Chapter 3b

German or 'True' Socialism

by Karl Marx Icon

C. German or “True” Socialism

The Socialist and Communist literature of France began as a fight against the capitalists in power.

  • This literature was introduced into Germany when the German capitalists had just begun its contest with feudal absolutism.

German philosophers, would-be philosophers, and beaux esprits (men of letters), eagerly seized on this literature.

  • They forgot that when these writings came from French social conditions which did not immigrate with them.

Under German social conditions, this French literature lost all its immediate practical significance.

  • It became purely literary.

Thus, to the German philosophers of the 18th Century:

  • the demands of the first French Revolution were just the demands of “Practical Reason” in general
  • the utterance of the will of the revolutionary French capitalists signified, to them, the laws of pure Will, as true human Will generally.

This annexation happened in the same way that a foreign language is appropriated by translation.

The introduction of French philosophical phrases, the Germans dubbed as:

  • “Philosophy of Action”
  • “True Socialism”
  • “German Science of Socialism”
  • “Philosophical Foundation of Socialism”, etc.

The French Socialist and Communist literature was thus completely emasculated.

Instead of it, the fight of the Prussian capitalists against feudal aristocracy and absolute monarchy, became more earnest.

  • This was the liberal movement.

The “True” Socialist demands were:

  • fighting liberalism
  • going against representative government
  • going against capitalism
  • preaching to the masses that they had everything to lose from this capitalist movement.

German Socialism was the silly echo of Feudal French anti-capitalism.

criticism, whose it was, presupposed the existence of modern capitalist society, with its corresponding economic conditions of existence, and the political constitution adapted thereto, the very things those attainment was the object of the pending struggle in Germany.

To the absolute governments, True Socialism served as a welcome scarecrow against the threatening capitalists.

The monarchial government used this “True” Socialism as a weapon against the German capitalists.

  • At the same time, it directly represented a reactionary interest, the interest of German Philistines.

In Germany, the petty-capitalist class:

  • was a relic of the 16th century – since then, it had constantly cropped up under the various forms.
  • is the real social cause of the existing state of things.
    • To preserve the petty-capitalist class is to preserve the existing state of things in Germany.

The industrial and political supremacy of the capitalists threatens Germany with certain destruction either by:

  • the concentration of capital, or
  • the rise of a revolutionary proletariat.

“True” Socialism appeared to kill these 2 birds with one stone. It spread like an epidemic.

German Socialism recognised gradually its own calling as the bombastic representative of petty-capitalism.

  • It proclaimed:
    • Germany as the model nation
    • the German petty-capitalist as the typical man.

2. Conservative or Capitalist Socialism

Some capitalists want to redressing social grievances in order to secure the continued existence of capitalist society.

To this group belong:

  • economists
  • philanthropists
  • humanitarians
  • improvers of the condition of the working class
  • organisers of charity
  • members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals
  • temperance fanatics
  • hole-and-corner reformers

Proudhon’s Philosophie de la Misère is an example of this form.

The Socialistic capitalist:

  • wants all the advantages of modern social conditions, without the struggles and dangers that capitalism creates.
  • wants the existing state of society, minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements.
  • wants a capitalism without a proletariat.
  • The capitalists naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best

Capitalist Socialism develops system for this.

  • It requires the proletariat to march straightway into the social New Jerusalem.
  • In reality, it really requires the proletariat to:
    • remain within the bounds of existing society and
    • cast away all its hate against the capitalists.

A second, and more practical, but less systematic, form of this Socialism tried to depreciate every revolutionary working class movement.

  • It did this by showing that only a change in the material conditions of existence, in economical relations, were useful to them, and not mere political reform.
    • This form of Socialism, thus, does not understand that the abolition of the capitalist relations of production can only happen through a revolution.
    • Instead, it pushes for administrative reforms, based on the continued existence of these relations.
    • But these reforms merely lessen the cost, and simplify the administrative work, of capitalist government.

Capitalist Socialism is only a mere figure of speech. They say:

  • “Free trade for the benefit of the working class.”
  • “Protective duties for the benefit of the working class.”
  • “Prison Reform for the benefit of the working class.”
    • This is the last word and the only seriously meant word of capitalist socialism.

It is summed up in the phrase: Capitalism for the benefit of the working class.


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