Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: an uncomfortable thinker - Nicola Chiaromonte

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: an uncomfortable thinker - Nicola Chiaromonte

Nicola Chiaromonte's rebuttal of J. Salwyn Schapiro's article, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Harbinger of Fascism. Published in politics, January 1946.

Said Fouché: "Give me a scrap of paper with a man’s signature, and I will have him executed”. This may be a basic principle of State Police procedure, but in intellectual affairs it is simply no good.

By quotations carefully extracted from their context, Mr. Schapiro1 attempts to prove that Proudhon was: 1) “a harbinger of Fascist ideas... (who) sounded the Fascist note of a revolutionary repudiation of democracy and socialism... the intellectual spokesman of the French middle- class” ; 2) a supporter of dictatorship in general, and of Louis Napoleon in particular; 3) an antisemite; 4) an enemy of the American Negroes; 5) an advocate of war; 6) an enemy of the Common Man; 7) an antifeminist.

The first charge is proved by Mr. Schapiro in the following way: Proudhon was a petty-bourgeois and a harbinger of Fascism because he did not believe in the Marxist notion of "class struggle”, or in that of a violent revolution crowned by the victory of the proletariat, while he saw that in modern times a violent revolution could only mean dictatorship and the triumph of some kind of middle class. But Marx and the socialists, adds Mr. Schapiro, were wrong anyway, insofar as they did not fully understand the nature and the historical role of the middle class, while Proudhon’s "inharmonious” insights have been borne out by contemporary events.

From all this, one thing is strikingly evident, namely that while Mr. Schapiro does not himself believe in the validity of Marxist notions, he uses them to define Proudhon and to show that he was, if not so wrong after all, then bad. This gives his argument a peculiar twist. Because from a marxist point of view it may be correct to say that Proudhon was a petty bourgeois, a traitor and a Fascist, since he did not believe in class warfare, in the dictatorship of the proletariat, and such things. But if one thinks that marxist notions are wrong anyway (and on such a fundamental point as the historical role of the various classes), then we are entitled to ask that he judge Proudhon on some other clearly defined grounds, and on the basis of what Proudhon actually meant.

It is my contention that Proudhon’s arguments (bad or good, that’s another story) are stated with perfect clarity in his work for anybody who is willing to make the necessary effort to understand them. If I had to restate them in a few words, I would say that Proudhon’s fundamental concern was to discover in the actual workings of human society a truth that would not be a "class” truth, so that the triumph of social justice would be a triumph of Reason, not of violence, a creation of society itself, not in any way an imposition from above, whatever name the "above” might have— God, State coercion or Class Dictatorship. This truth he called Justice, and he meant both the "idea” and the concrete reality of Justice present, in a positive or in a negative way, in every social situation. This idea inspires his whole work, and Proudhon gave it an unsystematic but very impressive treatment in the two thousand pages of De la Justice dans la Révolution et dans l'Eglise. These two thousand pages are completely neglected by Mr. Schapiro, who on the other hand makes an abundant use of excerpts from Proudhon’s correspondence treating them as if they were meant to be theoretical formulas, and not personal opinions personally and privately expressed.

From Mr. Schapiro’s essay, furthermore, one would learn that Proudhon was an anarchist, but nothing at all about the substance and essential meaning of Proudhon’s relentless fight against what he called le principe gouvernemental. It becomes then far too easy for Mr. Schapiro to hang Proudhon in effigy for being a supporter of dictatorship on the basis of his attitude toward Louis Napoleon. That such an accusation could be uttered at all is so preposterous that it would be unbelievable if we did not have so many examples today of how completely intellectual prejudice (and the obdurate will to talk formulas instead of sense) can twist the judgement of respectable people.

To understand Proudhon’s attitude toward Louis Napoleon nothing is needed but to read what he wrote on the subject keeping in mind what really happened in that tragic year, 1848. There was, among other things, the rage, the despair, the utter contempt for socialist and democratic politicians, in a man who, as early as 1840, had seen defeat, dictatorship, and also war, coming because of the immense stupidity of demagogues who (drunk with visions of 1793 and barricades) were ready to send the workers to be slaughtered for the sake of empty phrases and petty ministerial changes. Which was what they did in June, 1848.

Not to speak of the fact that the famous pamphlet La Révolution démontrée par le Coup d’Etat was so much of a bonapartist pamphlet that its author was forbidden to publish anything on political matters after that; and not to mention the other well-known fact that Proudhon was in jail for three years and in exile for seven years because of his strenuous fight against bonapartism, I would maintain that his attitude toward Louis Napoleon was fundamentally clear, and also intelligent and very honest. He saw with perfect lucidity (as Mr. Schapiro himself grants) that the combination of a government machine of which only the authoritarians understood the nature, and of a mass of people left in a state of chaotic disillusionment and bewilderment, would unavoidably spell dictatorship, Empire, and eventually war. For Proudhon, it was by no means a question of middle class against proletariat. In fact, he stressed over and over again how the inertia (or "passive support” ) of the disgusted workers had been an essential factor in the success of the Coup d’Etat, while the "liberal” middle class disliked intensely the idea of losing the political franchises which they themselves, through the hands of their sons and husbands and fathers, had helped to destroy in the persons of the Parisian workers. Moreover, what Proudhon meant when he said that Louis Napoleon could be "the Revolution or nothing” was not to express faith in a man whom he had opposed with all his strength and for whom he had no respect whatsoever, but rather to proclaim his conviction that, Napoleon or no Napoleon, the Revolution could not be stopped, and that the ridiculous Cesar had no choice but to go willingly in its direction or to be dragged along by historical necessity.

With the best men of his time, Proudhon saw (with wide open eyes, and without any sentimentality or illusion about the actual vicissitudes of history) the immense social upheaval of modem times in the form of "irresistible pro­ gress”. That upheaval was to him such a fundamental and evident fact, and it coincided to such a point with the necessity of Truth itself, that it would have been grotesque for him to think that a Monsieur Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte could be anything but its tool. Political fury, intellectual boldness, and his love for grandiose visions, often led Proudhon to make statements that might sound queer, or even absurd. But after all, if Proudhon is known for something, it is for his unbounded hate for any form of coercion. In order to admit that he meant to support the dictatorship of Louis Napoleon, one would have to assume that he nourished some obscure personal ambition. At that very moment, anyone who has any familiarity with his life and works would hear the echo of the thundering words he once threw in the face of Monsieur Thiers, in Parliament: "Monsieur Thiers, I am ready to tell the whole story of my life here from this tribune. I challenge you to do the same”.

So far, so good. Mr. Schapiro’s attack on Proudhon appears to be the result of misunderstanding and lack of sympathy, rather than of deliberate hostility. But when he comes to Proudhon, the advocate of war, antisemite and anti-Negro, he is being inexcusably devious, and should know much better.

Proudhon’s La Guerre et la Paix is a passionate effort to see clearly into "the mysterious bonds that unite might and right”. In order to do that, the author starts out by taking for granted that war is in human nature, that in war humanity has really sought to appease, in an obscure and fearful way, the need for justice by which it is possessed. Everybody who has read the book knows that its first part takes the deliberate form of an apology for war. As a matter of fact, such an approach is typical of Proudhon, and constitutes one of the most original characteristics of his method, which is, in a sense, truly Socratic. But everybody who has read the book also knows that it ends with the demonstration that, while war can only be understood and justified as a violent search for justice in society, never can justice be achieved through war, but only through the establishment of real just relations between men and between nations, and that there can be neither justice nor peace except in a free federation of peoples.

Mr. Schapiro just ignores all that. And his attitude would not be correctly described if one did not stress that only a couple of pages before accusing Proudhon of being a warmonger he had accused him of being a traitor to the proletariat and an enemy of socialism because Proudhon did not believe in violent revolution. Evidently, Mr. Schapiro prefers to assume that Proudhon was a man without any intellectual or moral consistency to wondering a little about what he, Mr. Schapiro himself, is writing.

In the same book, speaking on the eve of the American Civil War, Proudhon states quite bluntly that this "war of liberation” will not liberate the Negroes, that they will, in the best hypothesis, pass from one kind of slavery into another, and that, all considered, it would be better for them to remain under their Southern masters and strive for their freedom through betterment and self-education than be liberated by the Northern armies. One is free to disagree completely with such an opinion. But, if one knows Proudhon at all, one will also know on what assumption the statement is uttered. The assumption is the basic one for Proudhon: that it is worse than meaningless to say or imply that man can be "liberated” by any machinery whatsoever, governmental or other. Man, according to him, can only be helped to liberate himself by his fellow men, in the course of common life and common effort. It may be that Proudhon on the American Civil War was guilty of hasty generalization (although I understand that there are a few people today who would be ready to grant that he was right). But Mr. Schapiro is, to my knowledge, the only person who has ever thought of accusing the great heir of the eighteenth century philosophes of being "anti-Negro”.

As for anti-semitism, Mr. Schapiro’s indictment of Proudhon’s on this account is based on the fact that Proudhon uses several times the word "Jew” in connection with bankers, the Stock Exchange, financial capitalism, and institutions of a similar kind. Besides the fact that the connection was not, after all, altogether arbitrary and without foundation, one might as well label Voltaire as an antisemite because, since he disliked the Bible with some intensity, to him the word "Jew” was, to all practical purposes, synonymous with superstition.

On the other hand, there would be no point in denying that Proudhon was antifeminist. Alexander Herzen, who had an immense respect and love for Proudhon, was quite incensed by the narrowness of his views on the rights of women and on the family as an institution. Certainly, when he speaks of women and of family discipline under the father, Proudhon shows the worst side of his peasant nature. Not only that, but, by going back to the Roman notion of a family founded on an inflexible patriarchate, he also contradicts the very substance of his social philosophy which is from one end to the other a relentless attack against the philosophical and social foundations of Roman and Napoleonic law.

There is one point, however, on which I am ready to yield to Mr. Schapiro not only willingly, but also with great enthusiasm. This is when Mr. Schapiro says that Proudhon was "an enemy of the Common Man”. Yes, thank God, he was. Proudhon hated the "common” man, he hated the "average” man, he hated the "class” man, he hated profoundly and mercilessly any kind of fiction by which straight, unalloyed, naked human reality could be hidden, distorted, warped—hence oppressed and suppressed. Moreover, Proudhon was not at all a lover of humanity. He was something better. He was a man himself, a thinking man and a free man.

On the whole, since Mr. Schapiro has chosen to depict Proudhon by way of arbitrary quotation, he might as well have accused him of being also:

(1) an enemy of free nations, because to him the Polish and Italian patriots were muddle-headed sentimentalists who assumed that freedom from foreign domination plus some form of constitutional government would automatically mean real freedom and the idyll of nationhoods, while he, Proudhon, thought that the arithmetical operation would rather be: nationalism plus a reinforced State equal despotism, war, and the disruption of any hope for European unity;

(2) a nationalist, because, on the strength of the aforesaid conviction, he vehemently criticized Napoleon III and his Italian "war of liberation” as being completely at loggerheads with the French "national interest” which it was supposed to further, since the French nation could not possibly have any interest in the formation of a new military State at its frontier;

(3) a supporter of "law and order”, because he repeatedly maintained that "political Government” actually meant social anarchy, while free association and the "federal principle” were the only possible basis of real law and real order in society;

(4) a philistine, because he attacked some of the foremost writers and artists of his time, Victor Hugo, George Sand and Delacroix among others, as being "immoral and false”;

(5) a futurist, because, writing on art, he not only upheld Courbet as a great painter but also attacked the "absolutistic cult of Form”, predicted that "truthful artists will be persecuted as enemies of Form and of public morality”, and outlined a notion of "critical idealism” in which truth about the human world and rejection of moral, social and artistic conventions were united in a way which is not far from the way of Tolstoi and of Van Gogh.

In fact, all this, together with Mr. Schapiro’s attack, simply points out Proudhon’s great originality as a thinker: his tenacious refusal to take things for granted; his eagerness to discover new aspects of reality as well as new ways of demonstrating the truth in which he believed; and, when arguing, his constant ability to argue his own case starting from the very grounds of his adversary—which is one of the aspects of his Socratism, and leads him to make statements that could easily be shown to come very near to certain fundamental notions of modern philosophy.

There is, however, a more general question involved in all this. It does not specifically concern either Mr. Schapiro or Proudhon, but rather the two entirely different types of attitudes represented by them. What is striking in Mr. Schapiro’s case is that he is unable to give a satisfactory account of the type of complex approach represented by Proudhon. Why?

I think it is impossible to understand Mr. Schapiro’s attitude if one does not assume that what he is actually asking for is a one-track, monolithic theory, a theory giving all the answers, complete with instructions how to prove it, and also to disprove it.

Such a theory would have to be built on a level of half-truths dogmatically asserted. Mr. Schapiro, one suspects, would have liked to be able to reduce Proudhon’s ideas to a statement of the kind : "The world is bad because financial credit is not given freely. The free credit bank would make it good”. He would then have had the choice of say- mg : ‘After all, it is not nonsensical, since free credit would certainly be a good thing”—or else (like Marx) of getting indignant and treating Proudhon as a nincompoop who wants to solve the social question with the one magic stroke of free credit. The important point, in both cases, would be that one would not have to deal with "contradictory and inharmonious” statements, but only with simple-mindedness.

Fortunately, Proudhon is far from being the kind of comfortable thinker Mr. Schapiro (and a few others) like to deal with. He is the kind of thinker who, because he believes in truth, feels free to challenge everything short of truth. For Proudhon practical solutions cannot be but partial, and the essence of the social problem is that it remains open. In fact, what one finds at the root of Proudhon’s thought is the unshakeable conviction that human society constitutes an ever present and ever resurgent problem, which might or might not have a final solution, but in any case requires above everything else that it be kept open throughout the vicissitudes of history. This is, for Proudhon, the mission of the honest man and of the intellectual, and can only be fulfilled through intellectual freedom and actual common work.


Still, to defend Proudhon against a certain kind of misunderstanding seems superfluous. The mere fact that, after having been buried so long ago under the terrifying epitaph: "PETTY BOURGEOIS”, he is still being called names seems a sufficient testimony to the vitality and truthfulness of what is left to us of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, homme du peuple.

  • 1. J. Salwyn Schapiro—P. J. Proudhon, Harbinger of Fascism (The American Historical Review, July 1945).


Apr 17 2017 11:17

Pretty weak and dishonest attempt to defend Proudon. It totally avoids his Notebooks. In the following I want to provide quotes from it. If you want to read more, I recommend Hal Drapers "A Note on the Father of Anarchism".
Especially the fact that he was an anti-Semite is too obvious, and one must do numerous mental gymnastics to deny that:

"JEWS – Do an article against this race, which poisons everything, thrusting itself everywhere, without ever blending with any people.

Call for its expulsion from France, except for individuals married to Frenchmen; abolish the synagogues; admit them to no employment; in fact, abolition of this creed.

It is not for nothing that Christians have called them god-killers. The Jew is the enemy of the human race. It is necessary to send this race back to Asia, or exterminate it.

H Heine, A Weil, and others are nothing but secret spies; Rothschild, Crémieux, Marx, Fould – evil, bad-tempered, envious, sour, etc, etc, beings who hate us.

By means of iron or fusion or expulsion, it is necessary that the Jew disappear. Tolerate the old ones who can no longer beget children.

Work to be done. What the people of the Middle Ages hated by instinct, I hate on reflection, and irrevocably.

The hatred of the Jew as of the English must be an article of our political faith." [2:337ff]

Futhermore, he was a egomanic with dyspotic fantasies. He was antidemocratic, intolerant and - yes - authoritarian:

"Then we will be Kings of opinion, and arbiters of government, and masters of Europe." [2:340]
"Association – Determine my line of conduct and my plan in advance: utilizing men and sacrificing them as soon as they become an obstacle and don’t work anymore, or as soon as they want to drag the Society along a false road. No politics of liberalism... " [1:270]
"Association – After the first criticisms, carry out the repression of the publications and utopias of the Cabetists, Fourierists and of L'Unité. (...)

Place a prohibition on meetings, banquets, private gatherings, lectures, propaganda, subscriptions, magazines, newspapers and pamphlets." [1:275]

"No compromise with parties: Communists, Fourierists, etc, annihilate around us, or assimilate." [1:270]
"Eliminate men of every opinion, who by manifestations of opinion have pronounced their own downfall. (...)

No hatred! No, no hatred. Eliminate as a matter of principle." [1:283]

"... if I had to sacrifice the human race, I would sacrifice it to what seems the truth to me, and I would take pride in thinking, while making this sacrifice, that I represent humanity by myself alone, and that though losing a million millions of men, nothing has been lost." [1:185]
"The representative of the people – that is Me. For I, I alone, am right." [2:307)

etc. etc.

I can't understand how anybody can identify himself with this ideology....

Ross Arctor
Jun 3 2017 19:47
I can't understand how anybody can identify himself with this ideology....

Maybe because Proudhon's antisemitism and a handful of quotes extracted from their context can be exorcised from and aren't essential to his thought as laid out in What is Property, The General Idea of the Revolution, The Principle of Federation, etc. If you dismiss entire strains of thought because of a few inessential things, then out goes Bakunin's anarchism for antisemitism, out goes Marx's entire analysis of political economy for his racism, etc.

Jun 4 2017 12:17

I as an Anarchist dislike much of Proudhon in both politics and personal capacity but as has been stated many ideologues of the 19th Century were guilty of unLibertarian and unCommunist views.However they were also prisoners of their time and the reactionary views that existed.Also Anarchism and Libertarian Communism were nascent ideologies that were still formulating so it would be inevitable to a degree to have individuals professing racist,sexist views although not excusable.

Jun 4 2017 16:07
Prmantan wrote:
Pretty weak and dishonest attempt to defend Proudon. It totally avoids his Notebooks. ...

As Ross pointed out, Proudhon's objectionable views have no relation to his political contributions. Nobody citing Proudhon does so because of his sexist or racist views. Of course if you're a libertarian communist you would reject his market socialist ideas - but that doesn't alter the fact that he was influential among the other anarchist camps and later anarchist thinkers like Bakunin and the rest, as well as Marx to an extent. Should we just discard all the introductory texts on anarchism in which he's always the first to be brought up? Should we just avoid reading Homage to Catalonia because Orwell was a homophobe, etc.?

Jun 4 2017 21:33

This "response" is pretty bad, it makes me want to read the article us responding to, which must still be better than this.

And come on now if you are to call yourselves anarchists why are you so bothered to defend some one who we only know about because they had the relative privlage to write a book and get it published at a time when much of the working class was illiterate.

Do you really think there was no one else in the socialist movement with anarchist ideas? Why can what proudhon wrote not be seen as a sample of ideas in the movement at the time?

Treat what he wrote as a historical document not scripture.

Jun 4 2017 22:16
radicalgraffiti wrote:
This "response" is pretty bad, it makes me want to read the article us responding to, which must still be better than this.

And come on now if you are to call yourselves anarchists why are you so bothered to defend some one who we only know about because they had the relative privlage to write a book and get it published at a time when much of the working class was illiterate.

Do you really think there was no one else in the socialist movement with anarchist ideas? Why can what proudhon wrote not be seen as a sample of ideas in the movement at the time?

Treat what he wrote as a historical document not scripture.

R., I don't think anyone's treating Proudhon's works like scripture, and I don't believe there are many mutualists here for that matter. Proudhon had insights and was influential among the other anarchist camps and thinkers. Sure it's possible there were Proudhon-like thinkers back then but without all the privileges to publish anything, but there has to be records of someone and their works in order for them to be of any relevance to the anarchist movement.

Juan Conatz
Jun 5 2017 03:03

Can it really be said that you can seperate Proudhoun's mutualism from his anti-semitism? Weren't early fascists really into him? I mean today, whatever remains of mutualism is closely related to strands of thought that are essentially just anti-Finance capital. It's only a short trip to full blown anti-semitism from there.

Jun 5 2017 03:23
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Treat what he wrote as a historical document not scripture.

None of the rebuttals to Prmantan here appear to be defending proudhon's sexism or racism. What they are acknowledging is the historical significance of Proudhon's radical and critical insights into revolutionary thought. Proudhon's racist and sexist rants, as deplorable as they are, appear to be present in only a small percentage of his writings. I say "appear to be", because I've not read everything that's been written by Proudhon.

radicalgraffiti wrote:
And come on now if you are to call yourselves anarchists why are you so bothered to defend some one who we only know about because they had the relative privilege to write a book and get it published at a time when much of the working class was illiterate.

Your argument here is reminiscent of the straw man arguments right wingers sometimes make against anti-capitalists that partake of the products of capitalist production such as modern appliances, computers, automobiles, cell phones, etc.

Also, if your going to harp on about privilege, Engels, and to some extent Marx, were much more men of privilege then Proudhon. But the relative privilege, or lack thereof, of Engels, Marx or Proudhon should not logically be a factor in judging their contributions to revolutionary thought.

Jun 5 2017 04:27

I don't see the same criteria being used to attack Marx and Enge'ls own anti-Semitism and misogyny. I have to agree with Ross, zugwang, and Sike. For me the most important elements of Proudhon's thought were his trailblazing idea that the working class had to organise autonomously, as well as his federalism and his anti-Statism.
Something from an ongoing work of mine:

Proudhon- anarchist?

“Marx was to the left of Proudhon, and Bakunin to the left of Marx”. Obsolete Communism, Daniel and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit, p.17 Penguin edition.
“Proudhon’s use of the word “Anarchist” to designate his views must be taken with reservations”. Murray Bookchin, the Spanish Anarchists p.20.

“Respect for his memory inhibits all but a passing reference to his “salute to war”, his diatribes against women, or his fits of racism”. Guerin.

Proudhon is a “complex and contradictory thinker”. He influenced Marx to a great extent, and Marx in a churlish fashion was to later totally repudiate any debt that he owed.
Proudhon’s influence on the militants of the French labour movement in the decade preceding the Paris Commune was considerable. He was certainly no revolutionary, in the sense that we understand it, and he was certainly no communist. He was against violent revolution, and even saw bosses as being finally ready to be expropriated “at their solicitation and without indemnity”. Some of his ideas were used by activists within the working class movement to develop their own theory. The ideas he espoused can be summed up briefly as

A) a belief in a peaceful social revolution and the replacement of the State by economic groups of cooperation
B) a demand for creation of free credit which would enable small property owners to clear their debts and workers to break free from the serfdom imposed on them by the wage system.
C) The belief that this development would lead to a society based on freedom, justice and equality.

Towards the end of his political career Proudhon added to and reinforced these ideas with the concept of federalism. They were underpinned by a moral and ethical outlook that held up the patriarchal family unit as a model, alongside the idealisation of women, an idealisation that was restricted to family life and the home; and a strong belief in education, both professional and intellectual, as a prerequisite for freedom.
In their incessant attack on anarchism, all types of Marxist often first turn to Proudhon, seen as the founder of anarchism. In Proudhon, with his patriarchal and racist outlook, is to be found an easy target. It is conveniently forgotten that Proudhon was as much a forefather of socialism of all forms, including anarchism, and that he had a strong influence on Marx. Engels in a letter of 1843, regards (erroneously) Proudhon as the most important writer favourable to communism, and hails his What is Property? “as the most philosophical work, on the part of the Communists, in the French language; and, if I wish to see any French book translated into the English language, it is this…..he comes at last to the conclusion: “Nous voulons l’anarchie!”” Engels then enthusiastically continues: “What we want is anarchy; the rule of nobody, the responsibility of every one to nobody but himself”.

The body of ideas represented by Proudhon reflect the consciousness of a class in formation and in search of its own identity. Proudhonism was on one hand one of the first manifestations of an authentic working class socialism (as opposed to republicanism, or the ideas of Fourier and others, developed outside the workers’ movement, and on the other hand the expression of nostalgia of small producers who were becoming working class (progressive and pacifist ‘obtaining’ of the means of production through workers cooperatives; respect of private property; reactionary ideas about women).

He blustered that “Genius is virility of spirit and its accompanying powers of abstraction, generalisation, creation, and conception; the child, the eunuch, and the woman lack these gifts in equal measure.” Woman was created by nature merely as a organism for reproduction, and she was physically inferior to Man. Proudhon backed these views up with various pseudo-scientific theories. Outside of her reproductive role Woman had no reason to exist and cost more to Man than he earns. Woman had only two roles open to her “housewife or harlot”. He went on to say that the killing of wives was justified for such things as “adultery, impudence, treason, drunkenness or debauchery, wastefulness or theft, and persistent insubordination.” Proudhon laced these fulminations with tirades against lechery and pederasty (Above quotes from La justice dans la revolution et dans l'église (1858).

Proudhon’s views on women were to be strongly contested by Juliette Lambert (Adam) who replied with her book Idees Anti-Proudhonniennes sur la femme, l’amour et le marriage (Anti-Proudhonist ideas on Woman , Love and Marriage (1858) who castigated “men like Proudhon, who want to return us to patriarchy by imprisoning women in the family”, by Jenny d'Héricourt who stated that Proudhon saw Woman as a 'a perpetual invalid, who should be shut up in a gynoceum in company with a dairy maid” (La Femme Affranchie, 1860) and by Joseph Déjacque, who had far more revolutionary and advanced views than Proudhon. As Déjacque remarked:” Is it possible, great publicist, that under your lion’s skin so much of the ass may be found?...Father Proudhon, shall I say it? When you talk of women you appear like a college boy who talks very loudly and in a high key, at random and with impertinence, in order to appear learned, as you do to your callow hearers, and who like you knows not the first thing of the matter he is talking about …Listen, Master Proudhon! Before you talk of woman, study her; go to school. Stop calling yourself an anarchist, or be an anarchist clear through. Talk to us, if you wish to, of the unknown and the known, of God who is evil, of property which is robbery; but when you talk of man do not make him an autocratic divinity, for I will answer you that man is evil. Attribute not to him a stock of intelligence which belongs to him only by right of conquest, by the commerce of love, by usury on the capital that comes entirely from woman and is the product of the soul within her. Dare not to attribute to him that which he has derived from another or I will answer you in your own words: “Property is robbery!”…Raise your voice, on the contrary, against the exploitation of woman by man (On The Human Being, Male and Female, 1857). As the anarchist Elisée Reclus was to later say disapprovingly about Proudhon “….his words on women are still for all of us those which weigh most heavily” (1882).

At the same time, Proudhon was one of the first to revolt against the Statist and centralising ideas that Jacobinism had imprinted on Babouvism, and its successors in the Blanquist and communist currents, not to mention the strong centralisation that had been inflicted on France in the Napoleonic period, and his critique of the State can be cutting and trenchant. Equally, he was aware of the snares of parliamentary action.

“Democracy is nothing but a constitutional tyrant”.
“The social revolution is seriously compromised if it comes about through the political revolution”.
“To vote would be a contradiction, an act of weakness and complicity with the corrupt regime”.
“We must make war on all the old parties together, using parliament as a legal battlefield, but staying outside it”.

“Universal suffrage is the counter-revolution “and to develop and consolidate its own class interests the working class had to make an initial step of “seceding from” bourgeois democracy.

But in his typically contradictory fashion Proudhon allowed himself to be elected to Parliament in June 1848 for a short time. On two other occasions in the same year, he supported the extreme left candidate Raspail. Again in contradiction to his espousal of working class autonomy, he was an advocate of the lesser evil, expressing preference for General Cavaignac, the June Days butcher, over the dictator in waiting Louis Napoleon.

Later on he advocated returning blank ballot papers, in 1863 and 1864 as a protest against Louis Napoleon’s dictatorship and not as a rejection of universal suffrage.
In the 1860s French workers began to be conscious of their collective strength, and Napoleon III had to make concessions to them, sensing the fragility of his regime. Unions and producers’ cooperatives were established as a result of the liberalisation of laws on association. Advanced workers respected Proudhon because he had been alone in taking their side in the 1848 events. As a result a movement developed that looked to Proudhon’s ideas. This was based on his free association and mutual credit. Proudhon reacted with this movement to theorise the actions of the French workers. In doing so he had to revise his own ideas on the French proletariat. He had seen them as manipulated by the rising bourgeoisie. He not only had to change his ideas on this, seeing the working class as a new and all-important force, but he revised his theories on class as well. He recognised the bourgeoisie as now being in the ascendant, as having won their battles with the monarchy and aristocracy. Now the “middle class” of shopkeepers, artisans and small businessmen and masters far from playing a key role in the struggle for Proudhon’s mutualist society were now under siege, and predicted that it would be replaced by “officialdom, the bourgeoisie and the wage-earning class”. He called for an alliance between the working class, the peasantry and what was left of the middle class, in which the workers had to take the leading role.
Proudhon then develops his theory of withdrawal, that is working class autonomy. Since the “old world” rejects the newly emergent working class, radical separation is required. Thus by withdrawing from parliamentarism and the State, the working class would develop its own confidence and self-reliance. Death cut short his elaboration of any political abstentionism, but many in the First International, those that did not belong to Marx’s camp, were to admit their debt to Proudhon on this score.

Proudhon also developed the idea of collective strength; “That immense force which results from workers’ union and harmony, from the convergence and simultaneity of their efforts”. This collective strength will increase workers’ self-confidence and increase their independence and autonomy.

The mutualist movement that developed in France in the 1860s- and became dominant in the working class there- did not always follow these counsels of abstentionism. A group around Tolain and Limousin developed the need for workers’ candidates to put forward the desires and rights of their own class “with moderation”.

Proudhon had seized on the word anarchy and in his worldview, an-anarchie as he called it, encapsulates his views on the State and centralisation. Proudhon railed against what he saw as the communism of the times and particularly of the authoritarian schemes of Victor Considerant and Louis Blanc with his militaristic welfarism.” The communists cannot forgive me for having made a critique of community, as if a nation was one huge polyp and there were no rights of the individual alongside society’s rights”.
Proudhon shares much with Marx, as Skirda has pointed out. Not only were both atheists, they both developed the need for the working class to emancipate itself. They were both influenced by the idealistic theories of Hegel (Proudhon at second-hand), as Skirda says: “the ideo-realist principle which developed in the materialist conception of History with Marx”. They both venerated work as a principle (Proudhon: “Work is what confers dignity on man; only the productive worker is worthy of esteem”). They both believed in productivist ideas (Proudhon: “Have as much as possible produced and consumed, by the greatest possible number of men”). Long before Marx, Proudhon had coined the term “scientific socialism” in 1844.Where they parted company was on the role of the working class and the bourgeoisie. Marx believed that the bourgeois revolution had to be completed, and if the bourgeoisie was not up to the task, then the proletariat must accomplish it itself. Proudhon, as we have seen eventually came to see that the bourgeoisie’s interests were opposed in every way to those of the proletariat. Thenceforth, the working masses must separate themselves from the snares of bourgeois democracy and develop their own class self-organisation and their own autonomy.

There was much to criticise in Proudhon, above all his mutualism and his rejection of an insurrectionary revolution. But Marx, at first an admirer of Proudhon, produced one of the most libellous, slanderous and vicious messes of abuse and misrepresentation in history in his The Poverty of Philosophy. Confused and confusing as Proudhon is, he is still an original and interesting thinker. In a final summarising and appreciation of the pioneers of human liberty, Marx’s actions on this score must be seen as unforgivable.

Jun 5 2017 06:14

Anti-semitism permeated the Whole o the socialist movement in the 19th century. Fourier's thought contains large doses of anti-Semitism, witness his :""Every government having regard to good morals ought to repress the Jews"." whilst a follower of Fourier, Toussenel, was even more virulent. as witness his book Les Juifs rois de l'époque, 1845. Anti-Semitism was also rampant within Blanquism, implicating Blanqui himself and the important Blanquist Gustave Tridon who wrote a virulently anti-Semitic pamphlet Du Molochisme Juif: Études Critiques et Philosophiques (On Jewish Molochism: Critical and Philosophical Studies.), As well as with Bakunin, Marx and Engels etc, it could be found in the writings of , For example, Fedinand Domela Niewenhuis, an important figure of social-democracy and then anarchism. to his credit, Niewenhuis appears to have broken with this anti-Semitism in later years.If we were to write off Proudhon for his ant-Semitism then we would have to do that for practically the entiirety of 19th century socialism, including Marx himself.

Jun 5 2017 12:40

1. Proudhon didn't think the working class should organize autonomously, he was against strikes. He (as clarified in the above cited essays, filled with Proudhon's own mad scribblings) advocated the combination of society into one great firm, of which he was to be the head manager. Wow what a great anarchist.

2. Marx and Engels' occasional reference to the ethnicity/race of an author, even in disparaging tones is not the same thing as calling for the repeated calls for the extermination of a "race of people". Get a grip.

3. The whole Proudhon apologia thing is just sad. At best it's an attempt to rehabilitate the idiotic precepts of philosophical liberalism - that any interference with my will is oppression. Proudhon's vision of freedom is narrow and based on privilege, parading as right, like most of the petit-bourgeoisie and run of the mill liberals. There is no thorough and complete reckoning with the fact that *individual freedom* in bourgeois society is *conditioned upon* the social division of labor and the interdependence of human beings. Perhaps this is nominally acknowledged, but Proudhon's approach still hews to the veneration of some abstract individual liberty as absolute principle.

The sad thing is that people try to ignore or rehabilitate these politics but for the benefit of almost nothing but the same tired individualist turn taken by Woodcock, Rocker, etc. To the extent that anarchism relies on philosophical liberalism, it denudes itself of any connection to the ground or reality.

Proudhon is a somewhat interesting historical figure. He offers nothing to revolutionaries fighting against capitalism.

Jun 5 2017 17:31

The Carnets (Notebooks) mentioned above were exactly that, private notebooks. They were not published until the 1960s. They are often filled with execrable comments, none of which can be defended. Marx on the other hand published The Russian Loan where he writes:" Thus we find every tyrant backed by a Jew, as is every pope by a Jesuit. In truth, the cravings of oppressors would be hopeless, and the practicability of war out of the question, if there were not an army of Jesuits to smother thought and a handful of Jews to ransack pockets.… the real work is done by the Jews, and can only be done by them, as they monopolize the machinery of the loanmongering mysteries by concentrating their energies upon the barter trade in securities… Here and there and everywhere that a little capital courts investment, there is ever one of these little Jews ready to make a little suggestion or place a little bit of a loan. The smartest highwayman in the Abruzzi is not better posted up about the locale of the hard cash in a traveler’s valise or pocket than those Jews about any loose capital in the hands of a trader… The language spoken smells strongly of Babel, and the perfume which otherwise pervades the place is by no means of a choice kind.

… Thus do these loans, which are a curse to the people, a ruin to the holders, and a danger to the governments, become a blessing to the houses of the children of Judah. This Jew organization of loan-mongers is as dangerous to the people as the aristocratic organization of landowners… The fortunes amassed by these loan-mongers are immense, but the wrongs and sufferings thus entailed on the people and the encouragement thus afforded to their oppressors still remain to be told.

… The fact that 1855 years ago Christ drove the Jewish moneychangers out of the temple, and that the moneychangers of our age enlisted on the side of tyranny happen again chiefly to be Jews, is perhaps no more than a historical coincidence. The loan-mongering Jews of Europe do only on a larger and more obnoxious scale what many others do on one smaller and less significant. But it is only because the Jews are so strong that it is timely and expedient to expose and stigmatize their organization."From; "Karl Marx, The Eastern Question" (ed. by Eleanor Marx & Edward Aveling, 1897: new ed. 1969). pp. 600-606.
Similarly Engels in the published work The Magyar Question was to write:""Among all the nations and sub-nations of Austria, only three standard-bearers of progress took an active part in history, and are still capable of life -- 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...This remnant of a nation that was, as Hegel says, suppressed and held in bondage in the course of history, this human trash, becomes every time -- and remains so until their complete obliteration or loss of national identity -- the fanatical carriers of counter-revolution, just as their whole existence in general is itself a protest against a great historical revolution....Such, in Austria, are the pan-Slavist Southern Slavs, who are nothing but the human trash of peoples, resulting from an extremely confused thousand years of development...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 progress." Perhaps you should get a grip.
Have you not read The Political Capacity of the Working Classes where Proudhon talks about the need for the independence of the working class from the bourgeoisie?. As Robert Graham notes:"In this book, his political testament, Proudhon advocated a radical separation of the working class from bourgeois institutions. He urged the workers to reject all participation in bourgeois politics. He proposed that they organize themselves into their own autonomous organizations in opposition to the existing capitalist system. He emphasized the need for an alliance between the working class and the peasantry. Through their own direct action and solidarity, the workers and peasants would become increasingly conscious of themselves as a class and of their growing political capacity". OK, couched in mutualist and associationist terms, and yes mutualism was a pile of shit, which I have readily admitted in the above comments, but nevertheless an early formulation of working class autonomy, with all its imperfections.

Noa Rodman
Jun 5 2017 18:12

"The Russian Loan" was in the past wrongly attributed to Marx. Kevin Anderson (Marx at the Margins, p 262) refers to the conclusion of editors Hans-Jürgen Bochinski, Manfred Neuhaus et al. that the earlier attributions to Marx can "definitely be ruled out".

Jun 5 2017 19:30

No, no, no.. A rewriting of the facts..Eleanor Marx knew what her father had written , that's why she included it in the Eastern Question. Better to trust her, than some academics many decades after who have ruled it out as a genuine Marx piece because they have somehow analysed stylistic differences "A close textual analysis" as they themselves say.!

Noa Rodman
Jun 5 2017 20:09

no she didn't "know":

The letters and articles appeared in the New York Tribune.
As to the letters which are signed, there has, of course, been
no difficulty of identification. As to unsigned letters and
leading articles, the exercise of careful investigation and
discretion has been necessary.


Jun 5 2017 20:26

Well, somewhat better selection by Eleanor that "close textual analysis" by academics trying to tippex this article out of Marx's opus!
Next you're gonna be saying Engels didn't write The Magyar Question

Ross Arctor
Jun 5 2017 20:21

I'm glad my comments spurred some discussion, but whatever happened to anarchists not conflating sets of ideas with the people who espouse them? I thought this was a point of pride for you all, Besides, Mutualism is more than just Proudhon.

Jun 5 2017 20:24

Sorry, Ross, but mutualism is shit whether it's ™. Proudhon or not. Death to market socialism.

Red Marriott
Jun 5 2017 22:53
Pennoid wrote:
Marx and Engels' occasional reference to the ethnicity/race of an author, even in disparaging tones is not the same thing as calling for the repeated calls for the extermination of a "race of people". Get a grip.

It's not that simple at all. Their racial/ethnic views were used as more than just personal slurs; also to justify colonisation - the impoverishment, enslavement and slaughter of 'racially inferior peoples', taking sides in wars etc. Their personal racial slurs were symptoms of a wider racial world-historic view of progressive and backward cultures, races, nations etc. Marx in particular saw a scientific basis for such views and was impressed by the racialist theories of Tremaux;

"As he [Tremaux] demonstrates, (he was in Africa a long time) the common Negro type is only a degeneration of a much higher one." https://www.jstor.org/stable/2709420?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Marx failed to convince Engels of any worth in Tremaux's views - but Engels was an enthusiastic cleanser of the 'historically backward peoples';

But at the first victorious uprising of the French proletariat ... the Austrian Germans and the Magyars will gain their freedom and take a bloody revenge on the Slav barbarians. 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)

Marx on Lasalle;
When Lassalle was Marx's guest in London in 1862 Marx wrote to Engels:
"It is now perfectly clear to me that, as the shape of his head and the growth of his hair indicate, he is descended from the negroes who joined in the flight of Moses from Egypt (unless his mother or grandmother on the father's side was crossed with a nigger). Now this union of Jewishness to Germanness on a negro basis was bound to produce an extraordinary hybrid. The importunity of the fellow is also niggerlike."

Marx on Lafargue;
"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)

Engels on Lafargue;
Lafargue, Engels said, had "one eighth or one twelfth Nigger blood". In 1887, Lafargue was a candidate for the Paris Municipal Council, in a district which contained the Jardin des Plantes and the Zoo. In a letter to Laura (April 26, 1887), Engels referred to:
"Paul, the candidate of the Jardin des Plantes - and the animals" and added: "Being in his quality as a nigger 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." (This letter (in German translation) is in Marx & Engels Werke vol. 36, 1967, p. 645.)

Marx on the Germans & French prior to Franco-Prussian War & the Paris Commune;
"The French need a thrashing. If the Prussians win, the centralisation of the state power will be useful for the centralisation of the German working class. German predominance would also transfer the centre of gravity of the workers' movement in Western Europe from France to Germany, and one has only to compare the movement in the two countries from 1866 till now to see that the German working class is superior to the French both theoretically and organisationally. Their predominance over the French on the world stage would also mean the predominance of our theory over Proudhon's, etc." (Marx to Engels, July 20, 1870)

Racial theories of superior and inferior races and nations, racial characteristics of temperament, personality etc were considered as scientific fact by many in the days of Marx and Bakunin. (Yet one can see this supposed objectivity often used as a vehicle for personal malice and arrogance in their quotes.)

Marx on Indian characteristics assigns parallels between Indian castes and European 'national characters';
we may safely expect to see, at a more or less remote period, the regeneration of that great and interesting country, whose gentle natives are, to use the expression of Prince Soltykov, even in the most inferior classes, “plus fins et plus adroits que les Italiens” [more subtle and adroit than the Italians], a whose submission even is counterbalanced by a certain calm nobility, who, notwithstanding their natural langor, have astonished the British officers by their bravery, whose country has been the source of our languages, our religions, and who represent the type of the ancient German in the Jat, and the type of the ancient Greek in the Brahmin. https://marxists.catbull.com/archive/marx/works/1853/07/22.htm

Marx on the coquest of Mexican territory;
"In America we have witnessed the conquest of Mexico and have rejoiced at it.[283] It is also an advance when a country which has hitherto been exclusively wrapped up in its own affairs, perpetually rent with civil wars, and completely hindered in its development, a country whose best prospect had been to become industrially subject to Britain — when such a country is forcibly drawn into the historical process. It is to the interest of its own development that Mexico will in future be placed under the tutelage of the United States. The evolution of the whole of America will profit by the fact that the United States, by the possession of California, obtains command of the Pacific."
[Commentary on text added; "In subsequent years however, he and Marx investigated the consequences of colonial conquests and the subjugation of backward countries by large states in all their aspects. In particular, having made a thorough study of the US policy in regard to Mexico and other countries of the American continent, Marx in an article, “The Civil War in the North America” (1861), described it as expansion in the interests of the then dominant slave-owning oligarchy of the Southern States and of the bourgeois elements in the North which supported it, whose overt aim was to seize new territories for spreading slavery."] http://www.marxistsfr.org/archive/marx/works/1848/01/23.htm

Engels comments on the same war;
"Will Bakunin accuse the Americans of a "war of conquest", which, although it deals with a severe blow to his theory based on "justice and humanity", was nevertheless waged wholly and solely in the interest of civilization? Or is it perhaps unfortunate that splendid California has been taken away from the lazy Mexicans, who could not do anything with it?" (Engels in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung of February 1849) http://www.workersliberty.org/node/989

They were all people of their time and its limits and shared many of those limits. But the attempt to claim that one's preferred ideological saints can retain their value despite their failings while one's rivals lose all their legitimacy due to theirs is just silly and only perpetuates biased hierarchical categorising. Just as claims of superior/inferior, historically progressive/backward races/nations etc also do.

Jun 6 2017 00:39
Juan Conatz wrote:
Can it really be said that you can seperate Proudhoun's mutualism from his anti-semitism? Weren't early fascists really into him? I mean today, whatever remains of mutualism is closely related to strands of thought that are essentially just anti-Finance capital. It's only a short trip to full blown anti-semitism from there.

The hundreds or so introductory texts to anarchism that expound upon Proudhon's mutualism appear to have separated it, unless they all embrace fascism and anti-semitism, which is unlikely. We could take Berkman and What is Anarchist Communism as an illustration:

Individualist Anarchists, followers of Stirner and Tucker, as well as Tolstoyan Anarchists who believe in nonresistance, have no very clear plan of the economic life under Anarchy. The Mutualists, on the other hand, propose a definite new economic system. They believe with their teacher, the French philosopher Proudhon, that mutual banking and credit without interest would be the best economic form of a non-government society. According to their theory, free credit, affording every one opportunity to borrow money without interest, would tend to equalize incomes and reduce profits to a minimum, and would thus eliminate riches as well as poverty. Free credit and competition in the open market, they say, would result in economic equality, while the abolition of government would secure equal freedom. The social life of the Mutualist community, as well as of the Individualist society, would be based on the sanctity of voluntary agreement, of free contract.

Berkman appears to have separated Proudhon's more objectionable views from his political contributions. (And I hope Berkman was not a fascist or racist.) To say that all of Proudhon's works were spoiled by his objectionable views and that he therefore had nothing else to offer reflects a very poor reading of him. It ignores what myself and others have repeatedly been saying about how influential he was among other socialist thinkers (as they themselves wrote), Marx included. The idea that any thinker's objectionable views are inseparable from their other contributions is extremely dubious. Is it also impossible to separate Orwell's homophobia from his account of the Spanish Revolution, or had homophobia bled into all of Orwell's works as well? I don't think so, and I think there is something more that can be extracted from Orwell's works other than his homophobic thinking, and I think the same applies to Proudhon, as should be clear.

Juan Conatz
Jun 6 2017 03:54

Well, there was no Cercle Orwell, there was a Cercle Proudhon. One of the key predecessor groups to fascism were clearly admirers of Proudhon. So the question of whether one can compartementalize Proudhon's antisemitism is a legitimate one. I don't think syndicalism is inherently fascist, but remove a few things and add some others and boom there you go. Clearly there were some things inherent to some strands of syndicalism that made some predisposed to cross over to fascism. To be clear, I do not care for this Marx-Proudhon football team style bickering nor am I particularly invested one way or the other on if Proudhon is included or not in any canon.

Jun 6 2017 18:24
Juan Conatz wrote:
Well, there was no Cercle Orwell, there was a Cercle Proudhon. One of the key predecessor groups to fascism were clearly admirers of Proudhon. So the question of whether one can compartementalize Proudhon's antisemitism is a legitimate one. I don't think syndicalism is inherently fascist, but remove a few things and add some others and boom there you go. Clearly there were some things inherent to some strands of syndicalism that made some predisposed to cross over to fascism. To be clear, I do not care for this Marx-Proudhon football team style bickering nor am I particularly invested one way or the other on if Proudhon is included or not in any canon.

There's also Leninism and 'Anarcho'-Capitalism. Marx would have rolled over in his grave seeing Stalinist Russia. Can you really blame Proudhon if others appropriate his name for their own political purposes (the Right does something similar with Orwell and his fictional works, equating socialism/communism to totalitarianism), long since he passed away? It's not like Proudhon's works openly embrace fascism and anti-semitism throughout - otherwise it would make no sense for Berkman to mention him.

Jun 6 2017 18:21

It seems pretty straightforward to me:

1. Proudhons destruction of Jews is based on an assumption of their inherent evil. Marx and Engels refer to various "races" in terms of abhorrent and since disproven race science, indeed, even in ways you describe, that reflect their own biases to an extent. However, Marx in the quote you point to remarks that their condition is perhaps simply a historical coincidence.

2. Marx and Engels pioneered, in part, the type of social analysis that provides an explanation of racism and sexism on scientific and material grounds; that phenotypical expression takes on special social significance as a result of the social relations of production and distribution. In spite of their own flawed understanding of races and ethnicities, based as it was on incomplete science of their contemporaries.

3. The basis for the "pro colonization" claims is a confusion; Engels is making an argument about what will likely come to pass, and reflecting that the dissolution of the various nationalist projects of the different pet nationalities will in the long run unify the working classes across Europe on many planes. This is a prediction of fact. It may be true or false.

4. The same can be seen pretty clearly with reference to Mexico, dominated as it was, for so long a time, by the reactionary Spanish Monarchy. Indeed in the quote you provide, they point out that Marx and Engels had to reassess their prediction that imperialist subjugation will lead to the economic development of Mexico, especially in light of the fact that the war was a project in conjunction with a purely reactionary class - the psuedo aristocratic slaveowners in the south. It is a matter of fact that the idea that imperialist subjugation will or won't lead to development, and the 20th century is littered with examples. Suffice it to say they were wrong to perscribe any general formula, and yet they didn't ever, to my knowledge, argue that it would.

This is all to say that there is a distinct difference between saying "I will destroy the Jews when I am "manager" of my world mutualist firm" and "Capitalist imperialism will lead to the suppression of the nationalist projects of various peoples which may prove advantageous to working class revolution" regardless of right/wrong in terms of assessment of fact.

Relatedly, it's not merely that so and so said bad things. Like the use of what are regarded as distasteful words now. It's that they fit into a set of ideas about the world or a political program that divides the class, that pits workers against eachother, that clings to illusions, and that, again, makes a 'right' out of privilege, a la Proudhon's hardcore libertarianism.

Red Marriott
Jun 6 2017 20:00

It seems pretty straightforward to me. That your reductionist summary of Marx & Engels' views on race;

Marx and Engels' occasional reference to the ethnicity/race of an author, even in disparaging tones is not the same thing as calling for the repeated calls for the extermination of a "race of people". Get a grip.

... isn't borne out by the less savoury examples I provided above.

Pennoid wrote:
This is all to say that there is a distinct difference between saying "I will destroy the Jews when I am "manager" of my world mutualist firm" and "Capitalist imperialism will lead to the suppression of the nationalist projects of various peoples which may prove advantageous to working class revolution" regardless of right/wrong in terms of assessment of fact.

Yeh, but not so much difference between that and saying;

"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." - Engels
"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