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The Theory and Practice of communism a series of lectures taken from the 1967 Wisconsin Alumni seminar held at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The speaker Michael B Petrovich is a specialist in Russian and Balkan history the author of numerous articles and books. He's a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin in today's lecture he discusses. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and now Professor Petrovitch. Thus far we've been speaking about preen Marx and in none of Marx in forms of socialism. And as of now we should be speaking about Marx in socialism and naturally this raises the necessity and indeed the opportunity of talking about the founders of Marxian socialism themselves. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Especially Karl Marx Of course though Friedrich Engels was not just a shadow of the master as some people believe but very much an author in his own right and the founder
of the Marxist doctrine. Nevertheless it's Karl Marx that attracts our greatest attention. A man who is very much a part of the 19th century he lived between 18 18 and 18 83. We must never forget what some think Karl Marx never forgotten that is to try to put everything in its historical context. I've already said that I wish one of the experiments I might have conducted is to see what Karl Marx would have said or believed had he lived after Freud and not before. Similarly I think one has to say that it is important that Karl Marx lived in the time of and after Darwin's and not before because the theories of Darwin had a great influence on every thinker of the nineteenth century who saw some connection between Darwin's physical theories of physical evolution and the
evolution of social organisms and man. Karl Marx is undoubtedly one of the greatest intellects of all time. It may seem strange to confer such an honor upon a man that is associated by many people with so much evil and suffering in the world. But may I say the obvious that it seems to me quite inaccurate and unfair to blame Karl Marx for Joseph Stalin or any other communist leaders are what has come out of his theory. This is not to suggest that Karl Marx was right about things indeed many serious students of socialism believe he was quite wrong about many things but we should not attribute to Karl Marx any distaste that we have. Communism indeed that is the case. Furthermore I don't think it takes away from the greatness of great men. How wrong they were about
certain things. Now if you listen to many many students of Marx who are themselves non Marxian you will listen to economists who will say Marx really made terrible errors in economics. You will hear philosophers I hear them on my own campus here who say that Marx really didn't know much about philosophy at all. And right down the line. And yet no one with any sense can denied that despite whatever errors he may have been might have made especially in the eyes of specialists. This man has left a great imprint on human thought. And for better or worse on human history in that respect Marx's very much in the line with Darwin and Einstein and Freud and others who have made such an impact. It was the Russian Maxim Gorky who once described the greatness of the man and he was talking about Lenin saying Lenin was great in the sense that many millions of people live
differently be after him than they lived before him. Well this can be a good thing and a bad thing. But nevertheless Marx is something that one cannot ignore. Through his synthesis of ideas he gave new insights into how history progresses and where it is going. Now one would think that to call him the father of modern communism that this man was a great leader of the masses. But he was a great orator. Hitler Mussolini. He was nothing of the sort. Marx was first of all a very poor speaker. He was didactic in tone he was pedantic he was pedestrian. None of his speeches were a great success. From that standpoint he was in the eyes of many a poor writer. I don't know if as you read The Communist Manifesto you will get this idea because there are many passages in the Communist Manifesto which I personally find very moving and very witty in some cases
of boats a barbed witticisms heavyhanded. But anyone who reads Das copy and I might say I have yet to find a single person who says that he's read all of Das Kapital. Anyone who tries to read that prose will find that it is practically impossible. Composition came hard to Karl Marx. He had a very turgid style. He was hardly read in his own lifetime certainly as a revolutionary he was a very poor and indifferent organizer. He often repaired old people by his arrogance and his intolerance. There was no spirit of compromise and Karl Marx and one can say that he wrecked more than he were given ised in his lifetime. He was not a practical revolutionary. He was not the start of man but communion was always at the barricades. Marx avoided that sort of thing his weapon was the pen. When the Paris Commune broke out in 1970 he decried it as being senseless.
The later he for other reasons defended it for much of his later life. He was suspected by some revolutionaries of personal cowardice and of being against revolutions. He certainly was not conspiratorial largely I suspect because for personal reasons he couldn't find anyone he admired or trusted other than himself. He was not an active man of this world. He was definitely a theoretician who spent most of his life literally in the reading room of the British Museum Library. He was divorced in a practical sense from the daily world. He knew very little about the England in which he lived most of his life though what he knew was very damaging to English capitalism. English capitalism was not a very pretty thing in Marxist times. Personally Marx was a most unprepossessing man shaggy
haired sloppily dressed a swarthy complection his own friends called him dead or mole are in German the more or the black Jew because of his complection he had an almost insane ego. He was a man filled with vanity. A me firster from the start intolerant of others to a degree that was boorish and his best friends found it difficult to like him just as his worst enemies found it difficult not to respect him. He was a lonely and a bitter figure. And yet what ever we know about his family life leads us to believe that he had happy relations with his family and with Friedrich Engels though even poor Engels was not beyond the reach of Marx's boorishness on occasion. Well that Marx was all of this thing. All of these things where Ian lay his strength the professional
philosophers tell us he was crude as a philosopher. Economists have poked many holes in his economics his theory of history is not generally accepted by men in my field. And yet what a great impact he has made. Let me talk first about his early life. Between 18 18 the date of his birth and the 1848 revolution which is a turning point not only for Marx but for all of Western civilization. Carl high X marks was born in the German town a tear in the German Rhineland just three years after Napoleon's downfall the Congress of Vienna gave to the air are trained as the French call it to the Prussian Kingdom. Karl Marx's family was Jewish. Both of his grandfathers were rabbis. His father the actual lady was the product not only of the Jewish ghetto but of the 18th century and like the mint and of the Napoleonic revolution
in which Jews were given more opportunities than ever before. Marx's father was a disciple of light units of Voltaire of Lessing and Khan and so broke with the rabbinical past of his own family and became a lawyer. He aspired to be a loyal German a respected Prussian burger and a solid citizen and so he converted both himself and his whole family to the official religion of the Prussian state. The Lutheran Church when Carl was but six years old so the technically Karl Marx was a Lutheran Christian at least by baptism. Karl Marx's father changed the family name to Marx and called himself Heinrich. Now a more German sounding name. A good man a man who is tolerant of his son and a loving family man. Karl Marx's mother Henrietta belonged to a family of one Gary and
Jews settled in Holland. Her father too was a rabbi. She spoke German with a Dutch accent all her life. She apparently played no positive role in the life of Karl Marx and those of you who like to think about such things might see what the lack of a mother as love can do to a man of this type. She was not only conservative by nature she became Christian very much against her will but she was much shocked by her son's radicalism. She gave him not only no understanding or encouragement but perhaps not even love and ties between the mother and the son were nonexistent. In later life Carl was the second of eight brothers and sisters. He had some love for his older sister Sophie but he showed very little interest in the rest ever. As far as his schooling is concerned he went to the local high school in TIR and no one records that he made any lasting
friendships. He was a good student. He was goaded by passion to succeed. And goaded by the fear that he would not live up to his father's expectations and upon graduation at the age of 17 in 1835 he took his father's advice and entered the law school at the University of Bonn. There he lived a rather gay riotous life a German student in Romantic Times. He drank he wrote ironic poems he had a pistol duel at least once was arrested for riotous behavior and did all the things the German students are supposed to do in operettas such as The Student Prince. But he was a disappointment as a student and he decided to make a fresh start in the autumn of 1836. He attended the University of Berlin at a day when it was made famous by such luminaries as Hagel and Maka and the savvy media
and Vance Alexander Fun Home bult and others. Marx enrolled in jurisprudence but studied mostly philosophy and history and it was there that he came into contact with the HIG alien philosophy and became what was known in those days as a young gay in the end. But that is he joining those who interpreted the gazillion ism radically and as a justification for revolutionary change. What were some of the influences Marx's thinking. First of all the rationalism of the 18th century the same sort of thinking that lay behind the philosophies of the fathers of the American Constitution and of the French Revolution the 18th century Enlightenment which had grasped the mind of its father also reach Karl Marx. Now rationalism gets its very name from the idea that human reason is the
final judge and the only sure measure of anything. Now you will know from your own studies of course that there were a rationalist who believed in God though hardly a personal god and far from the avenging Jehovah of the Old Testament. If they believed in God the 18th century rationalist tended to be deists in the tradition let us say of Thomas Jefferson and by that I mean the Deist regarded God and not as a rule of a warm personality that had a personal interest in people but as a kind of abstraction out there in the universe that was almost synonymous with what we had been talking about previously. That is natural law. The universe the laws of the universe. Others rationalist did not believe in God at all but in either case they regarded that for the practical purposes of living in this world there was
nothing higher than human reason and that no human should accept an authority higher than the best of human reason so that rational intelligence rather than emotion or intuition were the prime guides that man could understand and by which he could achieve some progress to assure a result. Reason All right I decided to translate. Reason always has reason is right. Another influence that reach Karl Marx was of course that of the French Revolution. And this can be neatly summed up in the slogan of the French Revolution liberty equality and fraternity. In the German pression instance this also meant Gagan thrown into taht against the throne and altar against church and state in as in so far as they were associated with the oppressive old regime with feudalism with
the privileged aristocracy and hierarchy so that Napoleon Bonaparte becomes the symbol for all of the young radicals and liberals of Europe in the first quarter of the 19th century who wanted to overthrow the old order. The 1830 revolutions in Belgium in France in Poland had their effect the movements of the bush and shock in the Young Men's fraternities in Germany's the Carbonari in Italy all of these provided the kind of environmentalism mental climate in which Karl Marx grew up. Another influence I've mentioned already he gamely an ism from the German idealist philosophy fairy. Hago. Karl Marx and others came to believe something that was not quite so obvious to men in the 18th century. And that is the old Greek maxim that all
things are constantly in a state of flux. Everything that is living must change all the time. This is the one constant in the material world. I say this is rather different from the eighteenth century idea because eighteenth century rationalism tended to be static rather than dynamic in its outlook mechanistic rather than dynamic. Now if everything is constantly changing if that's how you see the universe then you've also got to grope around for an expert explanation as to how this change takes place. Especially if you have adopted the the rational idea that this change cannot take place for too it a Slayer accidentally. If I might jump way ahead and quote Einstein God doesn't play dice. Those things don't happen just like that. There are reasons and these reasons are worked out in a process of causation according to certain processes and laws.
Now Hagar was the one that made most popular idea that had been known to the ancient Greeks as a matter of fact. One might say even the ancient Chinese the principle of yin and yang comes to my mind that every process in the universe is the result of a tension between two opposing forces. Every process in the universe is the result of the tension between two opposing forces. And Hegel puts this down in the words thesis antithesis and the result of the tension. The synthesis. To this was added the idea that human history is governed by natural laws no less than natural history is and according to Hague and other philosophers of his kind. True Freedom consists of the discovery of these laws and I hate to use the word submission to them but working knowing what of what the limitations are
and working within those laws. This is real freedom. History to the idealist philosophers such as he was also the growing self-awareness of the universal spirit to something ever higher there were ever higher stages of development. They go however tend to be very conservative in his view as to where and what directions this was all leading to. To give you the prime example of his conservatism we are told that Hegel was quite convinced that the Prussian Kingdom was the pinnacle of human development and that nothing could go much beyond this. As an example of human organisation and yet the dispassionate student of history can easily see there is much less to be desired by the Prussian Kingdom. Karl Marx and many others adopted the basic views of PAYGO of
constant change by some rational process. Its constant development. But they took on a more radical interpretation of this. In a sense conservative he gave you ms the left itself open to the interpretation that if everything that happens in the universe has a rational cause behind it then everything which exists must be rational. Not everything which exists must be rational and you equate rationality with good. Then the status quo is fine. At least you can justify it on rational grounds. This is how it happened and here it is. And whether you like it or not here it is. The younger Higgins could not accept this conservative point of view. Rather they and I won't go into the play on words as to the meaning of the slogan. Only the rational can be real to them real men
justified what the left again said in effect was well the revolution too has its causes and therefore revolution and it can be just as rational therefore it can be rationally justified as the status quo and the actual is often bad an unreasonable and irrational and outdated. And so it isn't the status quo that can be rationally justified it's the change that can be rationally justified the real must be sought after and established and this can be done. To be quite specific in terms of the 1830s and 40s only by dis establishing the old regime and the throne in Kings and gods. It was to this left wing then again ism to Karl Marx and so many other young men of his time belonged. He joined what we would call a club of graduate students and they call themselves somewhat immodestly the Doctors Club the doctorate club where young scholars and teachers have free thinkers
as they call themselves met and discussed what they discuss. What's interesting here in terms of intellectual history is what a great role religious discussion played in this group because it was through biblical criticism which was very popular in German theology at the time that many of these men came to to feel the liberation from the old ways of thinking religion became the battleground for these discussions. To give you an example of how this might have happened in 1835 a German theologian or at least writer of theology David Freed Jewish grouse published the life of Jesus. And the whole idea of Strauss was to treat Jesus as though the personality of Jesus Christ was no different from any other historical personality and was subject to the same rules of evidence as any other historical research.
Strauss want to limit himself to the historical method the scientific method in his outlook on Jesus and the result was his conclusion that the whole Christian tradition was a myth that it was a kind of poetic epic and that Jesus was not really divine. This will be no news. Let us say to Unitarians. Bruno Bauer went a step further. Bauer was an instructor at the University of Berlin. And he and his researchers not only deny Jesus divinity but his very existence as a historical person and insisted that we have really no concrete historical evidence that any fair minded scholar in history would accept the Jesus Christ even existed. And I say many young men in that period who had no particular interest in religion as such suddenly felt released liberated by this
kind of radical thinking in the field of theology which was one of the most sacrosanct fields you know that you could hardly dare touch. But if the scientific method could be used for this then why not for everything. Another man in this line that had a great effect on Karl Marx It was the big fire of Bach. Who in 1830 nine wrote a book called The critique their hate the ocean philosophy a critique of the game in philosophy which was an attack on Hagel's mysticism the obscurantism the firebox great thesis was that Hagel was wrong for emphasis for starting with the spirit of the geist whereas the only thing that mattered in the universe was matter. That's all there was. And from this of course we get the phrase materialism when we talk about idealism and materialism. I hope that you will all understand it
in its philosophical sense as technical terms when we talk about idealism and materialism in the context of philosophy This has nothing to do with the everyday meaning of the words idealism and materialism. Rather the materialist is the person who starts out in his whole outlook of the universe on the assumption that there is nothing but matter that matter is primary and everything else is a reflection of what matter is and does including human thoughts and human existence. Whereas the idealist philosophers such as Hegel started out with the notion that the idea of the Spirit of Things is primary in that matter is only a reflection of this fire back in 1041 wrote a book of days in this Christian tomes the ways of the way of Christendom in which he set forth the idea that man and not God is central and the men are the active agents of their own destiny that
God did not create man. Rather it was man that created God. Well to come back to Karl Marx. It seems almost incredible that Karl Marx could have fallen in love but as a high school boy he fell in love with his older sister's friend and the daughter of a neighbor Jenny from vest fallen the daughter of their own Ludvig from the vest fallen a lawyer who befriended the young Marx and was a kind of informal tutor and guide a mentor to Marx in 1836. Marx asked for Jenny's hand in marriage and her father approved even though the relatives were highly horrified at this. Marx was three years younger than Jenny to begin with his father and her father insisted and his father that he finished his studies and then marry to become the finished Man they get billed at 10 months before he ever started out marriage. And so Marx went through seven years
of trial. His father died in eight hundred thirty eight. Karl Marx got his Ph.D. degree in 1841 when Bauer was dismissed by the Prussian Ministry of Education. Marx was so heavily involved in young he gained in ism that his academic career too was closed and Marx had to look outside of the university for employment. He turned to newspaper work and Moses Hess a Jewish publisher in Cologne RKO invited Marx to write for the Rhine psyched on a liberal bourgeois paper supported by Rhenish industrialists. It's an interesting start. Marx turned it from a liberal to a radical newspaper and got into hot water with the censors. Meanwhile you will wish to know the more romantic of you that in April 1843 Marx didn't marry Jenny. She dedicated her whole life to him. It was a thoroughly unhappy life and a happy
marriage. By November 18 43 both Carl and Jenny Marx had to flee Prussian territory and they went to Paris which was the hospitable meeting place of the revolutionaries of all of Europe. It was also as you know by now the home of utopian socialism and their Marx came face to face with Louis block and was proved wrong. He joined a fellow German who will go to Edit the Dutch France's Ishay JAROBI go to the German French and also a liberal and revolutionary paper against the Prussian monarchy. There are a few people who read this newspaper it had to be smuggled into Germany was very poor business but it was an important period in Marx's intellectual development. He read voraciously the English economist Adam Smith Ricardo. He read the French cracked skinny season on the
Pru dawn on socialism and this English and French literature dispelled much of what he called the mist of the gay Indian ism and the first tangible result of this. It was a book of his to critique this ridiculous of the introduction to a critique of the game and philosophy of right which appeared in 1944 in the first section of this newspaper that he was writing. It was based on firebox Marx right there for example. Man makes religion. Religion does not make man. It is the opium of the people and this is the first time we get this phrase from Marx.
The theory and practice of communism
Marx and Engels
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University of Wisconsin
WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
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Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
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