abandoned these views in later years?

His racism certainly doesn't make the other stuff he wrote invalid or bad; it's just interesting to know whether or not he was wrong on such a big issue as race.

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Feb 5 2019 10:14
Dave B wrote:
I don’t want to get bogged down with Hegelianism.

Hi Dave B, I think you may have misunderstood me. I meant to ask you where you've read that "people" in a Hegelian context meant "the culture and ideology of a group". Have you read anything by Hegel that shows this?

ajjohnstone
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Feb 5 2019 13:20
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Are there any signs that Engels had abandoned these views in later years?

Didn't the Burns sisters substantially influence him as they did Tussy (Eleanor) Marx

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Feb 5 2019 19:33
Dave B wrote:
You have to be careful about reading too much anachronistic post Darwinian concepts of natural inferiority or superiority into the 19th century I think.

You have that exactly the wrong way round. It is the 19th century concepts of superior and inferior races that Engels & Marx expressed. Marx wrote approvingly of the racial concepts of Tremaux (see an earlier discussion, here; http://libcom.org/library/pierre-joseph-proudhon-uncomfortable-thinker-n... ), they talked of how it was historically progressive for the US to conquer territory from those "lazy Mexicans". They also discussed in letters how the 'racial characteristics' of Marx's son-in-law Lafargue explained his excitable personality etc.
They had a world-view of 'historic and non-historic/progressive and reactionary/superior and inferior' nations and races.

Engels wrote:
Among all the large and small nations of Austria, only three standard-bearers of progress took an active part in history, and still retain their vitality—the Germans, the Poles and the Magyars. Hence they are now revolutionary. All the other large and small nationalities and peoples are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary world storm. For that reason they are now counter-revolutionary."

“The Austrian Germans and Magyars will be set free and wreak a bloody revenge on the Slav barbarians,” he continued. “The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is a step forward.” 1849, Engels published an article in Marx’s newspaper, Neue Rheinische Zeitung

In a letter to Engels, in reference to Ferdinand Lassalle, Marx called him a "jewish n---r" and wrote:

Quote:
It is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes who had joined Moses’ exodus from Egypt, assuming that his mother or grandmother on the paternal side had not interbred with a n—–. Now this union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar product.

In 1887, Paul Lafargue, who was Marx’s son-in-law, was a candidate for a council seat in a Paris district that contained a zoo. Engels claimed that Lafargue had “one-eighth or one-twelfth n—– blood.” In a letter to Lafargue’s wife, Engels wrote;

Quote:
“Being in his quality as a n—–, a degree nearer to the rest of the animal kingdom than the rest of us, he is undoubtedly the most appropriate representative of that district.”

Marx on Lafargue;

Quote:
"Marx's own daughter Laura married the French socialist, Paul Lafargue, whose ancestry was partially Negro. Curiously in the very same letter to Engels in 1866 which announced the betrothal of his daughter, Marx indicated his belief (following the French anthropologist Tremaux) in the relative inferiority of the Negro race, and in the existence of intrinsic racial differences in ability between the Slavs and Lithuanians; "the common Negro type was a degeneration from a quite higher one", he quoted approvingly. From the hypothesis of racial differences in intelligence and abilities, it followed, moreover, that such institutions as slavery and feudalism were not necessarily the consequences of the mode of production; rather they were more probably the outcome of an aggressive or abler race imposing its will on a submissive or less gifted one. In the "silent revolution" which was taking place in the world, wrote Marx in the New York Tribune in 1853, "races, too weak to master the new conditions of life must give way"." (Marx & Engels: Basic Writings, Introduction by LS Feuer)

There are numerous quotes about Jews from Marx that are often considered anti-semitic. Of course Marx also said that “Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin while in the black it is branded.” But that is not necessarily incompatible with a belief in inherently superior and inferior races/nations.

Dave B
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Feb 6 2019 21:40

I really do hate into these vat of tripe type discussions.

When you attempt to understand a non contemporary or 19th century set of ideas.

That you actually think are a bit shitty; as it happens.

And then attempt to just ‘explain’ them and put them in some kind of historical context.

In doing that you tend to be thought of somehow endorsing them and becoming an apologist for them.

There are sort of cultural chauvinist ideas eg our lot are better than the other lot.

But that doesn’t have to be racist; which presumes, or has to include, some idea genetic or congenital pre-condition.

cultural chauvinist ideas and racism are often fused together.

Before I move on?

I suppose we are missing the ‘best’ or ‘worst’ explicitly or implicitly racist comment from Karl?; so we might as well have it here?

………. The possibility is here presented for definite economic development taking place, depending, of course, upon favourable circumstances, inborn racial characteristics, etc…..

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch47.htm

The formal ‘Marxist’ position.

Which doesn’t necessarily include mine.

Was that the capitalism and growth of technology with it was ‘culturally’ progressive or would bring a kind of enlightenment progress with it to peoples who were affected by it as it spread to others affected by the ‘torpor’ of the so called ‘Asiatic or Slav’ mode of production.

So I will just use the ‘Slav?’ Lenin [spit] here just because as a windbag he always had plenty to say, it easy to get hold of and I had some of these quotes placed in file headed under that subject as I read it.

Feudal torpor as a general term could probably cover the ‘Lazy’ Mexican idea?

As I understand it the ‘Mexicans’ aren’t thought of as ‘lazy’ in the US, quite the opposite as they work there bollocks off for a lot less?

But whatever.

The idea, not my idea, from the gobshite Lenin.

So as it goes; the advanced European countries used to suffer from feudal ‘historical passivity and historical torpor’ until capitalism arrived and then the started to become liberated from it and become enlightened or whatever.

And then this ‘awakening to life’ will arrive or spread to the “East Japan, India, and China”.

Thus?;

V. I. Lenin
On the Significance of Militant Materialism

…………the natural scientist must be a modern materialist, a conscious adherent of the materialism represented by Marx, i.e., he must be a dialectical materialist. In order to attain this aim, the contributors to Pod Znamenem Marksizma must arrange for the systematic study of Hegelian dialectics from a materialist standpoint, i.e., the dialectics which Marx applied practically in his Capital and in his historical and political works, and applied so successfully that now every day of the awakening to life and struggle of new classes in the East (Japan, India, and China) — i.e., the hundreds of millions of human beings who form the greater part of the world population and whose historical passivity and historical torpor have hitherto conditioned the stagnation and decay of many advanced European countries — every day of the awakening to life of new peoples and new classes serves as a fresh confirmation of Marxism.

Of course, this study, this interpretation, this propaganda of Hegelian dialectics is extremely difficult, and the first experiments in this direction will undoubtedly be accompanied by errors. But only he who never does anything never makes mistakes. Taking as our basis Marx’s method of applying materialistically conceived Hegelian dialectics, we can and should elaborate this dialectics from all aspects, print in the journal excerpts from Hegel’s principal works, interpret them materialistically and comment on them with the help of examples of the way Marx applied dialectics, as well as of examples of dialectics in the sphere of economic and political relations, which recent history, especially modern imperialist war and revolution, provides in unusual abundance. In my opinion, the editors and contributors of Pod Znamenem Marksizma should be a kind of “Society of Materialist Friends of Hegelian Dialectics”. Modern natural scientists (if they know how to seek, and if we learn to help them) will find in the Hegelian dialectics, materialistically interpreted, a series of answers to the philosophical problems which are being raised by the revolution in natural science and which make the intellectual admirers of bourgeois fashion “stumble” into reaction………

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/mar/12.htm

V. I. Lenin
Left-Wing Narodism and Marxism

….objective course of feudalism’s evolution into capitalism enables millions of working people—thanks to the growth of cities, railways, large factories and the migration of workers—to escape from a condition of feudal torpor. Capitalism itself rouses and organises them.

Both feudalism and capitalism oppress the workers and strive to keep them in ignorance. But feudalism can keep, and for centuries has kept, millions of peasants in a down trodden state (for example, in Russia from the ninth to the nineteenth century, in China for even more centuries).

But capitalism cannot keep the workers in a state of immobility, torpor, downtroddenness and ignorance.

The centuries of feudalism were centuries of torpor for the working people.
The decades of capitalism have roused millions of wage-workers…..

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/jun/19.htm

(Probably hadn’t thought through or anticipated capitalist technologically induced ‘torpor’ of the bread and circuses of media entertainment or the Brave New World?)

I suppose there is a little bit of irony in that the people who are the first to get upset about arranged marriages, women in Burka’s, LGBT stuff, religion and caste systems etc etc.

Which is dissolving in ‘advanced western societies’; are outraged at the idea of the ‘progressive nature’ of ‘advanced western societies’

and want to have their cake and eat it?

My opinion.

I like cultural diversity and not everything that is part of the culture or a hangover of these ‘backward’ cultures is shit.

Although there can be a ‘picturesque’ bias.

Thus in Victorian art there would be pictures of ‘Rousseau’ like peasants living in simple Arcadian paradises and barefoot shepherdess’s type thing etc.

As far as I am concerned there is plenty that is decadent about the so called progressive ‘advanced European countries’ that is more or less alien to other cultures at a ‘lower’ level of economic development.

So there is a strand of anti Hegelianism in my ‘Rousseau’ like personal opinion.

Incidentally these cultural chauvinism and racist ideas were fixed even in the 1700’s.

So one member of the aristocracy decided to take in a very young person of colour or someone of ‘African’ decent.

And give them a proper education etc etc as an ‘experiment’.

I suppose it could have gone wrong as there are idiots amongst all ‘races’.

But as it turned out it didn’t and he became quite a talented and almost exceptional bod.

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Feb 6 2019 22:19
Dave B wrote:
I really do hate into these vat of tripe type discussions.

Then maybe you shouldn't have suggested in your first post that your comments were;

Quote:
For discussion?

BigFluffyTail
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Feb 7 2019 11:39

Damn poor Lafargue that must've made for awkward family dinners

ajjohnstone
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Feb 7 2019 16:43

At least Laura had a loyal husband prepared to die with her in a suicide pact, unlike Eleanor's broken heart due to Aveling's infidelity that drove her to take her own life.

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Feb 8 2019 19:00
ajjohnstone wrote:
Quote:
Are there any signs that Engels had abandoned these views in later years?

Didn't the Burns sisters substantially influence him as they did Tussy (Eleanor) Marx

I have no idea, but if that's true I wouldn't mind reading an Engels quote that proves that this actually happened.

-

Marx and Engels being crude racists, that I can deal with. But talking positively about "utter obliteration" of nationalities sounds abhorrent.

I'm of course not saying that we should throw the baby (idea about history and class etc) out with the bathwater (genocidal racism). But my respect for Engels or Marx would greatly decrease if it actually turns out that they were advocating genocide.

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Feb 8 2019 23:18

No point throwing out baby with bathwater to lose the real accomplishments of those people; the historical context is that anti-semitism and dodgy theories of race were common among 19thC radicals, Bakunin and Proudhon as much as Marx & Engels and endured well into the 20thC. If there's any distinction to be made, it's probably that Marxists are often quick to denounce it in, eg, Bakunin but equally as reluctant to do so in their god Marx. Another possible distinction is that, rather than plain bigotry, Marx & Engels tried to dress their dodgy views up in a pseudo-historical-materialist/scientific garb.

ajjohnstone
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Feb 9 2019 00:07

Secondary sources only, explainthingstome.

Quote:
“The southern facile character of the Irishman, his crudity, which places him but little above the savage, his contempt for all humane enjoyments, his filth and poverty, all favour drunkenness.” Later visits to Ireland in the 1850s and 1860s, with Mary, Lizzie and Marx’s daughter Tussy, changed his perspective, and his Irish notebooks are full of interesting information about post-famine Ireland.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/20/friedrich-engels-a-tourist-in-ir...

http://www.theirishstory.com/2015/08/03/frederick-engels-and-ireland/#.X...

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-friedrich-engels-radical-love...

https://mikedashhistory.com/2013/08/02/friedrich-engels-irish-muse/

http://belindawebb.blogspot.com/2010/05/who-was-mary-burns.html

zugzwang
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Feb 9 2019 03:23

Don't forget Marx's letters on poor Kautsky (pretty brutal ending there)

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Feb 9 2019 14:04
Red Marriott wrote:
the historical context is that anti-semitism and dodgy theories of race were common among 19thC radicals, Bakunin and Proudhon as much as Marx & Engels and endured well into the 20thC.

What is your personal view, do you believe that Engels is in fact looking positively at the idea of genocide?

ajjohnstone wrote:
Secondary sources only, explainthingstome.

Actually, I was more interested in Engels possibly changed view about the "utter obliteration" of "peoples trashes"

Mike Harman
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Feb 9 2019 15:33
explainthingstome wrote:
view about the "utter obliteration" of "peoples trashes"

It's hard to tell what he meant from a machine translation, would be better to find a proper English translation from the German (or a German speaker).

There are at least two possibilities I think:

1. That he means literal genocide and that this would be good.

2. That he thinks the national/cultural/language groups will be absorbed into a larger national entity rather than having an independent nation state.

The latter is still brutal, see for example the 'Welsh not' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welsh_Not but not genocide as such.

The sheer amount of racism in the workers movement is usually massively underestimated, so what we get from Marx and Engels is not unique but unfortunately way too common.

The US socialist party under Debs had a strong pro-segregation wing - including the editor of one of it's newspapers Kate O'Hare (see N**** equality from 1912 https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/parties/spusa/1912/0325-ohare-nigge...)

Around WWI and afterwards there were a lot of people into eugenics - including Margaret Sanger who worked with both Emma Goldman and W.E. Du Bois.

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Feb 9 2019 18:06
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What is your personal view, do you believe that Engels is in fact looking positively at the idea of genocide?

The 1849 Neue Rheinische Zeitung quote from Engels I cited above could easily be interpreted that way. But I don't know of any more explict pro-genocide expression by him and/or Marx. I think it's more along the lines of approving the 'necessary' and 'progressive' conquest and absorption of 'backward' regions and peoples by the historically 'progressive' nations to advance the domination of capitalism and therefore the supposedly 'objectively necessary conditions' for communism. A determinism that begins to see real people as mere tools of a schematic historical 'necessity'.

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Feb 9 2019 18:18
Quote:
The US socialist party under Debs had a strong pro-segregation wing - including the editor of one of it's newspapers Kate O'Hare (see N**** equality from 1912 https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/parties/spusa/1912/0325-ohare-nigge...)

Debs himself initially inherited the prevailing prejudices of the American worker and reflected in the Know-Nothing Party of the time.

He attacked the immigration agents as representatives of capital – “enemies of American workingmen” who wished to “chinaize the county” and he openly welcomed legislation that permitted the authorities to return “to their despot cursed home” the “victims” of these agent’s efforts.

Debs found the Italian’s even less desirable than the Chinese. “The Dago” he claimed “works for small pay, and lives far more like a savage or a wild beast, than the Chinese,” This Italian “fattens on garbage” and cares little for civilization, and therefore, “able to underbid an American workingman” Only in this way can the Italian appear industrious and Debs warned that Italy “has millions of them to spare and they are coming”

Jews fared little better. When it was announced that the London Board of Guardians had instated a program to transfer Russian-Jewish immigrants to the United States, Debs claimed that that this would increase the already increasing hostility towards immigrants. Identifying these immigrants as “criminals and paupers” Debs bemoaned the fact that most were able to “take up a permanent residence” and strongly asserted that “it was possible to end the infamous business”

Debs views on negroes at no time ran counter to the ARU members anti-black feelings. Reporting that a new Texas law required separate coaches for black and white Deb’s stated “There might come a time when in the South whites and blacks will be on terms of social equality, till then it were better to fight separately”

Debs supported without any record of dissent the Brotherhoods attempts to rid the railroad of black firemen and the anti-black clause in the Fireman’s constitution.

But as early as 1903 Debs takes a vehement stand against racism, replying to an anonymous letter in the International Socialist Review ending with, "For myself, I want no advantage over my fellow man and if he is weaker than I, all the more is it my duty to help him. Nor shall my door or my heart be ever closed against any human being on account of the color of his skin."

His attitude, also, took a great change and in 1910 he was writing this:
“If Socialism, international, revolutionary Socialism, does not stand staunchly, unflinchingly, and uncompromisingly for the working class and for the exploited and oppressed masses of all lands, then it stands for none and its claim is a false pretense and its profession a delusion and a snare.
Let those desert us who will because we refuse to shut the international door in the faces of their own brethren; we will be none the weaker but all the stronger for their going, for they evidently have no clear conception of the international solidarity, are wholly lacking in the revolutionary spirit, and have no proper place in the Socialist movement while they entertain such aristocratic notions of their own assumed superiority.
Let us stand squarely on our revolutionary, working class principles and make our fight openly and uncompromisingly against all our enemies, adopting no cowardly tactics and holding out no false hopes, and our movement will then inspire the faith, arouse the spirit, and develop the fiber that will prevail against the world.”

His anti racist articles

https://www.marxists.org/archive/debs/works/1904/negronemesis.htm

https://www.marxists.org/archive/debs/works/1903/negro.htm

People can change their prejudices by experience as did Debs as his political ideas matured. The early bigoted views of Debs all changed from his growing experience. Incorporating immigrants rather than excluding them made the labor unions and the socialist parties ever stronger, as the influence of the foreign-born sections of the Industrial Workers of the World, Socialist Labor Party and Socialist Party testifies. These positive developments were highlighted by the immigrant James Connolly when he was a labour organizer active in America, bringing together the Irish and the Italians and many other nationalities in the mills and factories. The Socialist Party of Canada also had an internal disagreement on the issue of immigrants around this time and the SPGB complained about it.

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Feb 9 2019 19:12
explainthingstome wrote:
But my respect for Engels or Marx would greatly decrease if it actually turns out that they were advocating genocide.

It's absurd to think that by "utter obliteration" of nationalities they actually meant genocide; i.e., the physical extermination of the individual people making up those nationalities. This is just a case of you, a modern reader, projecting the assumptions of the modern era – the post-Armenia 1915 and post-Auschwitz era, arguably more barbaric than the one Marx and Engels lived in – onto the past where they don't hold. Engels was talking about obliteration in a world-historical sense, i.e., about assimilation and the loss of political autonomy as well as cultural and linguistic distinctiveness.

This can be seen, for example, in this letter from Engels to Kautsky: on the one hand, there's the usual chauvinist talk of "dwarfs of nations" that would "beg to be readmitted" to Austria-Hungary after just six months of independence, but on the other, Engels is also celebrating "[t]he splendid cooperation among German and Czech workers in Bohemia" – something he probably wouldn't have done if he'd preferred to see those Czech workers exterminated as Untermenschen.

Note also that in the letter, Engels doesn't seem to hold non-Polish Slavs in contempt because of their "racial stock" or some such 19th-century pseudoscientific bullshit, but rather because their political representation allied itself with the Russian Empire, which was loathed by Marx and Engels (sometimes to the extent of paranoia) as the most powerful force of European reaction.

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Feb 9 2019 20:05

As AFP indicates, both Marx and Engels geo-political analyses was based on speeding the process of establishing socialism.

They supported Irish independence because they thought it would hasten the completion of the democratisation of the British State. It was concerned with furthering the establishment of political democracy in England. The struggle of the Irish nationalists was bound to help the evolution in Britain of political democracy because both struggles were directed against: the same class enemy: the English landed aristocracy. Marx clearly writes here of independence for Ireland helping to overthrow the remnants of feudalism not capitalism itself in England.

At this time the bourgeois democratic victory over feudalism was far from complete even in Britain, then the most industrially developed country in the world, and on the continent of Europe what progress had been made was continually threatened by three great feudal powers, Russia, Austria and Prussia. In these circumstances Marx considered it necessary to support not only direct moves to extend political democracy but also moves which he felt would weaken the feudal powers of Europe. They supported Polish independence as a means of weakening Tsarist Russia.

Support for Irish independence was for the same sort of reason: it would, he thought, weaken the position of the English landed aristocracy. At the time, the English landed aristocracy still enjoyed considerable political power. Marx may well have been right about the effect of Irish independence at that period of time. Since the English landlords only retained their power to exploit the Irish peasants by force of British arms, a British withdrawal from Ireland could well have led to their expropriation.

Engels twice visited Ireland but he never went to Belfast. But if he had he would surely have recognised Belfast as a sister city to the Manchester of his youth. His view on Irish nationalism

Quote:
A purely socialist movement cannot be expected in Ireland for a considerable time. People there want first of all to become peasants owning a plot of land, and after they have achieved that mortgages will appear on the scene and they will be ruined once more. But this should not prevent us from seeking to help them to get rid of their landlords, that is, to pass from semi-feudal conditions to capitalist conditions (Interview, 20 September 1888, New Yorker Volkszeitung, Marx and Engels on Ireland, p.343).

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Feb 10 2019 13:25
AnythingForProximity wrote:
It's absurd to think that by "utter obliteration" of nationalities they actually meant genocide [...] Engels was talking about obliteration in a world-historical sense, i.e., about assimilation and the loss of political autonomy as well as cultural and linguistic distinctiveness. [...]

This can be seen [...] in this letter from Engels to Kautsky [...] Engels is [...] celebrating "[t]he splendid cooperation among German and Czech workers in Bohemia" – something he probably wouldn't have done if he'd preferred to see those Czech workers exterminated as Untermenschen.

I think the letter that you refer to is a good indication that Engels wasn't talking about genocide in his article about Hungary, but rather something similar to the second intepretation that Mike Harman presented.

However, I don't think it's absurd that I was worried about the original quote from Engels that I asked about in my original post. Surely the idea of mass murdering an ethnic group wasn't unheard of prior to the Armenian genocide?

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Feb 16 2019 21:39

Engels talks of wiping out "unhistoric" peoples down to their very names -- there really is just one way of doing that, namely ethic cleansing... to quote an old article of mine's on Proudhon:

Quote:
Worse, Engels proclaimed that “one day we shall take a bloody revenge on the Slavs for this cowardly and base betrayal of the revolution” and “hatred of the Russians was, and still is, the first revolutionary passion of the Germans”. The revolution could only be secured “against these Slavs peoples by the most decisive acts of terrorism” and “a war of annihilation and ruthless terrorism, not in the interests of Germany but in the interests of the revolution!” There would be “a bloody revenge in the Slav barbarians” and a war which will “annihilate all these small pig-headed nations even to their very names” and “will not only cause reactionary classes and dynasties to disappear from the face of the earth, but also entire reactionary peoples. And that too is an advance.” (quoted, 85, 86)

So a war of "annihilation," down "to their very names" and peoples would "disappear from the face of the earth."

Mike Harman wrote:
There are at least two possibilities I think:

1. That he means literal genocide and that this would be good.

2. That he thinks the national/cultural/language groups will be absorbed into a larger national entity rather than having an independent nation state.

The latter is still brutal, see for example the 'Welsh not' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welsh_Not but not genocide as such.

Given that the Welsh still exist, we can say that Engels meant the former -- a literal war of ethnic cleansing against those he deemed as being "reactionary" (which also, by strange coincidence, co-incidenced with German national interests!).

Simply put, if Proudhon or Bakunin had written those articles Marxists would be quoting them to show the evils of anarchism. As it stands, they just get ignored by Marxists -- so Roman Rosdolsky should be praised for his “Engels and the ‘Nonhistoric’ Peoples: The National Question in the Revolution of 1848.” (Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory, No. 18/19). He took the issue on and covered it well, if not wholely convincingly (not least his attempts to downplay the awkward fact that Bakunin rather than Engels was right in 1848!)

All this, of course, does not negate their contributions to socialist theory and the analysis of capitalism -- but it is deeply unpleasant even if you argue they were products of their era and cannot be expected to have the sensibilities of the modern left (even if most Marxists seem to wish -- or think! -- they did!)

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Feb 17 2019 14:35
Anarcho wrote:
[Marx and Engels said that] There would be “a bloody revenge in the Slav barbarians” and a war which will “annihilate all these small pig-headed nations even to their very names”

Do you know what the name of the article was and what year and month it was published?

Anarcho wrote:
peoples would "disappear from the face of the earth."

How would you reply to what AnythingForProximity said, namely that

"Engels is also celebrating "[t]he splendid cooperation among German and Czech workers in Bohemia" – something he probably wouldn't have done if he'd preferred to see those Czech workers exterminated as Untermenschen."

Anarcho wrote:
Given that the Welsh still exist, we can say that Engels meant the former -- a literal war of ethnic cleansing against those he deemed as being "reactionary"

I'm not sure whether or not you're right or wrong about the main issue, but I do believe that this argument doesn't hold up. Yes, the Welsh still exist. But that tells us nothing of what Engels meant with his comment.

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Feb 17 2019 15:37
explainthingstome wrote:
"Engels is also celebrating "[t]he splendid cooperation among German and Czech workers in Bohemia" – something he probably wouldn't have done if he'd preferred to see those Czech workers exterminated as Untermenschen."

Well that's not very compelling since Engels doesn't mention what these two groups are supposed to cooperating about.

The splendid cooperation among German and Czech workers in Bohemia proves, moreover, how little the workers themselves in the allegedly ‘subjugated’ countries are infected by the Panslavist appetites of the professors and bourgeois.

The only clue is that apparently the Czechs have abandoned Pan Slavism, which given his earlier commentary on Czechs would suggest that he's celebrating an abandonment of their nationalist aspirations and that they are now content to be part of a German nation. Earlier in thre letter he describes Germany as "petty" Germany, a term he used in Germany 1848 to describe a German nation without the German speaking parts of the Habsburg Empire.

He is also earlier in that letter says this

Quote:
Now you, may ask me, whether I have no sympathy whatever for the small Slavic peoples, and remnants of peoples, which have been severed asunder by the three wedges driven in the flesh of Slavdom: the Germans, Magyars and Turks? In fact I have damned little sympathy for them.

What he's describing there is a history of conquest, occupation and exploitation. And Engels is stating that he doesn't care about any of it.

The only thing this letter makes clear is that Engels did not change his views much at all from the 1840s-1880s.

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Feb 17 2019 17:11
Reddebrek wrote:
What he's describing there is a history of conquest, occupation and exploitation. And Engels is stating that he doesn't care about any of it.

I'm convinced that Engels was racist towards Slavs. However, I am not sure about the view that Engels wanted to exterminate Slavic people.

Later on in the letter that you quote (which can be read here: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1882/letters/82_02_07.htm), Engels writes that

"Only when with the collapse of Tsarism the nationalist ambitions of these dwarfs of peoples will be freed from association with Panslavist tendencies of world domination, only then we can let them take their fate in their own hands."

That doesn't sound like something someone who wants to exterminate Slavs would say. Assuming he's not masquerading?

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Feb 17 2019 18:27

Some of Marx's and Engels' remarks were certainly racist and despicable. However, the two also had a lively correspondence and cooperation with revolutionaries from Slavic countries (like Zasulich, who was Russian, or Kautsky, who was born in Prague to a Czech father, but also many others). In a letter to Zasulich in 1885, Engels wrote,

Engels wrote:
First of all I repeat to you that I am proud to know that there is a party among the youth of Russia which frankly and without ambiguity accepts the great economic and historic theories of Marx and which has decisively broken with all the anarchist and slightly Slavophil traditions of its predecessors. And Marx himself would have been equally proud of this had he lived a little longer. It is an advance which will be of great importance for the revolutionary development of Russia.

Clearly, their goals at that time had nothing to do with the annihilation of Slavs. Marx did not study the russian Mir for his plans for a genocide of the Russian peasantry. They did not support the nationalist movement in Poland (for which they always had a soft spot, even in the 1840s) against Russia to encourage a "fratricidal war" of Slavs.

The remarks in the 1840s were terrible (and inaccurate as predictions), but they were written "in the heat of battle" and with great hopes of bourgeois revolutions overturning the dominance of reactionary Russia. They thus saw the then-emerging nationalist movements of the smaller Slavic nations (that instinctively turned to Russia against the Austrians and Hungarians) as enemies. They expected that capitalist development and political revolutions would absorb and liquidate these smaller cultures, i.e., it was not the workers movement that was supposed to "annihilate" them, but objective development. This is of course laughably incorrect in retrospect (all of the "non-historic" peoples now have their own nation-states and even managed to carry out some genocides and other atrocities of their own). All of this does not excuse M&E's racist remarks (which were by no means limited to Slavs), but it does explain them, and shows why they could have made them at one point and closely cooperate with Slavic revolutionaries and even project great hopes of revolution onto Russia at another.

(FWIW my nationality is one of those "non-historic peoples".)

Anarcho
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Feb 18 2019 17:27
explainthingstome wrote:
Anarcho wrote:
[Marx and Engels said that] There would be “a bloody revenge in the Slav barbarians” and a war which will “annihilate all these small pig-headed nations even to their very names”

Do you know what the name of the article was and what year and month it was published?

Rosdolsky quotes from it, and others. The Marx-Engels archive has (or at least had) the relevant articles, plus of course the Collected Works from 1848-9. Suffice to say, I'm not at home and so cannot provide precise references -- but these are well known quotes...

explainthingstome wrote:
Anarcho wrote:
peoples would "disappear from the face of the earth."

How would you reply to what AnythingForProximity said, namely that

"Engels is also celebrating "[t]he splendid cooperation among German and Czech workers in Bohemia" – something he probably wouldn't have done if he'd preferred to see those Czech workers exterminated as Untermenschen."

Presumably those are slavs who are appropriately "grateful" for being "civilised" by the Germans.... still, not sure what the point is, given his longing for a war to "annihilate" these "unhistoric" peoples...

explainthingstome wrote:
Anarcho wrote:
Given that the Welsh still exist, we can say that Engels meant the former -- a literal war of ethnic cleansing against those he deemed as being "reactionary"

I'm not sure whether or not you're right or wrong about the main issue, but I do believe that this argument doesn't hold up. Yes, the Welsh still exist. But that tells us nothing of what Engels meant with his comment.

Let me quote Engels again:

Quote:
The general war which will then break out will scatter the Slav Sonderbund [alliance], and annihilate all these small pigheaded nations even to their very names. The next world war will not only cause reactionary classes and dynasties to disappear from the face of the earth, but also entire reactionary peoples. And that too is an advance.' (F. Engels, The Magyar Struggle, January 1849)

It seems pretty clear what he meant by those words... what part of "war," "annihilate," "disappear from the face of the earth" and "even to their very names" is difficult to understand?

Or is it because Engels wrote these words and so somehow we need to delve deeply into what they could possibily mean? Or is Engels such a bad writer that he simply cannot express what he meant?