The Political Ideas of Marx and Engels - Vol. 1

The Political Ideas of Marx and Engels - Vol. 1

The Political Ideas of Marx and Engels - Vol. 1

The Political Ideas of Marx and Engels - Vol. 1

Excerpt

The imposing growth of non-Communist scholarship on Marx during the last several years has swept away many Cold War vulgarities and, by focusing interest on his early philosophical writings, exposed the profound humanist roots of Marx's value system. But there has been no equivalent volume of new interest in the specifically political ideas and values of Marx and Engels. The conventions of the Cold War assign the two men unambiguously to the totalitarian camp, identifying them completely with the repressive one-party dictatorships that have been created in their names. Communists themselves, while rejecting the label "totalitarian," have been equally insistent that Marx and Engels opposed Western-style "bourgeois" democracy and favored "proletarian dictatorship" under the guidance of a single vanguard party, at least until the mythic day when the state itself would disappear.

Of course, not everyone accepts such a view of Marx and Engels' political ideas. Most Social Democratic writers have been unwilling to sign over the entire Marxist heritage to the Communists: following the path blazed by Kautsky in his classic debate with Lenin, they have argued that Marx and Engels were essentially Western-style parliamentary democrats who would have been appalled at the behemoth dictatorships erected in the twentieth century. That both Social Democrats and Communists can lay claim to the Marxist political inheritance has led a number of specialists (notably ex-Communists like Sidney Hook and Bertram Wolfe) to conclude that the masters left an "ambiguous legacy," a mass of political writings so vague and contradictory that both democrats and totalitarians can find ample sustenance in them. It is possible to refine this interpretation, as have, for example, Isaiah Berlin and George Lichtheim, to suggest that Marx and Engels went through two distinct phases of political development, that their youthful revolutionism made them--in twentieth-century parlance--"Communists" up to 1850, but that they matured into "Social Democrats" thereafter. Still another possibility, and a particularly striking one, has . . .

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