Machajski’s rejection of Marxism as a revolutionary movement went deeper than just a repudiation of its political tactics and its immediate objectives of parliamentary power in the West and a bourgeois revolution" in Russia. He accused it of defending the interests of the intelligentsia even in its basic philosophical assumptions and psychological outlook. Those interests would find their realisation with the achievement of Marxism's ultimate objective, the "socialisation of the means of production," which, far from satisfying the aspirations of the proletariat, would consolidate the economic power of the new ruling class of intellectual workers. Using Marxism, and to some extent anarchism, as a foil, Machajski worked out an alternative revolutionary theory and program. Instead of socialisation of the means of production, it would result in what he called the "socialisation of knowledge."
Machajski attacked Marxism for the very reason that so many intellectuals were attracted to it: because it formed an entire philosophical world-view, a comprehensive explanation of the nature of society and the historical process. Although Marxism declared that it wanted to change the world, it also wanted to understand it, and to do so it had to stand back intellectually from the class struggle and its moral claims, to view it from the philosophical vantage point of society as a whole, or of universal human history. Thereby, Machajski believed, it rendered itself incapable of representing and defending the specific economic interests of the working class. It was not possible to achieve an objective comprehension of the class struggle and at the same time to embrace the subjective sentiments of one of the parties to it, to be both a dispassionate social scientist and a passionate spokesman for society's victims. These were two very different perspectives which created mutually exclusive loyalties and commitments. For Marxists, the interests of society as a whole - and, therefore, of its rulers and guardians - inevitably took precedence over the interests of the working class.
This aspect of Makhaevism displays not only anti-intelligentsia sentiment, that is, hostility to the presumed economic and political designs of the intelligentsia, but also an element of anti-intellectualism, hostility to the kind of thinking associated with intellectuals. This was an important component of Machajski's critique of other revolutionary currents, closely resembling Bakunin's earlier strictures against Comte and Marx. It marks out yet another area in which Bakuninism may have served as a source of inspiration, or at least as a precursor of Makhaevism.
In 1906, Machajski published in St. Petersburg a Russian translation of selected passages from Marx's The Holy Family. The notes he supplied to this translation - actually, Makhaevist glosses on certain key phrases - go to the heart of his opposition to the Marxist world-view. In The Holy Family, he argued, Marx and Engels had started out on the right foot to develop a truly materialist view of history. For example in criticising Bruno Bauer and his idea of "progress," Marx declared that the concept of progress was "completely empty and abstract," that historical development had hitherto proceeded against the great mass of humanity and had reduced it to "an ever more dehumanised predicament. "Machajski regarded this passage as a precise expression of the proletariat's class consciousness. But instead of adhering to this position, he complained, Marx had gone on to construct a theory designed to show that there was absolute progress in history. The theory of mature Marxism, that history is the ceaseless development of mankind's productive forces, contradicted what the young Marx had correctly suggested. The Marxist doctrine that society arose to meet the productive needs of man stemmed not from a materialist point of view but from idealism, "from the idealist fiction that civilised society is a single economic co-operative, an involuntary collaboration."
The rest of Machajski's notes elaborated the same point. "Scientific socialism" had by no means surmounted the utopianism of earlier socialist theories, as it claimed, but had incorporated it, camouflaging it with a facade of objectivism. Instead of recognising that history is in fact "exclusively a matter of human hands, exclusively a result of human will," Marxism, in its attempt to marry German philosophy to the labour movement, placed its emphasis on "historical necessity," objective economic forces, laws of social development that were independent of human will.Like any idealist or even religious system, Marxism began to pay superstitious homage to historical necessity, turning it into a kind of socialist providence which over the centuries has been preparing paradise on earth. As a result, it obscured what those few phrases of The Holy Family had momentarily made clear, that history over the centuries had created "not collaboration but slavery," that the historical process had no other meaning than the progressive enslavement of the majority of men.To perceive the true class position of the workers, a Marxist would have to renounce the Hegelian notion of "an historical, objective, economic justification for every historical era." He would have to acknowledge instead that "the Marxist doctrine of the productive needs of society, the productive requirements of mankind, contains not economic materialism . . . but the old utopian viewpoint of a single society, a single mankind."
From Machajski's point of view, human history began with conquest and had never been anything other than the succession of one ruling class by another over the toilers of the world. From antique slavery to medieval serfdom to modern industrial capitalism, the position of the labourers had remained unchanged.Civilization had been built not on force alone, however, but on force supplemented and reinforced by the superior knowledge of the rulers. Throughout history, knowledge had been the monopoly of the ruling class, and "the intellectual workers of every age, of every country, have been the masters and the manual workers their slaves."Even at the dawn of history, the more advanced tribes had been able to subjugate the backward ones through greater mastery of the secrets of nature The fruits of civilisation had always fallen to the masters, while the vast majority of men were condemned to lifelong ignorance and turned into beasts of burden. "The capture of civilisation by robbers - this is the essence of the workers' bondage."
If history was entirely the product of force, deceit, and calculation, then it was a case of every class for itself. If economic oppression stemmed entirely from the conscious will of the oppressors, then it could be cast off by an act of will on the part of the oppressed, galvanised by their suffering and resentment. Any doctrine which tried to transcend these raw feelings and concern itself with the interests of society as a whole inevitably stifled the rebelliousness of the workers, and this was precisely the course Marxism had taken.
Marxism proudly proclaimed itself a "social science." But a social science, by its very nature, cannot be the enemy of historical development and the system of bondage it has produced. Instead of rebelling against the existing order, Marxism tried to understand and explain it. It is impossible, Machajski maintained, to interpret social development and at the same time speak for the masses who are revolting against it. In its effort to be dispassionately scientific, Marxism preoccupied itself with the "law<' of historical progress. But "it is impossible simultaneously to perform this philosophical, scientific function of the guardians of history and to assert that 'the whole of past historical development contradicts' the great majority of mankind," as Marx and Engels stated in The Holy Family.The workers' revolution, as Machajski conceived it, was not the final step in the orderly march of history, but a revolt against history as it had hitherto unfolded. "The workers' revolution is a revolt of the slaves of contemporary society against historical laws, which to this day have turned the whole earth into their prison."
Not only historical and sociological constructs but ethical and social ideals served to curb the resentment of the workers. All such ideals merely sanctified the conduct of the ruling classes and condemned those who rebelled against them. By its very nature, no ideal can promote the emancipation of the "slave class," for an ideal is universal; it concerns itself with the welfare of all humanity, and to consider the interests of just one class would violate it. Neither Christian, socialist, communist, nor even anarchist ideals could adequately represent the needs of the underdog, for they were cast in terms of "society" or "mankind" as a whole. In a lengthy critique of Kropotkin's ideas, Machajski determined that the anarchist world-view differed little from that of Marxism. To the extent that the anarchist adhered to such sentiments as "solidarity" and the inherent socialism of the Russian peasants, drew on contemporary science to substantiate his ideals, and sought to adjust anarchist goals to the relative level of development of different societies, he fell prey to "a special anarchist objectivism." Like Marxism, anarchism "establishes the same laws of historical development and historical continuity emanating from the historical conditions of existence of each 'country' that are independent of the will of contemporaries," leading the anarchists to agree with the Marxists that the impending revolution in Russia would be limited to the establishment of bourgeois democracy.Inexorably, therefore, anarchism helped to undermine and restrict the revolutionary energies of the working class. "Anarchist science . . . paralyses the tendency of the contemporary labour movement to a world-wide conspiracy, to a universal uprising of the workers with a single goal. Science, in both its Marxist and its anarchist application, proves to be a force that does not assist but hinders the uprising of the slaves of the civilised world."
Regarding the existing order as the womb of the future, a necessary, and therefore justifiable, stage that mankind must pass through on the way to a better life, Marxism, far from the science it claimed to be, had actually become a new religious faith. Machajski in fact entitled one of the two essays that formed part 3 of The Intellectual Worker "Socialist Science As a New Religion." Instead of demanding the immediate alleviation of the plight of the workers here and now, Marxism, like Christianity before it, persuaded them to accept the trials of the present as the promise of future happiness. The believing socialist no longer viewed the existing order as a modern form of robbery - he began to cherish it as a preparation for the workers' ultimate emancipation. He had no doubt that bondage and exploitation were the roads leading humanity to the fraternal community of the future. "Socialism is a homily on happiness, on the just life, on the universal equality of future generations of humanity. It is a homily which forces those who believe it to broaden and strengthen the age-old system of robbery so as to attain this future happiness in the fastest way." Just like priests, Machajski charged, the socialists consoled their listeners with the hope that future generations would inherit the earth. Socialism served as a religion for the slaves of the bourgeois order.
It is in this context that Machajski's critique of Marx's economics can best be understood, for it stemmed directly from his rejection of Marxism as a "scientific" world-view. Machajski devoted much of part 2 of The Intellectual Worker to Marx's analysis of the capitalist system and to the consequences that would follow from Marx's objective of the "socialisation of the means of production." Machajski's discussion took the form of an exegesis of volume 2 of Capital, accompanied by arcane formulas, equations, and terminology. Max Nomad wrote that aside from the rigors of imprisonment, reading part 2 of The Intellectual Worker was the most difficult experience Machajski's adherents had to undergo. That can be believed, for in places it is almost impenetrable. Machajski himself, in his introductory note to the Geneva edition of the work, expressed regret that he had been unable to revise it instead of reprinting it as originally written in Siberia, for, as he acknowledged in a rare understatement, it was 'insufficiently comprehensible and popularized."Though the argument itself is complex and far from clear, the conclusion to which it led is perfectly plain: the Marxist goal of socialisation of the means of production would produce not economic equality for the proletariat but a system of state socialism administered by, and for the benefit of, the intellectual workers.
Toward the end of volume 2 of Capital, Marx set out to investigate the economic process by which "social constant capital," i.e., the means of production of the capitalist system as a whole, is accumulated and replenished. According to Marx, a large part of the yearly product is not new value produced in the current year but represents the value of means of production handed down from the previous year and embodied in the current year's production. In the numerical example which Marx used, 9,000 units represents the total annual product, of which only 3,000 constitutes the new value of the year's production.
The sum of the product in values of this year is . .3,000. All other portions of value in the products of this year are merely transferred values, derived from the value of means of production previously produced and consumed in the annual production. Aside from the value of 3,000, the current annual labour has not produced anything in the way of values. That 3,000 represents its entire annual production in values.
These 3,000 units are the "social revenue" from the year's production, and they alone form the consumable income of society, to be divided between the capitalists and the workers.(In Marx's example, the workers receive 1,500 units as wages and the capitalists appropriate 1,500 units of surplus value as profits.) Marx recognised that an additional 6,000 units, which he called "constant capital-value," are produced in the current year in the form of replacements for the used-up means of production. Means of production, obviously, are not only handed down from the previous year and embodied in the current year's production, but, since they are used up, they must be created anew and passed on to provide for next year's production. They do not, however, constitute part of the "social revenue." Only one-third of the annual product, or 3,000 units, is the consumable income of society, while two-thirds, or 6,000, is in the form of means of production which cannot be consumed.
Machajski refused to accept the category of "social constant capital," because he rejected the idea of a strict separation between means of production and articles of consumption in the economy as a whole. He maintained that Marx had illegitimately projected the economy of a single enterprise - the subject of the first volume of Capital - onto the capitalist economy as a whole. Only for an individual factory was there such a thing as "constant capital," means of production used up by the factory's workers to create "only" 3,000 new units of value. In the economy at large, these distinctions were erased. Factory owners producing means of production for other factories make a profit from them (by exploiting their workers) just as the producers of consumer goods do; that profit takes the form of money, which can be used to buy articles of consumption. The means of production, sold to other factories, are then worked on by exploited labour to produce monetary profits for their owners. "Thus, labour power, operating in the area of preparation of means of production, creates, nonetheless, means of consumption. . . . The whole value of the yearly product produced by the working class over and above the share allotted to it for the preservation of its labour power is handed over to ruling educated society in the form of articles of personal consumption."Each year, therefore, the labour of the working class created a full 9,000 units of new value. Marxism claimed for the workers only that part of it (in Marx's model, one-sixth) pocketed by the capitalists as profit. Machajski maintained that the much larger portion which Marx tried to set aside as "constant capital" was also available to the rulers of society for consumption - whether those rulers be capitalists or intellectual workers. As the ideology of the latter, Marxism was neither able nor willing to reveal this fundamental economic truth.
What was at stake, then, was much more than capitalist profit as Marx had defined it. The much larger portion of social wealth that Marxism tried to withhold as non consumable capital goods had been produced by the labour of the workers, and they were entitled to all of it. Just how that was to be accomplished without destroying the productive capacity of the economy remained unclear. Evgenii Lozinskii suggested a clarification of Machajski's position: what was being demanded for the workers, he claimed, was not the right to divide up or "eat" the factories and machines, but an equivalent for the labour they had expended to produce them in the form of equal access to all articles of consumption. This makes a fair amount of sense, and it may well have been what Machajski meant-but it is not exactly what he himself wrote. Marx as an economist had little to fear from Machajski, because Machajski rejected the very enterprise of objective economic analysis. Marx recognised that the industrial system itself, and not just the way it was run by the capitalists, required that a large share of the annual product be used for investment purposes in order to keep the system running. He acknowledged, without regret, that this would be the case even when the means of production were socialized.Machajski refused to view capitalism as a "system" at all. Adopting the perspective of the average worker, he reasoned that if all social wealth was the product of the proletariat's labour, as the Marxists themselves affirmed, then it should be placed at the immediate disposal of the workers. To provide support for this demand, and to demonstrate how the Marxists sought to deflect it, was the primary purpose of his digression into economic theory.
Marxism's economic analysis, like its philosophical and historical outlook, testified to its attachment to the existing order. Viewing society as an economic organism, concentrating on the forces and relationships of economic production, the Marxists did not wish to destroy the capitalist system but to take it over intact in order to ensure its further development. The Marxists, Machajski charged, declared war on the capitalist system not because it plundered the workers but because the rule of the "plutocrats" had led to its degeneration. in the Marxist view of history the successive ruling classes - nobility, capitalists, even ancient slave-owners - had been progressive forces when they first appeared. Only toward the end of their era of domination did they degenerate and become superfluous. The socialist revolution would ensue from the crisis of capitalism, the inability of the capitalists to continue running the economy and ruling society. They had to be swept away not because they were exploitative but because they had lost their vitality and usefulness. Marxism was determined not to overthrow the existing order but to cure it of its crises.
"More than once in history," Machajski warned, "have 'senile' ruling classes been overthrown by revolutions in order to make way for new ones. But where is the guarantee that ruling classes will cease to exist altogether?"The Marxists would consider their mission fulfilled once they had chased out the capitalists, once they had replaced the present "obsolete" rulers with new and more competent ones.
Anyone who rebels, like the socialists, only because the degenerate, idle masters are no longer capable of governing, demands only new, more capable masters; he breaks the trail for these new masters and thus does not weaken but strengthens oppression. This is what results from all the activity of the socialists. They force the crude, ignorant kulaks, the puffed-up magnates, and the untalented governors to call on the whole learned world of masters for help, to admit the intelligentsia, educated society, to power.
That day would come with the realisation of Marxism's ultimate goal, the "socialisation of the means of production."
To help demonstrate that Marxism's objective was not to regain for the workers the full value of their labour, Machajski interlaced his analysis of Marx's economic theory with a comparison between Marx and Johann Karl Rodbertus - thereby making life even more difficult for the hard-pressed readers of his second essay. Rodbertus (also known as Rodbertus-Jagetzow, 1805-1875), a lawyer, landowner, and, for a brief time in 1848, Prussian minister of education, was one of the creators of the concept of state socialism. Almost forgotten today, Rodbertus's economic ideas had stirred a flurry of interest in German socialist circles in the 1880s. The subject was therefore of greater immediacy and familiarity to Machajski's intended readers than it would seem today. Rodbertus was a critic of capitalism and, like Marx, an adherent of the labour theory of value, as well as a devoted monarchist and conservative. He therefore proposed a system that amounted to state regulation of the economy by a socially enlightened monarchy. In the early 1880s, Rodbertus's "conservative socialism" was rediscovered by German intellectuals who saw in it a non revolutionary alternative to Social Democracy as well as a justification for acceptance of the Bismarckian state and its social legislation. The new interest in Rodbertus and the publication of some of his works (which Machajski had at his disposal in Siberia) revived earlier charges that Marx had borrowed his fundamental ideas from Rodbertus, whose first work dated to 1842. This prompted a spirited defense of Marx, and critique of Rodbertus, by both Kautsky and Engels, a task which they considered important enough to devote much of 1884 and 1885 to fulfilling.
Machajski did not charge Marx with plagiarising from Rodbertus, but the accusation he did level against him was no less damaging: that Marx's economic theory would lead to a form of state socialism little different from the one Rodbertus had proposed. Like Marx, Rodbertus had wished to eliminate private ownership of land and capital while preserving "national capital," the economy's means of production which cannot be distributed to the workers; this, however, is precisely the source of profit.
Rodbertus recommends eliminating private capital in order to guarantee the perpetual existence of national capital. This means that he prefers to transform the process of the collection of profit by private entrepreneurs, the representatives of bourgeois society, into one perpetual national enterprise, run directly by the state, which distributes national profit to all its constituent parts, i.e., to the whole of ruling and governing educated society.
The task of volume 2 of Capital had been to lend the weight of pure science' to Rodbertus's basic position.
Essentially, Machajski was using Rodbertus to establish Marx's guilt by association: as far as the workers were concerned, the theories of Rodbertus, the conservative monarchist, and Marx, the defender of the proletariat, would amount to much the same thing. The major difference between them concerned the exploiters of the workers. A system of state socialism in an undemocratic state, such as Rodbertus had proposed, would mean the distribution of national profit only to the highest ranks of the ruling class. The objective of Marxism was to broaden that distribution to all the intellectual workers. Therefore, "the socialism of Social Democracy is state socialism implemented in a democracy," a "'socialist' distribution of national profit to the whole of educated society, the army of intellectual workers."
The rights of ownership of the means of production pass into the hands of the state. The latter, in the guise of "replacing" the ever-growing "social constant capital," takes from the working class all the fruits of the increasing productivity of labour and hands them over to all the ranks of the army of "intellectual workers" as a reward for their "special talents and abilities."
Machajski found in the writings of the Social Democrats no indication that the coming of socialism would result in equality of incomes. All the socialists' indictments of the capitalist order would lose their force as soon as the parasitical capitalist was replaced by an individual "with a diploma from a higher educational institution" certifying that he was versed in some speciality. A high income would be regarded purely as the reward for intellectual labour, and only if it reached scandalous proportions would there be any thought of limiting it.
Thus the rewards of socialisation of the means of production would go entirely to the intellectual workers, who would be able to pass on their monopoly of education to their children. As long as the technical knowledge necessary to run the economy and the government remained unattainable for the ordinary workers, then "regardless of the formal ownership of all material wealth, their bondage will remain unshaken.
Machajskis critique of Marxism as an outlook on the world,whatever it may tell us about Marxism itself, reveals a great deal about Makhaevism. The refusal to accept the possibility of evolution, development, peaceful accommodation in human affairs; the adherence to an unchanging truth which needs only to be repeated and instilled; the accusatory rhetoric, with its litany of formulaic epithets - all this gave Makhaevism a distinctly sectarian cast. Machajski's old friend, Stefan Zeromski, hit the mark when he wrote that if Machajski had lived in the Middle Ages he would have founded a religious sect; living in modern times, he founded a social sect.The analytical, "scientific" side of Marxism was suspect to Machajski (though he himself was enough of an intellectual to comprehend it and even to emulate it when he chose); too great an interest in understanding the world diminished the passions required for changing it. This attitude imposed a certain intellectual rigidity and narrowness on Makhaevism and helped to limit its effectiveness as a revolutionary movement.
For all that, however, Makhaevism was not devoid of insight into the limitations of Marxism and its economic program. Machajski perceived-and with prophetic clarity, as Stalin's Russia was to demonstrate only too well - that socialisation of the means of production would not necessarily alter the living standards of the workers. This may seem a commonplace today, but it was a perception rarely encountered among early twentieth-century revolutionaries. Social ownership of the means of production promised the end of private capitalism; it would not immediately signify the end of a hierarchical division of labour, wide inequality of incomes, and low rewards for the workers' labour - the primary sources of the workers' discontent. whatever the moral and psychological satisfactions of liberation from the constraints of the old order, it might prove to be of little economic significance to the individual worker that the means of production were now in the hands of the state rather than of private entrepreneurs: he could still find himself in the position of reproducing and even expanding them without adequate compensation for his labour. As Adam Ulam has put it, "The chains felt by the proletariat are the chains of the industrial system. The chains Marx urges them to throw off are those of capitalism. Will the workers understand the difference?"Machajski perceived a very great difference, and this perception underlay the revolutionary theory he formulated as an alternative to socialism.
As we have seen, the intellectual and ideological sources of Makhaevism were Marxism and anarchism, the latter specifically of the Bakuninist variety. Viewed more broadly, however, Makhaevism was part of that sea-change in European social thought at the end of the nineteenth century which has been called the "revolt against positivism." The term positivism here refers to the general tendency of late nineteenth-century thought to apply natural-science concepts to social behaviour. Marxism became a major target of this critique, for, in the words of H. Stuart Hughes, Marxism was considered "an aberrant, and peculiarly insidious, form of the reigning cult of positivism . . . the last and most ambitious of the abstract and pseudoscientific ideologies that had bewitched European intellectuals since the early eighteenth century "
Different conclusions could be drawn from a critique of the "scientific" character of Marxism. Those interested in the formulation of a more solidly grounded social theory sought to distinguish what seemed of general validity in Marxist theory from its political commitments, thus using the critique of Marxism to construct a modern social science. Others, like Machajski, moved in the opposite direction, their insight into the subjective character of Marxism leading them to a rejection of the validity of social thought itself. Hence the elements of anti-intellectualism and irrationalism which came to mark many of the new currents of thought arising at this time: on the one hand, a disenchantment with prevailing democratic and socialist political ideals, including Marxism, accompanied by a growing suspicion of the motivations of their spokesmen; and, on the other, a tendency to emphasise will, instinct, and intuition rather than reason as the true wellsprings of social action.
In this context, of direct relevance to Makhaevism are the ideas of three figures who have been dubbed the "modern Machiavellians": Gaetano Mosca,Wilfredo Pareto, and Robert Michels.Mosca, Pareto, and Michels are appreciated today for their contributions to the modern theory of social and political elite's. They were "Machiavellians" in the sense that all three believed that men were moved by their needs and interests, especially the desire for power, and not by ideals or a sense of justice. This led them to probe beneath the formal rhetoric and explicit principles of contemporary political doctrines, where they found an ineluctable tendency to perpetuate the division of society into a dominant elite and a subordinate mass. whether expressed as Mosca's "theory of the ruling class," Pareto's "circulation of elites," or Michels's iron law of oligarchy," it was a constant and universal law of political, social, and economic organisation, and neither parliamentary democracy nor Marxism was exempt from it. while generally sympathetic to Marx's critique of capitalism they asserted that even its replacement by some form of socialism would merely introduce a new variety of economic inequality and class division. They phrased this conclusion in pithy statements with which Machajski could readily have agreed. Mosca, for example, de-dared that even if capitalism were abolished "there would still be those who would manage the public wealth and then the great mass of those who are managed."According to Pareto, even if the conflict between capital and labour were abolished, "conflicts would arise between the different kinds of workers of the socialist state, between the 'intellectuals' and the 'non intellectuals,' between different kinds of politicians, between the latter and those they administer, between innovators and conservatives. Michels pointed out the oligarchical tendencies of the workers themselves, claiming that working-class leaders of proletarian origin were simply "lifted out of the working class into a new class" of salaried party employees.
However similar some of their criticisms of Marxism were to those voiced by Makhaevism, these social theorists had no fundamental affinity with Machajski. As a revolutionary activist rather than a sociologist, Machajski had little interest in social theory in and for itself. Indeed, with its claim to scientific objectivity and its sense of society as an organic structure or unity, social theory seemed to him merely a device of the ruling elite to deflect the demands of the labouring classes. Furthermore, Machajski's identification of socialism as the ideology of the intellectual workers, and the latter as the new ruling class that would succeed the capitalists, was more specific - and, whatever its validity, perhaps more original - than anything to be found in the general theories of elite circulation of Mosca, Pareto, and Michels.
Another turn-of-the-century figure, Georges Sorel, at first glance seems to stand even closer to Machajski. Inspired by syndicalism, Sorel too attacked parliamentarism and the political practices of contemporary socialism as serving merely the interests and ambitions of a new elite, the socialist party leaders. In his best-known work, Reflections on Violence, he warned, much as Machajski did, that a political general strike of the kind the socialists advocated would result in the transferral of power "from one privileged class to another," while "the mass of the producers would merely change masters." Again like Machajski, what he appreciated in Marxism was its most militant element, its articulation of irreconcilable class war and of the proletariat's "stubborn, increasing, and passionate resistance to the present order of things."Beyond that, however, Sorel's mystical conception of the economic general strike as a "social myth" and of proletarian violence as a way of reviving the flagging energies of a decadent civilisation, reflecting the strong overtones of Bergson and Nietzsche in his thinking, sharply demarcate him from Machajski. For the latter, there was nothing mystical about the general strike. He perceived it as the most effective device for rallying the labouring classes and wresting economic concessions from the existing order. His image of working-class militancy derived not from fin de siecle philosophy but from his Polish experience and the impact on him of the 1892 Lodz strike.
Although Mosca, Pareto, Michels, and Sorel knew each other's work and drew upon it in various ways, there is no indication that any of them had ever heard of Machajski. Nor does Machajski appear to have been familiar with their writings, with the possible exception of Sorel. What is more significant than the possibility of any mutual influence, however, is the extent to which the anarchist critique of Marxism reverberated in the ideas of all these individuals. Sorel obviously drew part of his inspiration from syndicalism and anarchism, but even Michels, himself a socialist, refers frequently to Bakunin in Political Parties and quotes with approval Bakunin's warning about "bourgeois intellectuals" in L’empire Knouto-Germanique.If disillusionment with the scientific" claims of Marxism and the disinterested objectivity of its practitioners contributed to the reorientation of European thought at the turn of the century, this development owed a certain intellectual debt to premises anarchism had been advancing since the time of Bakunin (though none of the figures discussed, any more than Machajski himself, believed the anarchists were immune to their own criticism). Those premises would be reformulated yet again in the next stage of the history of the "new class" theory, the post-1917 critique of the new Bolshevik rulers of Soviet Russia.
In the course of his analysis of Marxism, Machajski worked out his own revolutionary program, and it was essentially complete by the time of the 1905 revolution.It breathed the spirit of implacable hostility to the existing order which had characterised him since his student days and which he found so sorely lacking in other revolutionary parties and currents. His image of the workers' revolution was a "slave revolt," a term he used repeatedly in his writings, an explosive mutiny against the existing order by those who had no share in its rewards and privileges and therefore no vested interest in its preservation. The driving force of this revolt was to be not "class consciousness," social ideals, or awareness of historical forces, but the resentment of the "have-nots" and their demand for immediate economic improvement. Of particular interest is his effort to identify and mobilise the social elements that seemed to harbour that resentment to the greatest degree.
As his criticism of Social Democracy indicated, Machajski believed that not only parliamentary institutions but even civil freedoms were irrelevant to the worker as long as his economic disabilities endured. It was only the intelligentsia that could profit from freedom of speech, assembly, and association, freedom of the press, and freedom to elect the rulers of the country. The only personal autonomy the worker could exercise in the bourgeois order was the freedom to sell his labour to the capitalists, and the only objective that could possibly be of benefit to him was immediate economic improvement.
Nor was trade-union activity any more useful. Machajski's rejection of trade unions distinguishes Makhaevism from syndicalism, even though he advocated the syndicalist tactic of the general strike. Revolutionary syndicalism in France "stood for revolutionary action by unions to establish a society based upon unions." Unions were seen as the nuclei of the new society and as the essential mechanism for achieving it. To Machajski, however, trade unions, like parliaments, represented a dangerous compromise with the existing order, for they tended to reduce the rebelliousness of at least a part of the working class by satisfying its better-paid and better-trained elements. Although he clung to the assertion that within the existing order the manual workers could expect nothing more than the status of industrial helots, Machajski occasionally gave way in his writings to criticism of the workers' tendency to accept those improvements that did come their way. In one place he hinted that the workers might in fact be susceptible to the temptation of rising within the existing order: "the socialists have begun in the most brazen fashion to instil in people's souls all those robbers' plans and calculations which give rise to the hope that this slave or that one will leap into 'society,' the starving peasant will become a well-to-do muzhik, the skilled worker a white-handed parasitical boss." He referred scornfully to those workers who belonged to trade unions and to socialist organisations as the "pacified" strata of the working class willing to settle for trifling concessions from the capitalists or hoping to receive them by renouncing uprisings and conspiracies. Such workers, he complained, had been corrupted by the bourgeois world and then further demoralised by the socialists, who encouraged them to look down on their unorganised, badly paid comrades as a "half-criminal Lumpenproletariat" too benighted to fight for socialism.The main effect of trade unions, therefore, was to create "a deep breach between the better-paid workers and those who live in poverty".
Makhaevism swore implacable hostility to the existing order on the grounds of the workers' desperate economic plight. Consequently, it faced the threat (which Lenin recognised in What Is to Be Done?) of a fatal slackening of revolutionary incentive if the workers improved their living standard before the definitive overthrow of the existing order could be accomplished. Machajski's solution was to turn to those elements of Russian society who seemed least likely to be exposed to such "corruption." The agents of the Makhaevist revolution were to be the most alienated and disinherited offspring of the industrial revolution in Russia: the unemployed, the worker-peasant, even the outcasts of urban life.
Machajski accused the Social Democrats of revising Marx's attitude toward unemployment in their eagerness to avoid a proletarian revolution. Marx had maintained that the "growing army of the unemployed," an inevitable product of capitalist development, would make the further existence of the capitalist order impossible. Now the followers of Marx had come to regard the unemployed "dregs" of the population not as part of the "working proletariat" but as a Lumpenproletariat composed mainly of lazy-bones and semicriminals.A doctrine which defined the proletarian not as "one who has no means of subsistence" but as "one who owns no means of production" could not truly be revolutionary. Its adherents could not even consider touching off "an explosion of that volcano on which the class structure of Russia rests."
The resentment and anger that could lead to such an eruption were effectively brought to a boil among the unemployed. "The unemployed man feels what he has sometimes forgotten while working. Amidst the torments of hunger he feels that he was born a slave, born without any right to even the smallest share in the riches which surround him, which have been created by generations of labour through the centuries and which he has increased by the labour of his own life."These, Machajski declared, were the only feelings harboured by the unemployed worker, and to talk to him of "freedom of personality" 'and the "inviolable rights of the citizen" was nothing but the cruellest mockery.Here was a revolutionary force neglected by even the most radical socialists, for only a true revolutionary would go among the unemployed, "where the strongest dissatisfaction and despair exist," where "only one spark" would be enough to touch off an uprising.
The unemployed were not the only dry social tinder Machajski saw waiting to be ignited. He devoted some attention to the "dark" elements of the Russian towns, those subterranean strata of the urban population whom a Marxist might have termed the "Lumpenproletariat" and an ordinary citizen might have regarded simply as hoodlums. For example, he chose to regard the Black Hundreds, the protofascist street gangs which appeared during the 1905 revolution, as representatives of the "hungry masses," protesting against a revolution which promised them meaningless political rights instead of relief from their economic distress. "Thus a political revolution inevitably, by its own hand, paved the way for the Black Hundreds from the starving Russian masses to arise against it. A bourgeois revolution could give these people nothing; at least in the Black Hundreds they sometimes had rich aliens' [Jewish? Machajski used the term inorodcheskie] shops at their disposal." For the same reason the "well-dressed preachers of the socialist ideal" were set upon by "people in rags," as Machajski chose to characterise the perpetrators of pogroms against intelligenty.
He drew a curious analogy between the Black Hundreds and the Galician peasant uprising of 1846. A half century earlier, he wrote, the Polish nobility of Galicia had demanded political rights from the Austrian government, and the Austrians in response instigated an uprising of the Galician peasants against their "freedom-loving masters." That the Galician peasants were incited by a reactionary government did not change the fact that "the peasants were fiercely venting their anger on their own predators." Similarly, the Russian intelligentsia was struggling for political freedom while the Black Hundreds were set upon it by the tsarist authorities, but this did not alter the fact that "the Black Hundreds are killing their masters, who, not satisfied that they live by robbing the workers, use the struggle of the workers to intensify their parasitism."
In light of such statements it is hardly surprising that Machajski was accused of sympathising" with the Black Hundreds,but this charge requires considerable qualification. He probably had few qualms about their methods, and he could shed no tears at the thought of intelligenty and shopkeepers being victimised. Machajski was a revolutionary, however, and his aims could have little in common with those of the monarchist Black Hundreds. Nor is there any evidence in his writings of the anti-Semitism that inspired the Black Hundreds. Machaiski's wife was a Russian Jew, and some of his followers were Jewish. Furthermore, recognising that anti-Jewish pogroms were sometimes instigated by provocateurs, he claimed that the kind of general strike he people of all races and nationalities in an act of working-class solidarity
.There was some foundation, therefore, to Machajski's complaint in a letter to Zeromski that "it was enough to say that hooliganism is a crude, elemental protest against the fraudulent intention of the socialists to feed the hungry millions with political freedom, to be proclaimed an apostle of hooliganism."Machajski did not address the larger issue, however: that his treatment of the Black Hundreds reflected the broad streak of violence that ran throughout Makhaevism, finding expression not only in his revolutionary tactics but even in his incendiary prose style.
In passages such as those dealing with the Black Hundreds, Machajski did in fact sometimes refer approvingly to the "hooligan,"but this was a theme elaborated by Evgenii Lozinskii rather than by Machaj ski himself. As Lozinskii depicted him, the hooligan was an unemployed vagrant whose home was the street and whose way of life, if not directly criminal, was generally shady. what most interested Lozinskii about him was his status as a social outcast, the outsider par excellence: he owed nothing to society and therefore was neither bound by its prejudices nor had any vested interest in its existing structure. Here was a fresh, vigorous force that might cleanse the Russian scene of its accumulated social litter:
Onto the historical stage has come the frenzied, dirty, outcast figure of the fighting "hooligan." Amid an ever growing chorus of timid or indignant "oh's" and "ah's" from all of educated society (including even the most revolutionary socialists), this “hooligan" is beginning little by little to occupy the main arena of the historical struggle, not - oh, horrors! -as an enemy or rival of his "employed," i.e., labouring comrades, but as an independent fighter against the whole exploiting world, who has decided to repay the latter savagely for his unnatural, wasted life.
His appearance, Lozinskii wistfully suggested, "may be the beginning of the end of all our barbaric culture and civilisation, all our hypocritical, cannibalistic progress." The vagrant, with his unbridled energies, might stiffen the backbone of the workers' movement.
Lozinskii's romanticized vision of the criminal, or tramp, as social rebel, was in fact a recurrent theme in Russian letters of the early twentieth century. With the growth of urbanisation, Russian literature had begun to turn its attention from the countryside to the town. Among others, Maxim Gorky, in his stories and in plays such as The Lower Depths (Na dne), had popularised the image of the urban derelict and vagrant. At the same time, mystical and apocalyptic images came into vogue, especially in the wake of the 1905 revolution. Leonid Andreev's play Tsar Hunger (Tsar' golod), for example, written in 1907 - and cited approvingly by Lozinskii - was a vision of an urban apocalypse, a frenzied revolt by the "hungry" against the privileged classes and their oppressive civilisation. Meanwhile, Alexander Blok, in a celebrated metaphor, visualised "the people" as Gogol's troika, trampling under its hooves the intelligentsia and the culture it represented, and other Symbolist poets were giving voice to similar images.Hatred of meshchanstvo, or "bourgeois" life and values, accompanied by apocalyptic visions of its destruction, was a prominent feature of Russian culture as well as Russian political radicalism in this period, and to some degree the two elements rubbed off on each other.
In his celebration of the "hooligan," therefore, Lozinskii linked Makhaevism to broader currents of Russian thought and culture. Machajski himself, it must be said, was alien to such interests. Lozinskii participated much more fully in the intellectual life of the Russian intelligentsia; Machajski remained a single-minded revolutionary, searching for real-life agents of social upheaval rather than literary images of apocalypse. Nevertheless, the fact that Makhaevism did echo some of the preoccupations of contemporary culture is a useful reminder that it must be interpreted and assessed in terms of its own historical context. The apocalyptic tone of Makhaevism, the sense of a new world to be gained by a mass act of galvanised will, arose, undoubtedly, from that sectarian cast of mind characteristic of Makhaevism in general. At the same time, however, it accorded with a larger cultural trend in early twentieth-century Russia, and, as a result, may have sounded less outlandish, and more persuasive, in its own time than it might today.
Like so many other features of Makhaevism, the primary inspiration for Machajski's revolutionary program seems to derive from Michael Bakunin. In Statism and Anarchy, Bakunin declared that in order to overthrow a social system which oppressed it, a people must reject it so thoroughly that all its values and institutional appurtenances seem to belong to another world. In search of an element of the population that displayed such a mentality in Russia, he turned to the peasants. Unlike most populists, he rejected the village commune (mir) on the grounds that it had become a conservative institution, its patriarchal structure and its submission to external authority drawing it into the established order. Instead, he singled out the razboinik, the bandit of the Russian countryside, who was an outsider even to the mir and therefore not constrained by its traditions: "there is one individual among the Russian people who dares to go against the mir: it is the bandit. That is why banditry is an important historical phenomenon in Russia - the first rebels, the first revolutionaries, Pugachev and Stenka Razin, were bandits." As the commune had been turned into an instrument of the government and the rich peasants, 'banditry remained the sole recourse for the individual, and for the people as a whole a universal insurrection, a revolution."
Sharing Bakunin's image of revolution as a "universal insurrection," Machajski, too, sought a mass force utterly alienated from the established order and its institutions. Makhaevism, however, was a thoroughly urban ideology, its attention focused on the industrial towns of Russia, not the countryside. What Machajski found was a social element that seemed to be bringing into the towns precisely the kind of rnentality that Bakunin had ascribed to his romanticised rural bandit. New industrial workers, freshly arrived from the countryside, were providing Russian industry with raw and potentially volatile recruits to the labour force. These were the people whose outlook Machajski considered the most promising for carrying out a Makhaevist revolution.
He had first expressed interest in these new proletarians in The Intellectual Worker, where he berated the populists of the seventies for insisting that there was no proletariat in Russia. Even at that time, he wrote, there existed not only hired workers but millions of "migrant proletarians"who set out from the Russian villages to search for work all over the country. It was this social link between countryside and town that he subsequently focused on in greater detail. Machajski had no sympathy for the peasants as long as they remained tillers of the soil, and he refused to support their efforts to acquire more land, but he very much appreciated their presence in the towns.
The rural poor will begin to struggle for themselves and for all the hungry only when they abandon once and for all their hopes for a "black repartition," when they separate themselves from those peasants who want to strengthen and extend peasant landholding. . . . They will flock into the rich towns and together with the urban unemployed will demand security from famines, from unemployment. They will raise a revolt of the slaves like the one the workers of Paris raised a half-century ago.
Makhaevism's insistence on immediate economic gains as the sole objective of the workers' movement was expected to appeal particularly to this group.
All strata of the working population rally in a moment to a mass economic strike, even the most benighted, the most uneducated. The cause is understandable to each one, even to the illiterate fellow who arrived just yesterday from the backwoods village, who has heard no agitator and known no socialist ideas. Even such unorganised workers as domestic servants, it turns out, unite at such a moment.
That "illiterate fellow" fresh from the village, undergoing the psychological stress and economic hardship of his new status and unspoiled by socialist ideas, appeared to be the ideal agent of the Makhaevist revolution. Arriving from the countryside ignorant and unskilled, the new worker had few defences against the insecurities of early industrialisation, and he was the most ready victim of low wages and frequent unemployment. Trade unions were usually of little assistance to him, for, as Machajski pointed out, they were primarily organisations of the skilled and steadily employed. It was not only the frustration engendered in such individuals that made them potential recruits to political extremism, but the means they might be expected to adopt in coping with it. The Russian peasant in large part stood outside the legal and institutional framework of Russian society. For generations the helpless object of constituted authority vested in the nobility and the bureaucracy, his traditional recourse had been to burn and pillage the manor. Cut off from his land, the proletarianized peasant lost even that shred of conservatism which attachment to his property had given him. The new industrial worker, therefore, brought with him to the town an essentially anarchistic approach to social and economic grievances.Machajski's proletarian saw his enemies in a highly personal and immediate way: the cultured and the well-to-do were the visible possessors of wealth and comfort, and their expropriation was a matter not of long-term economic processes and institutional procedures but of direct seizure. Wearing overalls instead of a peasant blouse, Machajski's new industrial worker was Bakunin's rural bandit in modern dress.
For the tactical part of his revolutionary program - how to harness popular resentments and direct them against the existing order- Machajski adopted the revolutionary syndicalist, or anarchosyndicalist, device of the mass general strike. He first outlined his plan in a May Day manifesto to the workers of Irkutsk in 1902 (later republished as an appendix to the Geneva edition of The Intellectual Worker) The manifesto called for "a universal conspiracy of workers," a strike by the entire working class. Rebelling against their "slave status," the workers' sole demand would be immediate improvement in the conditions of labour. Stopping work in one factory they would proceed en masse to the next, until finally entire cities would arise and the movement would spread throughout the state. Machajski warned that the intelligentsia would condemn such an uprising as "the wild outbursts of the rabble" and hope that the tsar's guns would put it down. He urged the workers to repudiate the socialists and their political objectives, to refuse to serve as "cannon fodder" for a bourgeois revolution that would benefit only the intelligentsia, and to battle solely for their own cause.
A year after Machajski composed his proclamation to the Irkutsk workers, a general strike broke out in the south of Russia. To Machajski, the South Russian strike of 1903 provided vivid proof of the gulf between the intelligentsia's interests and those of the workers. He viewed the strike movement in Baku and Odessa as an attempt by the workers to turn a general strike into a workers' insurrection - an attempt which encountered the adamant opposition of the socialists. The spontaneous development of the strike and its presentation of purely economic demands violated the socialists' principle that the aim of the revolution must be a constitution: "The great outburst of worker resentment . caught the Social Democrats completely unprepared. The working masses mounted the strike in defiance of everything the Russian socialists were telling them and were writing in their pamphlets and newspapers." Thereafter, the South Russian strike served Machajski as a model for the initial phase of a workers' insurrection designed to complete the business left unfinished in 1903.
Essentially, the Makhaevist revolution was to begin as a resurrection of the 1903 general strike and end as a new Russian edition of the June Days of Paris. Machajski maintained that the 1903 strike, because of its economic nature, had begun to attract "all segments of the urban working population, even the most uneducated." Had it continued along its original path, it would surely have drawn in "the starving millions of the countryside." To accomplish this, a new general strike must begin, its principal demand being the creation of public works for the unemployed, along the lines of the National Workshops established in Paris in 1848. As we have seen, the June Days played a prominent role in Machajski's reconstruction of the origins of socialism. It was the archetypal confrontation that revealed to the workers once and for all that their enemy was not just the big property owners but the whole of "educated society." The unadorned economic demands of the Paris workers had frightened the intelligentsia into adopting Marxism to deflect the workers into political struggle. Therefore a new version of the June Days seemed to Machajski the best way for the workers to sabotage the political plans of the socialist movement as well as to attack the economic position of the intelligentsia.
The demand for public works for the unemployed would tap a revolutionary force which the socialist parties habitually neglected. "Neither the June insurgents of '48 in Paris, who raised a revolt against the republic which condemned them to starvation, nor unemployed workers who rebelled later were lucky enough to have even one learned socialist or revolutionary in their midst."The establishment of public works in the towns, like the National Workshops of 1848, would reinforce the ranks of the urban unemployed with hordes of distressed labourers from the surrounding countryside. Machajski gave this description of the course the 1903 strike would have taken had it followed his program:
[It]would have attracted all the unemployed, all the vagrants whom the socialists repulse, for in order to confirm and support the conquests of the employed workers it would have demanded bread for the hungry, security for them from unemployment. But as soon as such an uprising of the workers had succeeded in forcing the authorities of the provinces and the capital to establish public works for the unemployed, then the workers' uprising would have found on its side all the hungry millions of the countryside, who now would have seen at last the possibility of living, instead of dying in dreams of a "black repartition."
In this way a general strike was to be transformed into a massive popular insurrection.
The ultimate objective of the workers' efforts was to be what Machajski called the "socialisation of knowledge," one of the most distinctive, and remarkable, elements of Makhaevism. The fundamental reason for the proletariat's inferior status, Machajski maintained, was its ignorance. The workers could be truly emancipated only when they achieved equal educational opportunity through economic equality.
Before taking production into their own hands, the workers must obtain for themselves and for their children the right to acquire knowledge in the way Messrs. white-hands acquire it. The workers will obtain this right when they raise the price of their labour to the same level as that of the white-hands, a level which enables them to support their children during their long years of study. Until the workers in this way tear knowledge from the hands of the learned world, they will remain as they are now, knowing only manual labour, brought up to be slaves, and they will always be under the command of their masters - intelligenty, white-hands - even in a Social-Democratic state, even in an anarchist commune.
The workers could not prepare themselves to run the economy merely by studying in their spare time, as some socialists urged. It was nonsense, Machajski declared, to expect a worker to achieve the same level of education after a hard day's labour that the intelligent attained in years of full-time study. Education, like wealth, was the product of robbery, not of concentrated effort or superior talent, and the intelligenty had a monopoly on knowledge only because the exploited workers were compelled to furnish them with food, clothing, and shelter while they studied. Economic inequality, not intellectual superiority, was the source of the intelligentsia's advantages.
The workers would strike for higher and higher pay, until at last
the wages of the worker will equal the income of the intelligent. But then the children of the manual workers will have the same opportunity for education as the children of the white-hands. Equality of education will perforce be established, and the school will cease to educate some to be slaves and others to be masters, as it does now. All will become educated people on an equal basis; there will be no one to condemn to the latter-day penal servitude of lifelong manual work, there will be no one to rob.
Once equality of incomes had been achieved, the manual workers, or at least their children, could become intellectual workers. At last, what Machajski held to be the true source of class division and exploitation in modern society would be erased.
Machajski did not develop the idea of the "socialisation of knowledge" any further, and he left his image of utopia quite vague. Nevertheless, it gave Makhaevism a unique character among the revolutionary ideologies competing for attention in Russia. Makhaevism was not an anti-industrial theory. It did not embody any nostalgic remembrance of the harmonious rural community, of the sort that found expression in the glorification of the peasant commune by the anarchist-communists and the Socialist-Revolutionaries. Machajski fully shared Marx's opinion of the "idiocy of rural life," and he dismissed any idealisation of the peasants. He condemned the fruits of modern technology only to the extent that they could not be enjoyed by the workers. His stated purpose was to distribute the rewards of modern life more equitably; he did not disdain them.
Unlike Marxism, however, Makhaevism did not seek to rehabilitate physical labour, the honest joys of which were celebrated by so many nineteenth-century intellectuals who had never been forced to experience them. Machajski rejected the Marxist ideal of humanising factory labour by ending the worker's "alienation" from the means of production and restoring his pride and satisfaction in his work. The worker's bondage consisted not in the fact that he was forced to sell his labour, but in the type of labour he was forced to perform. "The essence of the workers' bondage is the fact that they are forced to hire themselves out to slave labour, that they are condemned for life to executing the mechanical, manual labour of slaves. . . . It is not the hiring that is terrible-it is all a matter of the kind of work and the kind of pay." To be hired in the way that an engineer or manager was hired, he added, was for most workers an unrealisable dream.
Throughout his writings, Machajski insisted that manual labour was degrading; his favourite term for it was "penal servitude." Assiduously shunning all "ideals," he usually dealt with education and acquisition of knowledge on a purely material level, as the means to social and economic advantage. In one or two places, however, he voiced the idea that intellectual activity was the defining attribute of man: the workers' coarse physical labour not only degraded them socially and economically but robbed them of their essential humanity. 'The productivity of labour," he wrote, grows to the degree that the secrets of nature reveal themselves to mankind and its mastery of nature grows. He [sic) owes this mastery to his human organism, to intellectual activity." But under the present organisation of society, only a small minority were able to use their minds, the organ of man, while the rest were allowed only the exercise of their animal organs in physical labour.
This element of Makhaevism, to be sure, seems to contradict the streak of anti-intellectualism it contained. (Machajski might have replied that it was only "science" in its historical role as an instrument of class rule that he rejected.) And Marxism, too, had always proclaimed the goal of erasing the distinction between mental and manual labour. It may be suggested, however, that in stressing the importance of education for the workers, Machajski proposed a more effective way of humanising labour than social ownership of the means of production by itself offered, and at the same time foresaw very accurately what would become the main road to social mobility in modern industrial and postindustrial society.
Even apart from the practical problem of creating a movement capable of implementing it, Machajski's program contained a number of internal contradictions and inconsistencies. Some were unique to Makhaevism, but some were shared by other currents in the Russian revolutionary movement. First, while based on implacable hatred of the existing order, Makhaevism could attain its ends only by preserving that order and even opposing any efforts to overthrow it. The equalisation of incomes through the withholding of labour, and the subsequent educational revolution, could not occur overnight; they assumed the retention of the present economic and political structure for an indeterminate length of time. On the surface, at least, Makhaevism proposed not the seizure of power by the proletariat but merely the exertion of irresistible pressure on the established authorities.
It would appear from Machajski's writings that when he abandoned Social Democracy, that is, after writing part 1 of The Intellectual Worker, he also abandoned the notion of the "dictatorship of the proletariat." In part 1, he defined as the proletariat's objective the establishment of a "revolutionary dictatorship, the organisation of the seizure of political power." Later, however, when he composed the preface to the printed edition of part 1, he spoke only of "worldwide workers' conspiracies, dictating, by means of worldwide workers' strikes, the laws of state power." Instead of taking political power into its own hands, the proletariat would present the state with "concrete demands capable of immediate realization."This now became the declared objective of Makhaevism. Only once more in his writings, in part 2 of The Intellectual Worker (written, it will be remembered, in Siberia, the first statement of his mature views), did Machajski refer to a dictatorship.
By means of its worldwide conspiracy and dictatorship, the proletariat will attain domination over the state machine, but not in order to extricate from difficulty, anarchy, and bankruptcy an economic order unable to cope with productive forces which have outgrown its narrow property limits. It will strive for domination over the government in order to seize the property of ruling, educated society, the property of the learned world. . . . And, destroying hereditary family property and all private funds and means of education, it will force the use of confiscated property for the organisation of social education, for the "socialisation of knowledge."
Here, the significance of the word "dictatorship" is unclear, for the remainder of the passage refers only to forcing radical economic reforms out of the existing government. The intention of mobilising the unemployed in fact precluded any attempt to overthrow the government. Unlike the employed workers, the unemployed could not wrest concessions from the individual owners of their factories. As Machajski pointed out, they would have to turn to the government to demand the establishment of public works, as the unemployed of Paris had done in 1848.
The difficulties in Machajski's program were not lost on contemporary critics. It was pointed out that the Makhaevists assumed extraordinary forbearance on the part of the upper classes, who were apparently expected to yield more and more of their income to the workers while placidly continuing to fulfil their duty of running the economy and the state. One critic acutely observed that if the bourgeoisie decided to resist, the workers would be saved only in the event of their own defeat. For if they won, they would either have to renounce the fruits of their victory and restore the old state of affairs, or socialise the means of production - a step which Machajski maintained would leave them at the mercy of the intellectual workers.
A second set of problems was related to the nature of the social forces Makhaevism relied on to implement its program. Machajski sought to recruit those groups and individuals whose frustration and capacity for violence might be expected to generate the most implacable attack on the existing order. The simple and single-minded objective of seizing the property of the rich might well tempt such elements of the population, but it was questionable whether the objective of the "socialisation of knowledge" could have much appeal to them. To the unskilled, illiterate semi-peasant, the prospect of educating his child to be a doctor or an engineer was about as meaningful as the idea of turning him into a nobleman; he had more imrnediate needs and narrower horizons. The hope of improving one's socio-economic position through education and finding greater personal fulfilment as an intelligent was more likely to reside in those individuals whom Machajski rejected as insufficiently revolutionary: the more skilled and relatively well-off workers. To educate one's children to be white-collar workers, to rise into the middle class, is the ambition not of the bewildered and angry "illiterate fellow from the backwoods village" but of the more secure worker whose social expectations have risen and bear some possibility of fulfilment.
Where was the guarantee, furthermore, that the "hungry masses" would go on struggling for full equality of incomes once their most pressing needs had been appeased? The Paris insurrection of 1848 was not as promising an historical precedent as Machajski thought. One careful study of the National Workshops concludes that at most only one-sixth of those in the pay of the workshops participated in the insurrection. The government's decision to continue paying the workshop employees when the insurrection began was apparently a major factor in neutralising the great majority of them. The unemployed among the insurrectionists were largely workers who had been denied places in the workshops: the continued assurance of their daily wages was sufficient to pacify most of the actual members.
Nor was it certain that the elements of the population Machajski sought to mobilise would prove as readily explosive a force as he assumed. Recent research in the social history of pre-Revolutionary Russian workers has begun to question the long-held view that peasant migrants from the countryside were necessarily alienated and disoriented, dry social tinder available to the most incendiary currents within the revolutionary movement. In at least some significant industrial centres, such as Moscow, peasant-workers brought much of their peasant culture with them. They retained strong family and economic ties to their villages, as well as local networks of organisation and information that persisted over generations. As a result, their lives contained a good deal more structure and stability than has previously been thought.This did not necessarily render them passive, for the solidarity and organisation they derived from their peasant culture could at times be translated into collective action. It would appear, however, that the image of a reservoir of anarchic peasant-workers crowded into the industrial towns and hovering on the brink of insurrection may have been as romantic as the populists' image of a revolutionary peasantry back in the 1860s and 1870s. In any event, the social fuel for the Makhaevist revolution was more complex, and less easily kindled, than Machajski believed.
There was a serious discrepancy between means and ends in Machajski's revolutionary program. The forces on which he pinned his hopes were suited, at best, to outbursts of violence against the existing regime, not to the kind of sustained but limited pressure on it that the realisation of Makhaevism's objectives required. To resolve the dilemma, Machajski resorted to the familiar device of a conscious revolutionary elite that would help to guide the workers' movement in the proper direction. Although he repudiated all existing forms of working-class organisation, he urged the establishment of an underground party, a "workers' conspiracy" (rabochii zagovor). Its purpose would be to coordinate the proletariat's separate outbursts into a regular, planned mass movement to present the workers' ever-growing demands. "The party of the workers' revolution, the party of the workers' insurrections, will not demand political liberty - it will live underground, both under absolutism and in a democracy. Its sole demands will be economic demands concerning manual labour. Its sole task will be a conspiracy with the goal of uniting mass workers' strikes into one general insurrection."These underground conspirators would presumably be Machajski and his associates. As Ivanov-Razumnik pointed out, however, there was no provision in the logic of Makhaevism for leadership of the workers by such a group. Machajski himself never raised the point that he was in fact an intelligent, not a worker, and that his oversight of the workers' movement might be open to the same suspicions and accusations he was levelling against the socialists.
Max Nomad, for one, ultimately concluded that Machajski's renunciation of the seizure of power was only a facade, behind which lurked familiar political ambitions. Nomad suggested that perhaps Machajski stopped referring to a revolutionary dictatorship in order to attract former anarchists and syndicalists. Given the close affinities between Makhaevism and anarchism, this is possible; on the other hand, anarchist groups and organisations themselves faced much the same dilemma as the Makhaevists, and their solutions were often no more rigorously consistent than Machajski's. The contradictions in Machajski's revolutionary program were inherent in his very concept of a mass revolution and need not have stemmed from a conscious attempt at deception. As Nomad points out, however, a movement strong enough to "dictate the laws of state power" would presumably be capable of taking power into its own hands. In any event, Machajski never had the opportunity to demonstrate what his ultimate ambitions really were. The immediate question he faced was whether Makhaevism could organise enough revolutionary activists, and attract enough of a following among the workers, to become a viable competitor to the existing Russian revolutionary parties and groups. By 1905 Machajski had completed the theoretical foundations of Makhaevism, and the outbreak of revolution gave him the opportunity to carry his message back to Russia and try to create a revolutionary movement.