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Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels
The German Ideology
Squashed down to read in about 35 minutes
"When we conceive things thus, as they really are and happen, every profound philosophical problem is solved."

Wikipedia - Full Text - Print Edition: ISBN 1614270481

INTRODUCTION TO The German Ideology

To the reader armed only with the popular conception of Marx and Engels The German Ideology comes as something of a surprise. This, their first comprehensive statement of the social-political philosophy now known as Marxism contains the expected references to 'Bourgeois' 'Proletariat' 'Revolution' and 'Communism', yet the bulk of its argument is a philosophy of history.

Marx, the son of a lawyer, studied philosophy as an undergraduate in Bonn and Berlin in an atmosphere deeply influenced by George Friedrich Hegel, the early 19th century German philosopher. Hegel held that understanding reality is a matter of understanding the concepts we use about it, and that these ideas are forever being re-interpreted through the process of 'dialectic', where an idea (thesis) is put forward, criticised through opposing ideas (antithesis) so that a new position (synthesis) can emerge to form the next thesis. Hegel thought this a sound system of logic where the definition of all things could be seen through a dialectic process, along the lines of 'thing' (thesis)-'animal' (antithesis)-'cat' (synthesis). More useful is his view that dialectic is how history works. Hegel's writings are extraordinarily difficult to understand, so it need not be surprising that his followers drifted into two opposing camps, each confident that they had the true measure of their hero.

The 'Old Hegelians' took the view that history is really the history of ideas, built through the dialectic, and that the reason their fine German society was the best was because it was built on the best ideas. The 'Young Hegelians', including Marx's bierkeller chums Max Stirner and Bruno Bauer, were convinced that Hegel was at heart a materialist- concerned with the solid world, not just with ideas. They thought that society needed changing for the better, so they must set about first changing men's minds.

In 1844 Marx began collaborating with the affluent industrialist Friedrich Engels, fresh from working as a mill manager in Manchester where he had been much affected by the poverty of the workers. The result was first The Holy Family and then in 1846 The German Ideology.

While The German Ideology presents a notion of history, that it is solely a matter of studying the results of material need in a sort of material dialectic, probably has much merit, it is clear (at least with hindsight) that the version of Communism presented is just silly. Yet, for good and for ill, there has probably never been a text which has had so mighty an influence on the progress of humanity. As Marx himself concludes "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it."


This condensed version of The German Ideology is based on the text issued by the Moscow Institute of Marxism-Leninism in 1965, the original text only having been re-discovered and published in 1932. In the original it is a huge work, consisting mostly of an aggressive series of attacks on Stirner and others of Marx and Engels philosophical rivals. These attacks appear to have been successful- Stirner is now all but forgotten. I've therefore followed the editing plan of CJ Arthur's 1969 version in ignoring all but the essays against Feuerbach, and reducing them from some 24000 to about 5500 words. This was not a difficult task, as Marx and Engels writings are as verbose and repetitive as they are obscure. I think I've preserved the essence, but unfortunately missed out the one worthwhile joke in the entire book: that philosophy is to science what masturbation is to sex.

The so-called Theses on Feuerbach, added at the end, form no coherent work, but are in fact marginal notes made by Marx. They are included simply because of their famous last line.

Like this?

Have a look at Marx's statement of his political ideals in The Communist Manifesto, and at George Friedrich Hegel's theory of history which might the basis for it all.


Karl Marx, 1848
The German Ideology
"When we conceive things thus, as they really are and happen, every profound philosophical problem is solved."

Let us revolt against the rule of thought, unlike the Young Hegelians who claim to be materialists, but cling to the idea that minds needed changing first. To understand the German way, we must begin, not with ideas, but with facts. Human society developed through tribal society to the growth of cities (with their government, slavery and private property) and to feudal estates relying on oppressed serfs. This history requires, first, human survival through eating, drinking, clothing and shelter, necessarily leading to the making of things, reproduction and social cooperation. Only after these four 'moments' need human thought be considered. In families a form of slavery exists, where each member has certain fixed tasks. This 'Division of Labour' continues today. If its divisions are so wide that the majority of the world are left propertyless, then the people will all at once begin a communist society, in which the state will regulate production so that each individual is free to do what they want, when they want. It is essential to see this history as a world history where inventions, machines and money are what determine the future, not grand ideas. It is the sum of productive forces, not princes and battles, which is the real 'essence of man'. This is not so-called communism of Feuerbach, which deems human desire satisfied when its material condition matches its mental essence. In all times the ruling class are always the people with the ruling ideas, a position they maintain by pretending their ideas to be from beyond themselves and for the common good. The rise of manufacturing and 'big industry' has destroyed craft skill and begun a trade in money. In doing so it has created a new class of propertyless workers who have no control over their own existence. As such, they do not form a class-interest, but, the world over, have the same interests. Communism is an economic movement, overturning all previous relations between people, by accepting that the present conditions are created by production and intercourse.

The Squashed Philosophers Edition of...

The German Ideology
Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels
Squashed version edited by Glyn Hughes © 2011

Hitherto, men have made false conceptions about themselves, what they are and ought to be. They have arranged their relationships according to ideas of God, of Normal Man, etc. Let us liberate them from these chimeras, let us revolt against the rule of thought. These innocent childlike fancies are the kernel of the Young-Hegelian philosophy which the present publication aims to uncloak, to show how their bleating merely imitates the conceptions of the German middle class.
One man thought that he could resist drowning by resisting the idea of gravity. [a reference to Feuerbach]



The Illusions of German Ideology

Germany has in the last few years gone through a revolution in which heroes of the mind have overthrown one another, supposedly in the realm of pure thought. The industrialists of philosophy have set about marketing their wares. When the market was glutted, the business was spoiled, as usual, by shoddy goods, false labels and fictitious credit. If we wish to rate this whole tragicomic Young-Hegelian movement, we must look beyond the frontiers of Germany.

All this has sprung from the soil of Hegel's philosophical system, from where each side extracts pure categories like "substance" and "self-consciousness" and then desecrates them with names like "species" or "man".

The Old Hegelians comprehended by religion; the Young Hegelians criticise by it. The dominance of religion was taken for granted, and every dominant relationship transformed into a cult, a cult of law, a cult of the State, etc.

The Old Hegelians declared thoughts and ideas the true bonds of society; the Young Hegelians attribute to them an independent existence as the real chains of men, the only thing against which they have to fight. They declare that they are fighting against "phrases", forgetting that they oppose them only with other phrases, in no way combating the real world.

It has not occurred to any one of them to enquire into the connection between German philosophy and German reality, the relation of criticism to their own material surroundings.

First Premises of Materialist Method

We do not begin with dogmas, but with empirical statements about real individuals.

The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals, distinguished from animals by consciousness, religion or anything else you like. They themselves distinguish themselves from animals when they produce their own means of subsistence and thereby define their mode of life. The whole internal structure of the nation, and its relation to others, depends on the stage of development reached by its production and internal and external intercourse, manifest in its division of labour and forms of ownership.

The first form of ownership is in tribal societies, where people live by hunting, fishing, rearing beasts or, where there is abundant uncultivated land, by agriculture. The division of labour is confined to an extension of the natural division existing in the family.

The second form is ancient communal and State ownership, proceeding from the union of tribes into a city, accompanied by slavery and private property, though as an abnormal form of ownership subordinate to communal ownership.

The third form of ownership is feudal or estate property, starting out from, not the town, but the country. It is based again on a community, but standing over, not slaves, but the enserfed small peasantry. This feudal land ownership had its counterpart in the towns in the shape of corporate property and the protectionism of trade guilds. The chief form of property consisted of land with serf labour chained to it, or the individual with small capital commanding the labour of journeymen.

The fact is that social structure and the State are continually evolving out of the life-process of definite individuals as they really are, as they operate and produce materially. The same applies to mental productions like politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics etc. of a people. It is real active men who are the producers of their conceptions.

In contrast to German philosophy, which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven. That is to say, we do not set out from what men imagine, but from real active men. Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life. When empty talk about consciousness ceases, and real knowledge takes its place philosophy as an independent branch of knowledge loses its medium of existence. We shall illustrate some of these abstractions by historical examples.

History: Fundamental Conditions

Since we are dealing with Germans, who are devoid of premises, we must state a premise, namely, that men must be able to live in order to "make history", and living involves eating, drinking, habitation and clothing. Even when the sensuous world is reduced to a minimum, to a stick as with Saint Bruno [Bruno Bauer], it presupposes the production of the stick. Any interpretation of history must observe this fundamental fact, something the Germans have never done.

The second point is that satisfying the first need leads to new needs; and this production of needs is the first historical act.

The third circumstance is that men make other men, they propagate their kind and produce the family.

These three aspects, or "moments", of social activity have existed since the dawn of history and still assert themselves today.

The fourth "moment" is society, by which we understand the co-operation of several individuals. This connection is ever taking on new forms, independent of the existence of any political or religious nonsense which may also hold men together.

Only after considering these four moments do we find that man also possesses "consciousness", and language as practical consciousness. Of course, early consciousness is merely consciousness of the immediate, or of nature as an alien, awesome and unassailable force, the basis of natural religion.

On the other hand, consciousness of the necessity of associating with other individuals is the beginning of consciousness of society, and with it develops the division of labour, originating in nothing but the division of labour in the sexual act. That develops into "natural" divisions according to physical strength, needs, accidents etc. But division of labour only becomes truly such when a division of material from mental appears. (Priesthood is the first form).

Division of labour means that intellectual and material, enjoyment and labour, production and consumption devolve on different individuals, and the only possibility of their not coming into contradiction is the negation of that division of labour.

Private Property and Communism

The crude latent slavery of the family is the first property, corresponding perfectly to what economists call the power of disposing of the labour power of others. Division of labour and private property are identical expressions, one referring to activity, the other to the products of activity. They imply a contradiction between the interests of one individual or family and the communal interest.

Out of this contradiction the community takes independent form as the State, divorced from the real interests of individuals. It follows that all struggles within the State of democracy, aristocracy, monarchy, enfranchisement etc are illusory forms. The real struggle is between different classes to gain dominion in order to represent its interest as an illusion of the general interest.

As long as the division of labour exists, each man has an exclusive sphere of activity forced on him, from which he cannot escape, be it as hunter, herdsman or essayist. In communist society nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity; society regulates production and thus makes it possible for me to hunt in the morning, rear cattle in the evening, debate in the evening, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, herdsman or critic.

This fixation of social activity arises through the co-operation of individuals, determined by the division of labour, appears to them as an alien force the origin and goal of which they are ignorant. How otherwise could property have a history at all, to so have proceeded from parcellation to centralisation? Or how is it that trade, nothing more than the exchange of products, has come to rule the world through supply and demand? With the overthrow of the existing state of society by the communist revolution (of which more later) and the abolition of private property this world market power will be dissolved; and the liberation of each single individual accomplished.

For this power to become an "intolerable" power, i.e. a power against which men make a revolution, it must necessarily have rendered the great mass of humanity "propertyless", and produced, at the same time, the contradiction of worlds of wealth and culture, both of which conditions presuppose a great increase in productive power, a high degree of its development. Empirically, communism is only possible as the act of the dominant peoples "all at once" and simultaneously, which presupposes the universal development of productive forces and the world intercourse bound up with communism. The proletariat can thus only exist world-historically, just as communism, its activity, can only have a "world-historical" existence.

Communism is not for us a state of affairs which is to be established, it is the abolition of the present state of things.


Civil Society and the Conception of History

The true source and theatre of all history is civil society, not the high-sounding dramas of princes and states. Civil society [bürgerliche Gesellschaft] embraces the whole material intercourse of individuals within a definite stage of the development of productive forces, and emerged in the eighteenth century as property relationships extricated themselves from ancient and medieval society.

History is nothing but the succession of the separate generations, each of which exploits the materials, the capital funds, the productive forces handed down to it by all preceding generations. This view can be distorted so that later history is made the goal of earlier history, eg; the goal ascribed to the discovery of America is to further the eruption of the French Revolution. Thereby history is made to become "a person ranking with other persons" with its own "destiny", "goal" or "idea".

Thus, if a machine is devised in England which deprives Indian workers of bread and overturns the form of that empire, this invention becomes a world-historical fact. Or consider how the lack of sugar and coffee occasioned by the Napoleonic Continental System caused the Germans to rise in the glorious Wars of Liberation of 1813. This shows that circumstances make men just as much as men make circumstances.

This sum of productive forces, capital funds and social intercourse is the real "essence of man".

In the whole conception of history up to the present, this real basis has been neglected, or else considered a minor matter irrelevant to the course of history, seeing history as the struggles of princes and States and religion.

Feuerbach: Philosophic, and Real, Liberation.

It is clear from these arguments how grossly Feuerbach is deceiving himself when he declares himself a communist. As an example of his misunderstanding, we recall the passage in the Philosophie der Zukunft where he develops the view that the existence of a thing or a man is at the same time its essence, that the life or activity of an animal or human individual are those in which it feels its "essence" to be satisfied. The millions of proletarians and communists, however, think differently and will prove this in time when they bring their "existence" into harmony with their "essence" by means of revolution.

"Liberation" is an historical and not a mental act, brought about by historical conditions, by the development of industry, commerce and agriculture. [gap in the original manuscript]

In reality, for the practical materialist, that is, the communist, it is a question of revolutionising the existing world, of practically attacking and changing existing things. Feuerbach, on the other hand, confines his revolution to mere contemplation. He does not see that even objects of simple "sensuous certainty" are only given him through social and commercial intercourse. Even the cherry-tree was, as is well known, only a few centuries ago transplanted by commerce into our zone.

When we conceive things thus, as they really are and happen, every profound philosophical problem is solved. "Substance" and "self-consciousness" crumble when we understand that the celebrated "unity of man with nature" has always existed in accordance with the development of industry. Feuerbach speaks of the secrets of natural science which are disclosed only to the eye of the physicist and chemist; but where would natural science be without industry and commerce? As far as Feuerbach is a materialist he does not deal with history, and as far as he considers history he is not a materialist.

Ruling Class and Ruling Ideas

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production; over thinkers, as producers of ideas, it regulates the production and distribution of ideas.

If we consider the ideas of the ruling class, detached from the ruling class itself, we can say that during the time that aristocracy was dominant, the concepts of honour and loyalty were dominant. The ruling class itself imagines this to be the case. When the French bourgeoisie overthrew the aristocracy, it thereby made it possible for many proletarians to raise themselves above the proletariat, but only insofar as they became bourgeois.

The whole semblance that the rule of a certain class is only the rule of certain ideas, comes to a natural end as soon as class rule in general ceases to be the basis of society, that is to say as soon as it is no longer necessary to present particular class interests as being the "general interest", a trick achieved by;

(1) Separating actual empirical rulers from their ideas, and recognising rule by ideas, or illusions.

(2) Bringing an order into this rule of ideas and understanding them as "acts of self-determination on the part of the concept".

(3) Removing the mystical appearance of "ideas" by changed it into a person - "Self-Consciousness" - or a series of persons, into "thinkers" or "philosophers" who are the manufacturers of history. Thus all materialism is removed from history and full rein can be given to the speculative steed.

While in ordinary life every shopkeeper is well able to distinguish between what somebody professes to be and what he really is, our historians have not yet won even this trivial insight.


Division of labour: Town and Country

[part of manuscript missing] Here, therefore, arises the difference between the natural instruments of production such as land, and those created by civilisation particularly in the control of labour and capital.

The first case supposes that individuals are united by such bonds as family, tribe, land etc; the second that they are held together only by exchange. In the first case, average human common sense is adequate, in the second case there must be division between physical and mental labour.

The greatest division of material and mental labour is the separation of town and country. The existence of the town implies an administration, police, taxes, etc; and thus politics in general. Labour is here again the chief thing, power over individuals, and as long as that exists, private property must exist. The town can also be understood as the separation of capital and landed property.

In the Middle Ages the serfs, persecuted by their lords in the country, came separately into the towns, where they found an organised community, against which they were powerless and in which they had to subject themselves to the station assigned to them by the demand for their labour. If their labour was such that had to be learned, the guild-masters organised them according to their own interests; if otherwise, they became day-labourers, remaining an unorganised rabble, devoid of power.

While the rabble did at least carry out revolts, ineffective because of their powerlessness, the journeymen never got further than small acts of insubordination. The great risings of the Middle Ages all radiated from the country, but remained ineffective because of the isolation and consequent crudity of the peasants.

Limited commerce between towns meant that every workman had to be versed many tasks, able to make everything with his own tools, and thus had a special interest and proficiency in his work, unlike the modern worker, whose work is a matter of indifference to him.

Capital in these towns was naturally derived, consisting of a house, tools and the natural hereditary customers. Unlike modern capital which can be assessed in money and invested in this or that.

The next extension of the division of labour was the formation of a class of merchants and with them the appearance of a reciprocal action between production and commerce. Towns enter into relations with one another, new tools are brought from one town to another and local restrictions begin to break down.

It depends purely on the extension of commerce whether productive forces achieved in a locality, especially inventions, are available for later development. In primitive history every invention had to be made anew locally; consider how many inventions were lost with the ousting by Alexander of the Phoenician nation from commerce. Only when commerce has become world commerce based on large-scale industries, with all nations drawn into the competitive struggle, is the permanence of the acquired productive forces assured.

The Rise of Manufacturing

The consequence of division of labour between towns was the rise of manufacturers which had outgrown the guild system. Labour which presupposed a machine, even of the crudest sort, showed itself the most capable of development. Weaving was here the first; there emerged a new class of weavers in the towns, whose fabric was destined for the whole home and foreign market.

At the same time, manufacture became a refuge of peasants from the guilds which excluded them or paid them badly. Simultaneously there was a period of vagabondage caused by the abolition of feudal armies and the improvement of agriculture. These vagabonds were so numerous that Henry VIII of England had 72,000 of them hanged.

With the advent of manufacturing, nations entered a competitive struggle for trade, fought out in wars. Trade now had a political significance. With the advent of manufacturing the relationship between worker and employer became the monetary relationship between worker and capitalist. Trade and manufacture created a big bourgeoisie, accumulating moveable capital, to whom the petty bourgeoisie of the guilds had to bow.

Customs duties originated with the tributes feudal lords exacted for the protection of merchants travelling through their territories, later imposed likewise by towns. The rapid expansion of trade, with the rise of the non-guild bourgeoisie and money gave these new significance. The State was daily less able to do without money which it tried to control through customs, exchange restrictions and export duty.

The second period lasted from the mid-seventeenth century to the end of the eighteenth, beginning with the Navigation Laws and colonial monopolies. Competition between nations was excluded by tariffs and treaties and, in the last resort, by war, especially naval wars. England, the mightiest maritime nation gained predominance in trade and manufacture.

The commercial and maritime towns became to some extent civilised and acquired the outlook of the big bourgeoisie, but the factory towns retained a petty- bourgeois outlook. As Pinto says: "Le commerce fait la marotte du siècle".

The period is also characterised by the beginning of a trade in money; by paper money and speculation in stocks and shares, the development of a financial system, the transforming of capital into centralised industrial capital. It destroyed as far as possible ideology, religion, morality, etc. or made them into a palpable lie. It produced world history for the first time, insofar as it made all civilised nations dependent for the satisfaction of their wants on the whole world. It made science subservient to capital. In place of natural grown towns it created industrial cities. It destroyed craft skill. And finally, while the bourgeoisie of each nation still retained separate national interests, big industry created a class which in all nations has the same interests and with whom nationality is already dead; a class rid of the old world and yet pitted against it. Big industry makes for the worker the relationship to the capitalist, and labour itself, unbearable.

But this does not retard the class movement of the proletariat, the proletarians created by big industry assume leadership of this movement and carry the whole mass along with them.

The Relation of State and Law to Property

Property, in the ancient and medieval world, is tribal property, determined with the Romans chiefly by war, with the Germans by raising cattle. Since several tribes live in one town, the tribal property appears as State property, and the right of the individuals to it as mere "possession". Real property began with movable property.

Modern private property corresponds to the modern State, its existence wholly dependent on the commercial credit of property owners, bourgeoisie etc. The modern French, English and American writers all express the opinion that the sate exists only for the sake of private property, and this fact has reached the consciousness of the ordinary man.

Civil law develops simultaneously with private property out of the disintegration of the natural community. In civil law the existing property relationships are declared to be the result of the general will. This illusion leads to the position that man may have a legal title to a thing without really having the thing.


Individuals, Class and Community

In the Middle Ages the citizens of each town were compelled to unite against the landed nobility to save their skins.

The bourgeoisie develops gradually, splitting according to the various divisions of labour and finally absorbing all the propertied classes, (while it develops the majority of the earlier propertyless and part of the propertied class into a new class, the proletariat). Separate individuals form a class only insofar as they have to carry on a common battle against another class. On the other hand, the class achieves independent existence over against the individuals whose position and personal development is assigned solely by the class. This is the same phenomenon as the subjection of the separate individuals to the division of labour and can only be removed by the abolition of private property and of labour itself.

The subsuming of individuals under definite classes cannot be abolished until a class has arisen with no particular class interest to assert against the ruling class. The transformation, through the division of labour, of personal powers (relationships) into material powers, cannot be dispelled by dismissing the idea of it from one's mind, but only by individuals taking over these powers and abolishing the division of labour. This is possible only in real community with others.

For the proletarians the condition of their existence has become something over which they, as separate individuals, have no control, and over which no social organisation can give them control. The contradiction between the proletarian's individuality and his labour becomes evident to himself, for he is sacrificed from youth upwards and, within his class, has no chance of achieving any other class. Thus they find themselves opposed to the collective expression of individuals in the state. In order, therefore, to assert themselves as individuals they must overthrow the State.

Up till now average individuals participate in society only as members of a class. With the community of revolutionary proletarians who take their conditions of existence and those of all members of society under their control, it is the reverse; it is as individuals that the individuals participate in it.

Forms of Intercourse

Communism differs from all previous movements in that it overturns the basis of all earlier relations of production and intercourse, and for the first time consciously treats all natural premises as the creatures of hitherto existing men, strips them of their natural character and subjugates them to the power of united individuals. Its organisation is, therefore, essentially economic.

Communism is creating the true basis for rendering it impossible that anything should exist independently of individuals. Communism treats the present conditions as inorganic, created by production and intercourse.

The relation of the productive forces and of individual occupations or activities to the form of intercourse is, of course, entirely material, on which depends all other forms- mental political, religious, etc. The conditions under which individuals have intercourse with each other are defined by the reality of their conditioned nature. These conditions appear first as self-activity, later as fetters up on it, to form the whole evolution of history which is the evolution of productive forces.

Since this evolution takes place naturally, ie. is not part of a general plan, it proceeds slowly from various localities, tribes, nations, branches of labour, etc. each of which develops independently.

On the other hand, in countries like North America which begin in advanced historical epoch, development proceeds very rapidly. Such countries have no other natural premises than the individuals who settled there because the forms of intercourse of the old countries did not correspond to their wants. This is the case with all colonies (Carthage, Iceland etc.), and similar with conquests where a form of intercourse evolved on one soil is transplanted to another, if only to assure the conqueror's lasting power (as with England receiving feudal organisation after the Norman conquest).

Thus, revolutions, and all collisions of history, have their origin, according to our view, in contradictions between productive forces and the forms of intercourse.


This whole interpretation of history appears to be contradicted by the fact of conquest. Up till now violence, war, pillage and robbery, etc. have been accepted as the driving forces, so that history has been only a question of taking. Yet, when there is nothing more to take, you have to set about producing. From this necessity it follows that the form of community adopted by the settling conquerors must correspond to the stage of development they find among the conquered.

The feudal system was not brought complete from Germany, but had its origins in the organisation of the conquering army and only evolved into the feudal system proper through the actions of the productive forces in the conquered country. This is demonstrated by the abortive attempts to realise other forms derived from ancient Rome (Charlemagne etc.)

Contradictions of Big Industry: Revolution

Our investigations show that private property was a necessity for certain industrial stages. In extractive industry private property coincides with labour; in small industry and agriculture with the instruments of production. Thus only with big industry does the abolition of private property become possible.

In big industry and competition the whole mass of conditions are fused into the two simplest forms: private property and labour. With money every form of intercourse, and intercourse itself, is considered fortuitous for individuals in that they accumulate labour or private property. If both or one of these ceases, then intercourse comes to a standstill. The division of labour implies from the outset the division of the conditions of labour and the distinction between capital and labour. Labour itself can only exist on the premise of this fragmentation.

Two facts are here revealed. First, productive forces appear quite independent of individuals. Second, that these forces are only real inasmuch as they are part of the intercourse and association of individuals. Thus we have on the one hand productive forces which appear as if no more than private property, and on the other hand the majority of individuals from whom these forces have been wrested away, and who, robbed of all real life-content, have become abstract individuals.

The only connection which still links them with productive forces and with their own existence- labour- has lost all semblance of self-activity and only sustains life by stunting it.

From the conception of history we have thus sketched we obtain these conclusions:

(1)There comes a stage in the history of productive forces when machinery and money take over and exclude the majority from society to form a class bearing all the burdens of society without its advantages, a class aware of the necessity of fundamental revolution. As other classes contemplate the situation of the proletarians, they too can gain this communist consciousness

(2)The conditions under which definite productive forces can be applied are the conditions of the rule of a definite class of society, whose power, deriving from its property, finds expression as the State; therefore, every revolutionary struggle is directed against a class, which till then has been in power.

(3) In all revolutions up till now the mode of activity always remained unscathed and it was only a question of a different distribution of this activity, a new distribution of labour to other persons, whilst the communist revolution is directed against the preceding mode of activity, does away with labour, and abolishes the rule of all classes with the classes themselves, because it is carried through by the class which no longer counts as a class in society, is not recognised as a class, and is in itself the expression of the dissolution of all classes, nationalities, etc. within present society

(4) Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is, necessarily, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.

Theses on Feuerbach
by Karl Marx, c1845-6, first published 1888
Squashed version edited by Glyn Hughes © 2012

I The chief defect of all previous materialism (including Feuerbach) is that reality is conceived only as the object of contemplation, not as sensuous human activity.
II The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a theoretical but a practical question.
III The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.
IV Feuerbach starts out from the duplication of the world into a religious world and a secular one. His work consists in resolving the religious world into its secular basis. But that the secular basis detaches itself from itself and establishes itself as an independent realm in the clouds can only be explained by the cleavages and self-contradictions within this secular basis. The latter must, therefore, in itself be both understood in its contradiction and revolutionised in practice. Thus, for instance, after the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must then itself be destroyed in theory and in practice.
V Feuerbach seeks sensuous contemplation; but fails to realise that it is a practical activity.
VII Feuerbach, does not see that "religious sentiment" is itself a social product.
VIII All social life is essentially practical.
IX Mere contemplative materialism can reach no higher than single individuals and of civil society.
X The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is social humanity.
XI The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.

Karl Marx
The tomb of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery (East), London

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