Vol. XLIII No. 12 March 24, 2019

Fight Against Capitulationism- 32

MARX was more than right in his prophecy that the Gotha compromise programme would open the doors wide to opportunistic self seekers. One year later, the prophecy was realized when a private lecturer in Berlin, Eugen Duhring, found an audience in the Party for his petty-bourgeois ideas about Socialism and was even lauded by leading Social-Democrats.

Marx urged Engels to refute Duhring publicly out of the polemic that followed, became famous work- Herr Eugen Duhring’s Revolution in Science, Anti-Duhring for short, one of the text-books of scientific Communism.


Engels did not restrict himself in Anti-Duhring to the refutation of Duhring’s unscientific ideas. On the contrary, along with his criticism he gave a comprehensive exposition of the three mainstreams of Marxism; dialectical and historical materialism, political economy and the teachings about  Socialism and Communism. Such an all-round presentation had not existed till then. Published in the central organ of the Party, and then in book form, Anti-Duhring helped to spread the teachings of Marx and Engels in the German workers’ movement.

At the same, Anti-Duhring was a model—the last—of the scientific collaboration of Marx and Engels. Engles later wrote modestly about the book: “Since by far the greatest part of the conceptions developed here were originated and worked out by Marx, and only the smaller part by me, it was taken for granted among us that my draft should not appear without his knowledge. I read the entire manuscript to him before it went to the printer, and the tenth chapter of the section on economics (from Critical History) was written by Marx and had only, unfortunately, to be somewhat shortened by me, for objective reasons. It was always our habit to assist one another in special fields.”

This division of labour was continued until the end of Marx’s life. Only this collaboration made it possible for the two friends to carry on research is such a wide field of knowledge, along with their many-sided work in their international workers’ movement. Marx was always fascinated with mathematics, as well as economics. He sought to give differential calculus a dialectical foundation in comprehensive mathematical treatises.

Marx was firmly convinced that with the development of science, mathematics would play an ever greater role. He even put forward the view that a science is really developed only when it can employ mathematics for the solution of specific tasks.


He was not less interested in the natural sciences. But it was physically impossible for him to pursue their study systematically. Since Engels agreed that knowledge of mathematics and of the natural sciences was essential for a dialectical and materialistic conception of nature, he helped Marx in the 1870s in the latter’s intensive study of the natural sciences. While Engels occupied himself more with the theoretical side, Marx occupied himself more with the various branches of their application. He was especially an expert on the history of technology.

From the 1850s on, he kept returning also to the discoveries and ideas of Charles Darwin. Liebknecht remarks that Marx had in 1859 already recognized that pioneering significance of Drawin’s major work, The Origin of Species through Natural Selection, that is to say, in the year of its publication. But no matter how highly he esteemed Darwin’s theory of development, he took critical exception to Darwin’s methods of proof, as for example, “struggle for existence” and “natural selection”. He responded with sarcasm to the numerous absurd attempts to carry the idea of “the struggle for existence” into the history of development of human society.

Even when Marx’s ability to work was increasingly diminished by his illnesses, he still remained an insatiable reader. He continued tirelessly to copy out excerpts from the books he read and to amplify his collection of material for the still uncompleted sections of Capital. He also studied and critically tested the works of the philosophers, Leibruz and Descartes, the natural scientists. Schleiden and Du Bois-Reymond, the historians, Graetz, Maurer and Hulmann, the economists, Kaufman and the new scientific publications in Russian, French, English and Spanish.

Along with this work, he received queries and visitors from all over the world. By the end of the seventies revolutionary workers’ parties had already developed in various countries. And from German, Russian, American, Dutch and other newspapers came repeated requests for Marx’s collaboration. Daily political developments demanded no less time.


On May 12, 1878, Marx received the news that an assassination attempt had been made on the German Kaiser. A visitor who was present at Marx’s home at the time reported: “Marx reacted to the report with curses directed at the terrorists, and immediately declared that…only one thing could now be expected: new persecutions: new  persecutions of the Socialists.”

This prophecy was quickly fulfilled. Bismarck utilized this act of a weak-minded individual, as well as a second attempt on the life of the Kaiser that soon followed, to launch a campaign of terror against the greatly strengthened revolutionary workers’ movement. The Party and all Socialist organizations and publications were banned, meetings were prohibited, hundreds of Socialists were driven out of their places of residence, and many Party members were dismissed from their jobs, German Social-Democracy stood before its most difficult test.

Marx helped, supporting the solidarity collections in various countries. He arranged for the preparation of an illegal organ, sent valuable suggestions to the party leaders and wrote articles  for  the Press denouncing Bismark’s charlatanry towards the workers’ movement. Above all, he used all his authority to help Bebel, Liebknecht, Bracke and other Marxist leaders of the German Party to carry through a revolutionary tactic against Bismark’s emergency laws, the so-called anti-Socialist law.

Together with Engels, he determinedly opposed sectarian groups which emerged in the party and prattled pseudo revolutionary phrases about a tactic of individual terror. Still greater, however, was the danger that threatened the Party, forced into illegality, from the petty-bourgeois-minded reformists and opportunists on the Right. These had found spokesmen for their view among some of the Party members who had emigrated to Zurich and in this Reichstag deputy, Marx Kayser, Marx was indignant over the fickleness if these “workers’ representatives” and their intention of submitting to Bismarck and changing revolutionary Social-Democracy into a petty-bourgeois reform party. In the autumn of 1879 the situation became critical when the opportunists attempted to take the central organ into their hands.

Marx and Engels took up the cudgels for the heroically fighting Socialist workers and helped the Party leaders grouped around Bebel, who where determined to resist the opportunists, to carry through a revolutionary strategy and tactic.


In  a detailed letter that Marx and Engels drafted to the leaders  of German Social-Democracy, Marx and Engels demanded that the future central organ should unequivocally represent the proletarian class aims of the Party. They denounced the opportunists, whose aim was not so much to repudiate the idea of proletarian seizure of power openly, but rather to push it into the unattainable future, in order to remain free to “mediate, to compromise, to engage in philanthropy”. The origin of such capitulationist views was the fear of the petty bourgeoisie of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and of the unavoidable sacrifices this struggle demanded. Here Marx and Engels uncovered an essential feature of opportunism in general.

The letter ended with an eloquent appeal to the leaders of the German workers’ party to dissociate themselves from the defenders of bourgeois ideology in their ranks. In a workers’ party, such “representatives of the petty-bourgeoisie” were “a corrupting element”. The letter added, “If reasons exist for tolerating them for the moment it is our duty only to tolerate them, to allow them no influence in the Party leadership and to remain aware that the break with them is only a matter of time…But if even the leadership of the Party should fall more or less into the hands of such people, the Party would simply be castrated, and there would be an end of proletarian snap.

“As for ourselves, in view of our whole past, there is only one road open to us. For  almost 40 years we have stressed the class struggle as the immediate driving power of history, and in particular the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat as the great lever of the modern social revolution: if is, therefore, impossible for us to cooperate with people who wish to expunge this class struggle from the movement. When the International was formed we expressly formulated the battle cry: the emancipation of the working class must be won by the working classes themselves. We cannot therefore cooperate with people who openly state that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves, and must be freed from above by philanthropic bourgeois and petty-bourgeois. If  the new Party organ adopts a line that corresponds to the views of these gentlemen, that is bourgeois and not proletarian, then nothing remains for us, much though we should regret it, but publicly to declare our opposition to it, and to dissolve the bonds of the solidarity with which we have hither- to represented the German Party abroad. But it is to be hoped that things will not come to such a pass.”

The situation did not, indeed, develop to that point. The result justified the intervention. Strengthened by the authority of Marx and Engels, and  based on the mass of the members,  Bebel, Liebknecht. Bracke and their like-minded comrades defeated the attack of the opportunists on the tested revolutionary policy of the Party. They took steps to make the illegal Party organ, which appeared in Zurich as Der Sozialdemokrat, a base of Marxism in the Party. Marx was cheered to see that the Socialist workers in Germany picked up the gauntlet that the “Iron Chancellor” had thrown at their feet and showed that they knew how to defend themselves boldly and selflessly, with cleverness and initiative.