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Introduction 1868: a worker-sociali


Josef Dietzgen (1828-1888) was one of By Josef Dietzgen is not concerned with the individual, with the
question of how you, I or he acquires food
in the face of the author’s mind. We learn that
private activity in production is only the form
Marx’s earliest followers and one of the
first people to read Capital shortly after but is about us, the nation, or better, the in- that conceals the social, collective essence of
If I remember rightly, it was Goethe, who, ternational organisation of labour. production. The more generally the product
its publication in 1867. on his death bed, called for “Light, more
Dietzgen was a master tanner, self-edu- But do not take this to mean that the book of labour becomes a commodity in the course
light”. Whether a lack of earthly light is concerned with some project, with per- of time, the more generally labour has ceased
cated, with a curiosity about philosophy, moved him to this, or, as the pious would sonal ideas of the order of things that can to be private labour. A commodity is in-
science and politics. He came to see knowl- perhaps have it, the prospect of heavenly come about. The work is the product of sci- tended for the market, the storehouse of so-
edge and the capacity to learn as central to light in the hereafter, the light of knowl- ence in the highest sense of the word. Science ciety.
workers’ self-emancipation. Thus the first edge, which the present work has in is only concerned with what is, with the ac- Labour which is private, not merely in its
part of his review of Capital printed here is abundance, has the same effect on me. tually given, not with projects – or if also with form but in its essence, produces no exchange
concerned with how and why he, as some- “Light, light! That is clear, that is illumi- projects, then only insofar as they are given value. In modern production, which aims
one with little formal education, managed nated”, I rejoiced, when I was able to pene- in reality and have a disruptive influence on completely and utterly to transform the prod-
to read it despite its difficulty. trate with my intellect one chapter after science. ucts of labour into commodities, there ap-
The review, which Marx encouraged Di- another. Mental labour is certainly necessary The international organisation of labour pears the tendency to transform the labour of
etzgen to write, was published in parts for this. But a worker, who is used, not only does not first have to come about, but already individuals into a social labour process. This
from 1 August 1863 in the Demokratisches to acquiring his own pleasures by “the sweat exists. From the fact that we only live indi- tendency appears in the first place from the
Wochenblatt (Democratic Weekly) edited by of his brow”, but also to making possible the rectly from the products of our own labour nature of things quite without the knowledge
Marx’s close ally Wilhelm Liebknecht. It ten times greater pleasures of others, will not but live directly from the international prod- and the will of humans. It is an affair of peo-
would soon become the organ of the Social shrink from the task. ucts of labour, that we consume Russian corn, ple which hides mystically behind things, be-
Democratic Workers’ Party, of which Diet- For my part — if I might be permitted to Dutch herrings and American cotton, we can hind products.
zgen was a founder member in 1869. introduce myself as a tanner — when at the prove that we produce not with individual Products are exchanged, bought and sold,
Dietzgen had already written his first start I could not understand the work of our labour but with common, social labour. transformed into values, prices, money, arti-
philosophical work The Nature of Human philosopher, I kept saying to myself: what Now everyone knows that this labour does cles of trade, capital etc. All these economic
Brainwork (for a synopsis, see others can do, you can do too. Thinking is not not appear as common labour but as private relationships can only be grasped if we see
bit.ly/2F2q5YK), and philosophy would be a privilege of the professors. labour. Yet it is a normal task of science to bourgeois society as a kind of productive co-
central to his writings. He became an op- Just like any other job, it just needs the show that appearance deceives, that the sun operative which permits the well-endowed
ponent of various bourgeois ideologues in usual practice. The great mass of workers is doesn’t go around the earth. It was the scien- to become producers, treats the impover-
the battle of ideas, one of the first of Marx’s finally beginning to understand: that there is tific task of political economy to discern the ished labour force as commodities, as raw
supporters to take up ideological critique. no salvation without practising thinking for social essence of our privately formed labour. materials, and distributes the product of their
He used his understanding of dialectics oneself. Karl Marx has presented us with the solution labours among the independent producers,
and materialism — he coined the term “di- In our class, we are generally now starting of this task in this critique. not on a cooperative basis but according to
alectical materialism” — as the basis for ar- to realise that if we still let others tell us what the mass of labour delivered to society.
guing against both materialist they wish to let us know, they will know how
to make material booty out of that intellectual HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT As this society is purely a historical growth
reductionism and speculative idealist phi- In its historical development political and not consciously constituted, it is ruled
advantage. The first necessity for a worker not by purpose but by blind necessity. What,
losophy as reflected in the sciences (includ-
who wishes to work for the self-emancipa- economy has fared very similarly to spec-
ing the newly emerging discipline of ulative philosophy. how many and how things should be pro-
psychology) as well as philosophy. tion of his class is not to allow himself to be duced is left to individual whim, which is
told, but instead to know himself. It was neither clearly aware of its object nor
In this spirit, he wrote several articles de- of the method with which it wished to deal regulated unconsciously through the market.
fending the labour theory of value and The particular, the individual, the special The producer has the ‘freedom’ to do what
we can leave to experts. But a knowledge of with it. It still lacked what Kant called the
Marx’s political economy, taking up argu- distinguishing mark of science – “a unani- he wants, which means society does not pre-
ments published by bourgeois economists. capital, our powerful common enemy in the scribe but teaches after the event by means of
social struggle, is a general class interest that mous and sure course”. Liebig says: “Induc-
This was in the context where Marx and tive method, which the ancient world neither prizes or boxed ears.
each of us has to take on. Here it is time to If our subject had a head and could talk, it
Engels had hoped that Capital would pro- knew nor practised, has since its appearance
use the slogan which the spokesmen and ad- would explain its nature roughly like this:
voke some of the most prominent of them transformed the world. The conclusions
vocates of capital drum into us: here belongs “I, the process of production in general,
to a debate. However, as Marx wrote in the which one comes to through this method are
“self help”. along with good Mother Nature, the source
Postface to the Second Edition of Capital in nothing more than the mental expression of
The author gives us the mirror and light for of all objects of human need, am as old and
1873: experiences and facts.
this — not so that we have faith, but rather lasting as the human race itself. Yet I, like
“The learned and unlearned spokesmen that we see and know. “A glance in the journals of chemistry and
of the German bourgeoisie tried at first to physics makes one astonished. Every day everything on earth, am subject to change. I
We are presented with a massive work. Not appear in many forms as the economy of a
kill Das Kapital by silence, as they had man- an industrial product, designed for passing brings new progress and all without conflict;
aged to do with my earlier writings. As one knows what a fact, a conclusion, a law an single individual, as family economy, as the
interest, for the market and its speculators. It labour of the local community, as slave
soon as they found that these tactics no is also not a phoney work, which plays with opinion and an explanation is. For all of
longer fitted in with the conditions of the these, we have touchstones that anyone uses labour, as guild or ‘free’ bourgeois economy
its object out of vanity and lets its appearance etc. But I have never yet been political econ-
time, they wrote, under pretence of criticis- dazzle us. It is a piece of work. A work which before putting the fruits of his labour into cir-
ing my book, prescriptions ‘for the tran- culation. Convincing people of a view by ad- omy [the people’s economy] because the peo-
one regards as the result of a life dedicated to ple have never yet run me but rather are still
quillisation of the bourgeois mind’. But it in unwavering love. vocacy or with the intention of making
someone believe something unproven fails in being managed. If I look back on my historic
they found in the workers’ press antago- And further, love alone would not have
an instant because of the scientific moral course, I see surely that I have to thank my
nists stronger than themselves, to whom made it possible to dig out these treasures of
code.” modern power and productivity to the devel-
(down to this very day) they owe a reply.” science from the jumbled material of the pre-
Now that is the first merit of our author; opment of solidaristic social labour out of iso-
Today, after a century and a half of sys- vious literature and of contemporary life, to
that he clearly and openly exposes the sensu- lated labours.
tematic expositions and critiques of Capita’, express them and to put them into shape. “First, I organised labour on under the
Dietzgen’s review may seem a bit strange. Alongside a passionate heart for the cause, ous object of his research, the object of polit-
ical economy. Who among present day whip of the slave owner. Then, when the
It expresses not just his personal enthusi- belongs an eminent brain, the irresistible owner of the products produced in this way
asm for a work that answers questions that sharpness of a logical mind, the rare talent of economists can say whether the economy is
a single organism, a single organised whole by these peoples could no longer consume
he feels needs answering as “a worker who an inspired thinker, the untiring industry of them all and this threatened to disrupt my
wishes to work for the self-emancipation of an educated and well-schooled researcher. or just the sum total of private economic ac-
tivities just as a pile of sand is made up of further development, I gathered together the
his class” but also lets some of his own And the object of the study is worthy of the ruling powers of humanity and explained
ideas come through, for example, in his ob- talent that took it on. Of course, the smallest many grains? Who knows where the national
economy, national wealth and national that it was possible to expand consumption
servations on the nature of science. thing is worthy of becoming the object of sci- if they took their different surplus products
In the third part, he presents, in the guise ence. And yet we wish to subordinate one labour start and private economy, private
wealth and private labour cease? That there to market and there looked on the total prod-
of the developing productive forces, an ac- thing to another according to whether it is uct as the product of a communal or collec-
more or less necessary or more or less gen- exists a difference between them – and in-
count of historical materialism, abstract tive labour which would be distributed
eral. deed an essential one – has certainly not been
labour and the labour theory of value. In according to the mass of labour time used up
And what is closer to humans in general, totally unrecognised by economic science but
the final part, he uses Capital to return to in them.
particularly in our time, and again above all it is still less understood by it. It certainly has
the “social question” and how capital nec- “So, for example, the wine that a Roman
the worker, than the present process of pro- a dim view of the difference, but it has not be-
essarily leads to crises. come conscious for political economy. It has, slave produced in a certain time – a day, a
Dietzgen’s review is also a call to read duction of the material necessities of life?
as Kant describes such behaviour, just been week, a year — should be the equivalent of
the book and use the knowledge it gives Knowledge of this process and enquiry into
“groping around”. the currants, which a slave of the Greeks pro-
us in our own battles. its laws have been chosen by the author as his
This fog recedes into concentrated clouds duced in the same time. In order to spur eco-
goal and, if I may say so, as his life’s work. It
FEATURE 8-9

ist reviews Capital

motive from the Atlantic to the Pacific”. The


General Workers’ Congress in Baltimore
(16th August 1866) and the international
nomic interest still further, I made the stipu- to the present, the more evident is the truth dency of the capitalist economy consists of Workers’ Congress in Geneva (September
lation that it was not the real time that was of this statement. producing as much as possible with the least 1866) agree with the English Factory Inspec-
taken on one or other occasion but rather the “Yes, it has become so evident that human- effort. Part of that consists now of the free- tor, R. J. Saunders that “Further steps towards
value is defined by the average time that the ity stops short and begins to ask: ‘Am I, hu- dom of ‘free competition’ that takes care of a reformation of society can never be carried
product would necessarily cost society. manity, here for the process of production or the rest. It forced and forces small scale in- out with any hope of success, unless the
If one were to give all labour, even the most isn’t it the other way round: the process of struments of labour out of production in hours of labour be limited, and the pre-
complex, the common denominator of “sim- production is here for me?’” favour of larger ones. It decreases the number scribed limit strictly enforced.”
ple average labour”, then a day’s work by The author is the first to clearly formulate of capitalists and increases the number of
Abel would, for example, be worth twice a the social question in this way. First, he recog- workers. WORKING DAY
day’s work by Cain, without thereby dis- nised that production of the material neces- At the same time, production would base “What is a working-day?”, the author
proving the idea of calculating the value of sities of life has long been the business of itself on buying the worker – or rather his asks. Capital replies: “The working-day
things by the average duration of time which society and the henceforth is destined to be labour power – for the cheapest possible contains the full 24 hours, with the deduc-
their production costs society. And if a com- made so consciously. price; on not paying the worker according to tion of the few hours of repose without
munity rashly produces too much or too little Political economy is not for him a fixed the measure of what is produced but only the which labour-power absolutely refuses its
of one or another commodity, then for the in- substance, a sum of “eternal truths” but a minimal quantity for which they can be had, services again... time for education, for in-
dividual the labour time used is calculated to fluid development. It is the basis of the his- for which they can be kept alive, so that, as tellectual development, for the fulfilling of
be equal to that which society needs for the tory of culture. Up to now, culture has con- of necessity, an overfull warehouse arises social functions and for social inter-
production of the given quantity. sisted of progress in the productive power of from customers who are unable to pay. course, for the free-play of his bodily and
In brief, I discovered exchange value, that human labour. The forces of production were For decades industry has wavered between mental activity, even the rest time of Sun-
is, the accounting of individual labour in the motive force and humans and their his- crisis and prosperity. Barely has one branch day (and that in a country of Sabbatari-
terms of social average labour. toric transformations only moments of its de- of industry now and again succeeded in ans!) — moonshine!
“It was a decisive step forward but still I velopment. pulling itself up to a full expansion of its “But in its blind unrestrainable passion, its
could not be satisfied with it. I wanted and forces than its pride is followed by a steep were-wolf hunger for surplus-labour, capital
still want to be bigger and richer. For this rea- NATIONAL WEALTH fall. The labour process stagnates, society oversteps not only the moral, but even the
son I created a second essential means for my In recent times, this power has succeeded lives in distress and hunger because it is not merely physical maximum bounds of the
extension: money. In this way I solved the in developing to the point where it pro- in a position to consume. working-day.
contradictory task of letting independent pri- duces national wealth. Everyone knows Yet “mankind thus inevitably sets itself “It usurps the time for growth, develop-
vate economy function as one organised so- that our national wealth is in the hands of only such tasks as it is able to solve, since ment, and healthy maintenance of the body.
cial economy with a special material, which, a few individuals. Economic development closer examination will always show that the It steals the time required for the consump-
in a contradictory manner, has a general demanded that it be concentrated in this problem itself arises only when the material tion of fresh air and sunlight. It haggles over
value and serves as money. way. conditions for its solution are already present a meal-time, incorporating it where possible
“Once the economy had been politically or- Where every peasant has his own individ- or at least in the course of formation.” with the process of production itself, so that
ganised to this point, I could leave its de- ual piece of land and every weaver weaves Labour must first be freed in order to be- food is given to the labourer as to a mere
tailed maintenance to humans. Private on his own loom, then modern methods of come capable of working well, while the ca- means of production, as coal is supplied to
interests were skilfully linked to the interests working – which might produce fifty times pacities of the economy must be organised if the boiler, grease and oil to the machinery.”
of society. Thus one learnt to protect my fun- as much in the same time – are impossible. In it is to serve us. “Capital further developed into a coercive
damental interest too. For my sake, slaves order that humanity no longer toils, as the For sure, our small-minded world, with its relation, which compels the working class to
were given first half and then finally all their nature of things demands, plots of land and inherited dogma of freedom, will only come do more work than the narrow round of its
freedom. They were transformed first into weaving looms – in short, the means of to agree with this against its will and slowly. own life-wants prescribes. As a producer of
bondsmen and then finally also into ‘free’ labour – must be brought together. “The creation of a normal legal working- the activity of others, as a pumper-out of sur-
labourers. The physical law according to which one day is, therefore, the product of a protracted plus labour and exploiter of labour-power, it
“The economy took different forms: an- uses a longer lever to move a greater weight civil war, more or less dissembled, between surpasses in energy, disregard of bounds,
cient, feudal, small and large scale merchant, has its counterpart in political economy the capitalist class and the working-class.” recklessness and efficiency, all earlier systems
guild and capitalist. It took up protectionism where we only increase the capacity to pro- Our author has painted a wonderful picture of production based on directly compulsory
and free trade — all of that just as my pur- duce much more in a given time if we enlarge of this war as presented in the archives. labour. “
pose, profitability, demanded. For me, men the instruments, the means of labour. Capi- “As the contest takes place in the arena of And finally, how rich and striking are the
have gone to war and on voyages of discov- talist production came about as a conse- modern industry, it first breaks out in the pieces of evidence, how unsurpassed is the
ery; invented subjugation and freedom; stud- quence of this law. home of that industry — England… Hence, form by which the author illustrated his
ied and toiled; provided the means of life and Capital is means of labour that have be- the philosopher of the Factory, Ure, considers propositions.
saved and gathered capital together; at one come so free, large and powerful in the it a mark of ineffable disgrace to the English No unprejudiced reader, nobody for
moment, made more production more spe- course of their development that, not the working-class that they wrote ‘the slavery of whom the prejudices of self-interest do
cialised and divided up, at the next more con- worker, but the material [objectified] means the Factory Acts’ on their banners, as op- not make understanding impossible, can
centrated and large scale. Yet every change make up the dominant element in labour. posed to capital, which was striving manfully with this account escape the conviction
was a step forward. Capital, a thing, is alive, produces inde- for ‘perfect freedom of labour.” that the social question is not just a ques-
“I, the process of production, became con- pendently, as the author aptly says. Not “The English factory workers were the tion for the working class but a life and
tinuously more powerful, larger, richer and labour but capital receives the surplus value, champions, not only of the English, but of the death question facing society as a whole.
more profitable. I have so dominated that one the gain, the profit, the interest, the wealth. modern working-class generally.”
might say that the history of my develop- The present form of economy has cultivated “France limps slowly behind England… • Translated by Bruce Robinson. Slightly
ment was identical with the historical devel- only the labour process without considera- [In the USA] the eight hours’ agitation, that abridged for space. Full text at bit.ly/dietz-
opment of humanity. And the closer I come tion of human beings. The fundamental ten- ran with the seven-leagued boots of the loco- gen