Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What free access means

Socialist Standard JUNE 2007

Socialists often describe socialism as a society where there will be free access, but what could this mean in concrete terms?

Socialism will be a society of free access to what has been produced. This does not mean alcohol being made available to children or anyone being able to get hold of guns. But there'll be no money, credit cards or cheque books, no artificial barriers to people having what they've decided they want. But how would free access work, and would it lead to a free-for-all and chaos as people just took more and more?

It doesn't matter whether they'll be called shops, stores or warehouses, but there will be places where people will go to collect goods. Whether it's food, clothes, electrical gadgets or whatever, these places will in some ways be like the shops that exist nowadays but in other ways will be rather different. There will be no price tickets, check-outs or security guards. There'll be no 'buy one get one free' offers, no brightly-coloured promotions trying to pressurise you into buying certain goods. There may well still be shop assistants, whose task it really will be to assist people rather than talk them into purchases. There will still be plenty of choice, and probably more real choice than exists today, when you can 'choose' among masses of near-identical products. If you want food, no doubt you will go with a shopping list and make sure that you load what you want into the shopping trolley. And then you'll just leave, since you won't have to pay for anything.

Another big difference between the shops of today and the warehouses of the socialist future will concern the quality of what is in them. Everything will be the best quality, as production for use means there would be no point in producing cheap food or shoddy goods. Nowadays, the cheap and tacky are for those who cannot afford to buy the best, an idea which will be completely alien in socialism. A 'prestigious' brand name or logo will not be used to inflate the price of something or to make the consumer fit in or feel a cut above the rest.

Having only the best doesn't mean that we'll be eating caviar all the time, just that — even if you're having bangers and mash for tea — you'll be having the best of its kind. Furniture or TVs won't be designed to wear out: a sensible use of resources would involve making things to last and recycling as much as possible.

The standard objection to the socialist account of free access is rooted in a view of human nature. People would take and take, it may be claimed, irrespective of what they actually wanted. But a bit of thought should show that this objection does not hold water. For one thing, the people who live in socialism will be convinced of the superiority of this way of organising society and will not act against its interests. And further, think about the things you consume and whether you would really benefit from hoarding them. Most people can only consume fairly limited amounts of milk or bread or toilet paper and won't need to keep cupboards full of any of them. Even in these days of home freezers, where people do stock up on some foods, they don't keep massive amounts of anything. In a society of free access, you'll always be able to get more butter or dog food from the local warehouse, so you won't need your own mountain of either.

But aren't there other goods for which these considerations won't apply? Well, again, people won't need several cars or ten dining-room tables. There probably are some items which people may well want a lot of: no doubt it will vary from individual to individual, but clothes, books, CDs and DVDs might be good examples. In some cases, producing extra copies (say of a CD) requires very little extra resources. There might well be first-class public libraries or comprehensive book-recycling schemes, which would obviate the desire to own individual copies of some books. And clothing won't be subject to the whims of fashion as it is now, so people won't want new outfits each year. In general, the whole idea of consumerism, of possessions making you happy, won't apply.

The point is not that we can explain in detail now just how the demand for every item will be realised in socialism. Rather, we can just set out some general principles about how free access would function and suggest that the human nature objections to it are based on a very narrow view of how human beings behave under capitalism. The combination of socialist consciousness and good old common sense will ensure that people will take what they need rather than all that is available or all they can carry.

A society of free access, then, will mean what it says. People will select their weekly food needs and take home what they've chosen, without anyone asking them to pay for it. They will choose clothes, furniture, sports gear, lawnmowers in the same way. And they will know that none of what they're eating or using is dangerous or nasty, that none of it has been produced in an environmentally-unfriendly way or to make a profit for a few rather than to satisfy the needs of the many.


Sunday, June 24, 2007


From issue # 18 of the World Socialist Review

The time has come in the history of our species when it can get everything it want for free. Yes, you heard me right, for free!

Technology has evolved to the point where there is no reason why food, clothes, housing, medical care, education, transportation, computers, books, CDs, digital connections, cannot be freely available to all human beings on the planet. It is time for such a change. And we are urging our fellow humans to organize to bring about this new world, which is no pipe dream, but a logical outcome of our technological progress as well as our desire to live a fuller, freer, life.

Many of us are used to campaigning for, or at least voting for, different politicians to run our political and economic affairs for us. We find that our lives do not change at all after each election. The leaders often do represent differences in how much money should be spent on the military, on the environment, on education, and the like, but when we get right down to the nitty gritty we find our lives are fundamentally the same no matter who we vote for. We still have to work hard (some of us in more than one job) to raise enough money for our families and ourselves. Our lives are still ruled by the alarm clock, traffic congestion, budgeting, saving, praying for an economic miracle when we spend more than we earn, and by the stress that our working lives produce for us. Ever wondered why our lives are so similar no matter the outcome of the elections? The reason is that the market system itself, based on buying and selling, operates by its own laws. So when politicians say they are going to reform it for the better, they are not telling the truth.

There is nothing they can do to stop recessions, or to significantly improve the value of our wage or salary, or to meaningfully reduce the prices of the things we need to live. In other words, the economy controls them – just the way it controls us.

You see, the companies that produce all the things we require must compete to save as much in production and to make as much from the sale as they can. The value of the things they produce is roughly determined by the amount of labor it took to make the things, including the costs of feeding and housing the employees (wages), of the rent, of the electricity, and other miscellaneous expenses. The value of our wage or salary is also determined by roughly the values of the educational and other living needs we possess that allow us to work five days a week for our employers. That can't be changed much. Our unions can work for small increments here and there, yes, but they can't work for, say, five times the value of our wages and what we would really like to earn to buy all the things that would make our lives fuller and less stressful.

It would therefore be true to say that money itself prevents us from having what we need. There is no technological reason we cannot have all the food and clothes and other important things we need to live absolutely for free – if the whole community owned the farms, food plants, clothing factories, and all other workplaces where wealth is produced. The only reason money exists is so that the owners of these places of work can generate profit to live off, the value above our wages and all other production costs from the revenue obtained from sale.

Although our culture likes to think of itself as possessing many classes (e.g., the middle class), that is really a lot of nonsense. There are only the class of people living off rent, interest and profit, and the class (most of us) who lives by working for wages or salaries (a fancy word for wages that are paid once or twice a month instead of every week). So the wealth accrues to the population in only those two ways, the vast majority of us only earning wages or salaries. While there are always failing businesses whose owners fall into the work class, the capital class tends to make the most money, while the work class tends to make the least. That is always how it is going to be, as long as money exists. No politician can do a thing about that. Even in the countries our media incorrectly call "socialist" or "communist" like the old USSR, or England under the Labor government, or China or Cuba today, the laws of value still apply. Most people in those countries are working people who are paid wages that they must budget all their living expenses out of, while a small clique lives abundantly. Although, theoretically, one can become President, the Prime Minister, or some other fancy name for Head of State, even a Manager or Chief Executive Officer for some giant multi-national, living off high salaries and million-dollar bonuses, we all know the chances of that happening!

The truth is that real socialism or communism has never existed. It means a society in which the means of producing wealth are owned "socially" or "in common." Obviously if the state owns the railroad that does not mean all the people do, unless they get to ride it for nothing. The government owns the Post Office in the United States but you still have to pay for stamps, don't you? Government ownership in countries such as ours merely means that the capital class decided that there were industries that they could all benefit from, or share the expenses for as a class, like the post office, most roads, state hospitals or the military. But in countries like China where the government owns most of the industries, there is a whole class of bureaucrats who lives off the hog of the land, just like here.

Our revolutionary movement – one of ideas, not violence - consists of working people from around the world who feel that the time is ripe for us as a species to finally own the means of producing wealth collectively. In such a society we would no longer need money. Everything really would be free, but that obviously doesn't mean it would work if we were all hoarding ten times more than we needed. But we believe that hoarding behavior is more likely to occur in an economy of scarcity rather than one of abundance. For example, in today's American economy, most of us can afford basic foodstuffs like bread, so we don't store 600 loafs at a time in our freezer, do we? That is because we know we can always get more in the supermarket. Real socialism or communism will be like that. Knowing that we can get what we need for nothing, we will hoard much less (if anything) than we do even now in our cluttered homes, where today we keep every piece of rubbish we bought in case we need it again and would have to pay dear money for it a second time! When wealth is held in common, we believe that without the impediment of financial cost limiting efficiency and progress, our society will be able to recycle at an almost 100% capacity. Greenbacks prevent us from having a truly green society. The beautiful visions of ecologists remain pure pipe dreams as long as we inhabit a world in which the economy commodifies nature and in which the most idealistic reforms are going to cost money. The class-based money economy remains the true obstacle to all other technological and social advances that we could have today, to the type of society of peace, abundance, ecological balance, and creativity that we find is achieved on Earth only in Star Trek The Next Generation. Make it so!

A planet-wide society based on private or state property is also divided into nations. It causes war, terrorism, starvation, child labor, ecological devastation, racism, sexism, shoddy goods or waste through planned obsolescence that the market requires companies to produce for their economic survival - and totally useless industries that squander our planet's resources while not producing anything, such as those industries that revolve around advertising, selling, buying, banking, ticketing, investing, brokering, insuring, militarizing, policing, governing, managing. Think of the millions of wasted buildings, or the vast supply of wasted energy, resources and human lives that are entailed in these useless occupations - useless from the point of view of producing wealth, although, of course, the market system requires them, and that is one reason it is so wasteful.

When we own the means of producing wealth as a community, we won't need those industries anymore because goods and services will be free. So we will require far less resources and energy than we do now to produce much, much, more. We will probably only need to work about a day or two at most per week to produce a lot more wealth and get everything we need. But since we are not a lazy species (except when forced to work or do anything else), we will probably choose to work more (though there will be no law saying we have to, since without property even law itself will be redundant). We will probably want to spend the remaining five days of the week in athletic, creative, intellectual, social, sexual, scientific or other pursuits, depending on our talents and interests.

Imagine actually being happy and secure in our world. We have the technology to liberate our lives, yet we find ourselves working many more hours each day for our masters than the feudal peasants did to support theirs. Our amazing technology is rapidly developing into the future, yet our social organization based on working people and employers, buying and selling, money, and nation-states, is from the primitive past and is still around today, holding us back! Capital society is only a few hundred years old. Before that, most of humanity lived in feudal societies with kings and queens, in slave-based economies, or in tribal systems (some of which did possess relatively communistic organizations, but they could not prevent the advance of capital society and the turning of their common land into a vast commodity or into production sites for other commodities). And while capital society helped to abolish feudal privilege and slavery, and to usher in our scientific progress, it also caused destruction on an unimaginable scale. Why, in the last century alone, hundreds of millions of lives were lost to war and starvation, and that doesn't even count the billions who were either unemployed or employed in totally useless occupations or living in squalor.

It is now time for us to harness our technological progress and use it for the common good. You think we are going to achieve critical social, spiritual and technological advancements in a society based on wage-labor, or in which we do not produce important inventions or innovations because they are too expensive, like we do today in our society of strife and want? If we did ring about a society of common ownership, we could abolish world hunger in months, poverty in weeks, and war immediately. We could organize our society democratically to produce all the goods and services we need, producing to meet needs rather than for sale. Using our computer technology to record needs and the use of world resources, we could live in a society without poverty of any kind and with relatively less stress (the psychologists tell us we function at our best with moderate stress, presumably not the extreme stress our lives in capitalism produc which has created the entire mental health industry in the first place!). With employment abolished, we could spend more time in stimulating activities that will feed rather than starve the human spirit. When the health of our ecosystem returns, and the quality of our food improves, when we live more in harmony with our planet and with ourselves, will our mental and spiritual health not also greatly blossom?

These ideas have been around for the last 150 years or so, and they have been growing slowly but surely, largely in the industrialized areas of the world. Most recently, this understanding has been healthily spreading in Russia, India and in many countries in Africa. More and more humans are awakening to the promise of a world that can truly be called theirs. They are awakening to their own power, and they are demanding the world for themselves. This is the unfulfilled religious dream of a "brotherhood of man" (and of woman!) that we believe can only be realized by political organization, rather than by prayer. Many scientific ideas have taken entire generations, even millennia, to be accepted, such as the idea that we are not at the center of our solar system. We do not know when our ideas of liberation from the market system will begin to spread like wildfire across the lands. But we believe that the experience of our lives forges our ideas, and that the more people live in this violent and unsatisfactory social world, the more these revolutionary ideas will be accepted a common sense and be seized upon. We invite you to consider them carefully, not as followers but as fellow citizens. And when you are ready, we invite you to join us. Change occurs as quickly as an idea travels. Speed the day!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Wildcat Strike

THE WESTERN SOCIALIST (the old name for our magazine) July-August, 1953

(EDITORIAL NOTE: A wildcat strike is a work stoppage which has taken place in violation of a contract with management, or which has not received official sanction from the authority - usually the International Executive Board - established under the Union's constitution. The author of this article has participated in dozens of wildcats in the automobile industry, and thus writes from first-hand observation.)

The workers mill around in small groups. The huge steel-cutting machines lapse into silence. The conveyor lines halt as if struck dead by some unseen hand. Everything is at a standstill. A wildcat strike is being born. The workers await its delivery.

A chief steward has been fired. Or perhaps the line has been speeded up, and the workers walk off in protest. Or perhaps. . . rumors. . . facts. . . confusion. . . unrest. . .

A group of men push their way through the workers. These are the committeemen, perhaps accompanied by local union officials. They listen to the workers' complaints. Go back to work. We will settle this through the regular grievance procedure.

Some of the workers nod in agreement. But they are pulled back into the circle by those who voice defiance and protest. We have followed the grievance procedure before and got nothing. This time we are going out.

The officials try another argument. The walkout has not been approved by the International Executive Board of the union. The workers answer: Hell, we voted 98 % to strike three months ago, and the International still hasn't authorized the strike. We're hitting the bricks.

The situation is getting beyond the control of the local union officers. They deal one last card. They tell the workers: you will be violating the Taft-Hartley Act. The union will be sued, its treasury wiped out. This has even less effect than the other arguments. Washington is a long way off to these workers. Their immediate grievance looms larger. Suddenly someone cries what are we waiting for. Let's go. Survey the scene as if you were seated in a high crane with a view of the entire shop.

Large knots of workers formed here and there in the various departments begin to break up into small knots. The workers are arguing, discussing. Then they begin to leave the plant.

They merge like so many rivulets into small streams, then into large rivers, until finally all are swept out through the gates in a mighty flow. The company enters the scene. Telegrams are sent out to the workers. Return to work or be considered as having voluntarily quit your jobs. Still the workers remain away, in sullen defiance.

Momentarily the company has lost control of the workers. The union goes into action. A mass meeting is scheduled. The "big guns" from the International union scold the workers. They spend most of the meeting, talking, repeating, talking, and repeating. Very little time is left for the rank and file. When a rank and filer speaks, his limit his five minutes, while each International man speaks for half an hour, often longer.

The International tells the men: you will lose your jobs. The plant will move out of town. Other companies will get the work. The arguments have a telling effect. Thousands of workers have come to this meeting for one purpose only: to vote to go back to work. The motion is made and passed to return to work and "continue negotiations."

The militants who argued in favor of continuing the strike are defeated, the conservatism of the workers prevail. On this the International office had pinned their hopes to end the stoppage.

Wait. All is not over. The men return, but the following week other cats take place. The International officers apply a heavy foot. An administrator is placed over the Local union. Bargaining continues with the company, but the administrator has the final words on everything. The democratic right of the workers to make their own decisions has been abolished.

Despite this dictatorship over their affairs, the workers continue to strike. The "instigators" are fired. The union remains silent, in approval of the company's action. Gradually the strikes fade out until the administrator leaves. Then the process begins all over again. . .


Not all wildcat strikes follow this pattern. The one above - an actual situation which took place in the auto industry recently - enables us to view a wildcat strike from beginning to end.

Some strikes never reach the point where the workers leave the plant. They are in the nature of sit-downs, where the workers stay at their machines without turning a hand, or let jobs go by until a jam piles up at the end, and the line must shut down. Still other actions take the form of slow-downs. The workers let every other job on the line go, or if running a machine reduce the speeds and feeds. They are working, but not producing their quotas. Both the company and the union terms this a strike.

Why do these wildcats take place? What significance do they have toward developing the thinking of the workers?

To some these wildcats are the work of an "irresponsible few," of a "small dissident element," or even of "Communists." This is the attitude, not only of union leaders, but also of many workers.

There is no use denying the facts. In certain isolated cases a few individuals might agitate for a wildcat and succeed in bringing it off, but can a few lead thousands, if the conditions are not present for these thousands to be led? What becomes of the "communist" arguments when wildcats break out in plants where there are no known "communists" and where the participants are all "loyal American workers"?


The point is that the wildcat walkouts, the sit-downs, the slow-downs have their origin in the economic system we have today. To allege the cause of these works stoppages to "leaders," and not to conditions, is to cover up the real nature of capitalism. Labor leaders do it from ignorance or from plan - because of their belief in and collaboration with the capitalist system - but the workers do it out of sheer ignorance of the real conditions.

In a system of society such as we have now where one class works for wages and another class reaps the profits from their labor, a struggle goes on continually between the two classes over the fruits of production.

Socialists call this the class struggle. This struggle embraces a multitude of matters. It takes place over wages and hours at work. It takes place over working conditions, safety, speedup, etc. It takes place over firings, penalties for being late and absent, even over the location of a time clock.

The outlets of this struggle are numerous and varied. Already we have mentioned the wildcat, the sit-down, and the slow-down. Other forms exist. When the worker reaches up and flips the counter on his machine a few dozen times without increasing his production, when he turns in production figures beyond what he actually produced, when he spends half an hour beyond that time necessary to perform his biological functions, he is engaging in a struggle against those who exploit him. When he tightens up a nut, takes it off, and then puts it on again to kill time on the line, he is carrying on a struggle against his capitalist employers.

The wildcat strike is just another manifestation of the class struggle. When workers have grievances over speed-up, these grievances arise out of the fact that a class is seeking to make more profit from them. When workers have grievances for higher wages, these grievances stem from the fact that the workers must struggle for their standard of existence against the class which seeks to keep wages down.

The wildcat takes place when the workers feel that the grievance procedure is too slow, when on-the-spot action is necessary, or when they have no confidence in the ability of their leaders to solve their grievances through the regular procedure.

The labor leaders may clamp down hard, may place one administrator after another over one local union after another, but the conditions of capitalism continuing, wildcats are bound to result. Not a day passes that a wildcat does not take place in some shop throughout the country. Still the union leaders are foolish enough, or ignorant enough, to believe they can suppress the class struggle. Even Hitler could not stop strikes under his dictatorship, nor as recent events in East Germany showed, could the armored tank divisions of the Red Army.


What is the political significance of these wildcat strikes? One school of thought in the working class political movement sees these wildcat strikes as bona fide rebellions, not only against the labor leaders, but against the capitalist system itself. This school views the wildcats as the beginnings of a real rank and file movement which will eventually result in the workers throwing out the union bureaucrats, taking over the factories, establishing workers' councils and ultimately a "workers society" based on these councils.

If one reads the newspapers - and at one time half of Detroit's auto workers were idle because of wildcats - he might gain the impression that a tremendous political movement of the workers was under way. To one directly involved in these struggles, and in daily contact with the workers, another, more accurate, picture enfolds itself.

These wildcats are purely economic struggles on the part of the workers. They have a grievance arising out of the conditions of their work, instinctively they bring to bear their only weapon, withdrawal of their labor.

For a brief period the workers are aroused. They assail their union leaders in no uncertain terms. But they learn nothing of the role of these union leaders in support of capitalism because they do not understand the society under which they live. In a few days, after the wildcat is over, the workers return to their routine thinking.


Another school of thought believes these wildcats can be used as a lever to push the workers along a political road, towards their "emancipation." How is this possible if the workers do not understand the political road, and are only engaging in economic struggles? The answer is that "leaders in-the-know" will direct the workers, much as a Seeing Eye Dog guides a blind person.

But these leaders can also lead the workers in the wrong direction, toward the wrong goals (nationalization and state capitalism), as the workers later find out to their sorrow.

The socialist approach of education- rather than the non-socialist approach of leadership - is much better.

Through education it can be pointed out to the workers that wildcat strikes arise out of the nature of capitalism, but that they are not the answer to the workers' problems. These economic struggles settle nothing decisively because in the end the workers still wear the chains of wage slavery. It is the political act of the entire working class to eliminate the exploitative relations between workers and capitalists which can furnish a final solution.

Is not this giving leadership to the workers, to point these things out? In a sense it is, but it is a leadership of a different type. It is not the non-socialist leadership of a minority which knows (or thinks it knows) where it is going over a majority which does not know where it is going, and merely follows the minority.

It is the socialist leadership of educating workers to understand the nature of both capitalism and socialism, so that, armed with this understanding, the workers themselves can carry out the political act of their own emancipation.

The non-socialist leadership is based on lack of understanding among the workers. The socialist leadership is based on understanding among the workers.

This is the lesson of the wildcat strike and all other outbursts of class struggle among the workers. These struggles can be used as a means of educating workers to the real political struggle - socialism. They should not be used as a means to gain leadership over the workers, or to lead them along a political path they do not understand.


Sunday, June 17, 2007


From the WSM website

The Ecological Perspective

Current methods of production cause may undeniably be damaging the world's eco-systems in many ways, as shown elsewhere in this Environment section. Still, the question remains as to whether human productive activity, transforming materials originating from nature into goods suitable for human use, is inevitably damaging in an ecological sense. The massive scale of human productive activity certainly has immense implications for ecology and some radical greens argue that human activity on such a scale is incompatible with a harmonious relationship with the rest of nature.

In considering what we mean by 'ecological damage,' it is important to remember that these ecosystems are evolving. The biosphere as a whole, which consists of millions of mutually interdependent life forms, might be thought of as one single ecosystem.

Yet it is still possible to distinguish various sub-systems, or 'biomes' within it, on the basis of the different climatic and physical conditions that exist in different parts of the world. These range from the tundra of the Arctic, through the coniferous and deciduous forests and steppes, to the savannah and tropical rain forests of the regions near the equator. To each of these physical and climatic conditions there corresponds a stable ecosystem which evolves to its 'climax,' through a series of successive stages. This stable climax will be the situation where the amount of food produced by the plant life is sufficient, after taking account of the plants' own respiration needs, to sustainably meet the food energy requirements of all the animal life-forms within the system. It will be, in fact, the situation which makes optimum use, in terms of sustaining all the life-forms within the system, of the sun's light rays falling on the area.

An ecological climax is defined in terms of the existing physical and climatic conditions. It is clear that if these latter change, as they have done relatively frequently in the course of the thousands of millions of years life has existed - through such things as the sea level, and the coming and going of the ice ages - then the previously existing balance will be upset. A new one will then tend to develop in accordance with the new physical and climatic conditions.

The break-up of an old ecosystem plunges the different species and varieties of life-forms into a state of competition. In the case of plants, the competition would be to capture the sun's light rays. In the case of animals, it would be to recover the food energy produced by plants. The species and the individuals proving to be best adapted to the new conditions ("the fittest" as Darwin put it) would survive and flourish. Eventually a new stable ecosystem, with a different "climax", appropriate to the new geophysical conditions, would evolve. At such times biological evolution would have tended to speed up as whole. Species could disappear leaving the ecological niche they occupied to be filled by newcomers.

The world's eco-systems are continually evolving and hence there is no one 'original,' 'natural' state of the planet. After all, humans are both a product and part of nature and not something outside of it. There is no reason to regard an ecosystem in which humans, like other animals, live in limited numbers as "hunter gatherers" in the forest as any more "natural" than one in which there is a greater number of trees and forest plants. There is no basis in ecology for saying that trees should be the main life-form, nor even that the natural human condition is hunting and gathering.

Ecology and Socialism
The materials humans take from nature can be divided into two categories, according to whether they are renewable or non-renewable. Nearly everything of organic nature is renewable (since more of it can be grown in a relatively short period of time), as are certain natural forces which humans use as instruments of labour (rivers, waterfalls, wind, the sun's rays etc). Non-renewable resources on the other hand - such as mineral ores, coal, oil, clay, sand - are so called because they do not form part of some natural cycle that reproduces them, at least not with a timescale relevant for humans.

The most obvious way in which humans extract renewable materials from the biosphere is through agriculture. Agriculture involves, by definition, a fundamental change in the existing eco-system. The introduction of agriculture to Europe involved cutting most of the deciduous forest. This deciduous forest had represented a stable ecological climax for most of Europe. The land was used to grow plants which humans found useful, to the detriment of both the trees and other plants that had flourished in the forest. Agriculture involves deliberately preventing an ecosystem from developing towards a climax.

For an ecosystem involving agriculture to be a stable one requires deliberate action on the part of humans. This involves not only planting fields and keeping them clear of other plants which might grow there ('weeds'), but also to maintain the fertility of the soil which, without agriculture, would spontaneously renew itself.

Things go wrong when humans ignore the ecological consequences of their actions, for instance, by permitting overgrazing by their domesticated animals or by taking out of the soil without restoring the minerals and organic materials that are essential to normal plant growth. However, if humans observe these rules, then, as a number of historical examples testify, an ecosystem in which humans practice agriculture can be as stable as one from which humans are absent, or one in which they practice hunting and gathering.

This was understood and practiced in the relatively self-sufficient agriculture communities which existed up until the coming of capitalism, where what was produced was largely consumed on the spot. The human waste resulting from consumption, together with animal waste and those parts of plants and animals that were not used for food and other purposes, were restored to the soil where they were decomposed by insects, fungi and bacteria into the elements that sustain the soil's fertility.

When, however, the place of production and the place of consumption are separated, this cycle tends to break down. The result is that the fertility of the soil diminishes. If an area specialises in the production of a crop for export, i.e. for consumption elsewhere, this means that some of the mineral and organic matter incorporated into the crop will leave that area for ever and not be restored to the soil. The same applies to animal rearing. Animals require large amounts of calcium for their bones, as well as other minerals such as phosphorus, iron and magnesium, which also come from the soil, via the plants on which they feed. If these animals are exported, whether dead or alive, and consumed elsewhere, then the minerals they contain are lost to the soil of the area where they were raised.

A complementary problem arises at the other end, at the point of consumption: what to do with the human waste which, when the points of production and consumption were the same, was automatically restored to the soil and recycled by nature? Releasing it into the sea or into rivers or sewers means that it is lost to agriculture, even if not, unfortunately, to the biosphere (this contributes to water pollution by encouraging the proliferation of some life-forms - for example, algae and bacteria - to the detriment of others which the water normally supports.)

The 'solution' that has been found under capitalism, because it is the cheapest in terms of the labour content of the products, has been to use artificial fertilisers - nitrates and phosphates that have been manufactured in chemical plants. This works in the sense of allowing the land to go on producing the same amount, or more, of the same crop or animal, but at a price in terms of polluting the water in the region concerned. Artificial fertilisers, not being held by the soil in the same way that organic waste is, tend to be leached off by rain into waterways where they cause pollution.

The ecological solution to the problem is to find some way of restoring to the soil the organic waste resulting from human consumption in urban areas. Barry Commoner suggested that this might be done by means of pipelines linking the town and the countryside. A longer term solution would be that envisaged by those early socialists who looked forward to agriculture and manufacturing industry being combined,

gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.
(Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto)

Non-Renewable Materials
Concern has been expressed that non-renewable resources will eventually run out. Still, despite some wild predictions that were made in the recent past, depletion of non-renewable resources is not an immediate problem. One advantage non-renewable materials have over most renewable ones is that they can normally be used more than once. With the important exceptions of coal, oil and natural gas when burned, they can be recycled. A proportion of some metals is lost through corrosion but all metals can in principle be recovered and re-used. It has been suggested, for instance, that most of the gold mined since Ancient times is still in use. Much of the iron, copper, tin and other metals mined since the same time is still around somewhere even if not still used as gold is. Resources can be conserved by making instruments of production easier to repair and by manufacturing goods of all kinds to last rather than to break down or become unusable after a carefully calculated period of time, as is common practice under capitalism.

Non-renewable resources can be replaced in many cases by renewable ones. Electricity generation is a case in point (Energy Production).

Non-Polluting Technology
The techniques employed to transform materials must, if they are to avoid upsetting natural cycles which are fundamental to nature, avoid releasing into the biosphere or leaving as waste products, toxic substances or substances that cannot be assimilated by nature. In other words, a non-polluting technology should be applied. This is quite feasible from a technical point of view since non-polluting transformation techniques are known in all fields of production. However, they are not employed on any wide scale today because they would add to production costs and so are ruled out by the economic laws of capitalism.

The underlying principle behind the changes in the materials and productive methods used, which is demanded by the need to take proper account of the ecological dimension, is that the productive system as a whole should be sustainable for the rest of nature. In other words, what humans take from nature, the amount and the rhythm at which they do so, as well as the way they use these materials and dispose of them after use, should all be done in such a way as to leave nature in a position to go on supplying and reabsorbing the required materials for use.

In the long run this implies stable or only slowly rising consumption and production levels, though it does not rule out carefully planned rapid growth over a period to reach a level at which consumption and production could then platform off. A society in which production, consumption and population levels are stable has been called a "steady-state economy" where production would be geared simply to meeting needs and to replacing and repairing the stock of means of production (raw materials and instruments of production) required for this.

It is obvious that today human needs are far from being met on a world scale and that fairly rapid growth in the production of food, housing and other basic amenities would still be needed for some years even if production ceased to be governed by the economic laws of capitalism. However it should not be forgotten that a "steady-state economy" would be a much more normal situation than an economy geared to blindly accumulating more and more means of production. After all, the only rational reason for accumulating means of production is to eventually be in a position to satisfy all reasonable consumption needs.

Once the stock of means of production has reached this level, in a society with this goal, accumulation, or the further expansion of the stock of means of production, can stop and production levels be stabilised. Logically, this point would eventually be reached, since the consumption needs of a given population are finite.

So if human society is to be able to organize its production in an ecologically acceptable way, then it must abolish the capitalist economic mechanism of capital accumulation and gear production instead to the direct satisfaction of needs.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Joseph Dietzgen - The Workers Philosopher

This was article written by Adam Buick for the journal Radical Philosophy 10. Spring 1975 .

is indeed a neglected philosopher. How many people know that he was the man Marx introduced to the 1872 Congress of the First International as ‘our philosopher’? Or that it was Dietzgen, not Plekhanov, who first coined the phrase ‘dialectical materialism’? Or that for the first thirty or so years of this century Dietzgen’s Philosophical Essays were to he found on the bookshelves of any working class militant with Marxist pretensions?
Who, then, was Dietzgen? What were his views? And, indeed, why has he been neglected?

Joseph Dietzgen was born in December 1828 near Cologne. His father was a master tanner and it was in this trade that Dietzgen was trained and worked. He was neither, a capitalist nor a propertyless worker but an artisan owning and working his own instruments of production. What distinguished him from other pioneer scientific socialists like Marx and Engels was that he never went to university; he was a self-educated man. Dietzgen was involved in the 1848 rising and after its failure left for America returning, however, after a couple of years. He spent another two years in America after 1859 and went there again in 1884, never to return. He died in 1888 and is buried in Chicago.

Dietzgen was not just interested in philosophy, though this was his main interest. He was also a writer on economic and political matters for the German Social Democratic press, especially in the l870s. Marx commented favourably on Dietzgen’s review of Capital in his Afterward to the Second German Edition.1 The two men were personal acquaintances.

Dietzgen wrote in German, but a number of his writings, including the most important, were translated into English in the early years of this century and published as two books 2 by the Charles H. Kerr Co. of Chicago. The book bearing the title The Positive Outcome of Philosophy contains not only this, his last work originally published in 1887, but also his first work, The Nature of Human Brainwork (1869), and also his Letters on Logic. The other book, Philosophical Essays, contains translations of some of the propagandist articles Dietzgen wrote in the 1970s and also his pamphlet Excursions of a Socialist into the Domain of Epistemology. This pamphlet, especially Chapter 3, ‘Materialism versus Materialism’, is perhaps the best outline of Dietzgen’s views in his own words. For, frankly, Dietzgen’s works are not easy to read, partly because of the subject matter, but partly also because Dietzgen tended to express himself somewhat philosophically and to needlessly repeat himself.

In his introduction, written in 1902, to the English edition of The Positive Outcome of Philosophy, the Dutch Marxist, Anton Pannekoek, described Dietzgen’s philosophical writings as ‘an important and indispensable auxiliary for the understanding of the fundamental works of Marx and Engels.’3 Ernst Untermann, another German Social Democrat who had emigrated to America, expressed a similar view: ‘Dietzgen rounded out the work of Marx and Engels by a consistent monist conception of the universe' 4 Are these opinions justified? In this writer's opinion, yes. Marx’s historical materialism is a materialist theory of history and society; it is not, and was not meant to be, a materialist philosophy. Of course, being an atheist, Marx must have had a materialist conception of the universe but he never wrote much about it. Nor was there any reason why he should have. His specialities were history, sociology and economics, not philosophy or epistemology. Engels made an attempt to back up the materialist conception of history with a materialist philosophy but, in many respects failed to do this satisfactorily. It was Dietzgen who succeeded and in this sense can justly be said to have filled a 'gap' in socialist theory.

Dialectical Materialism

Dietzgen was a thoroughgoing empiricist and materialist. For him all knowledge was derived from sense-perception and what human beings perceived had a real existence independent of their perception of it.
The Nature of Human Brainwork (1869) presents an empiricist theory of knowledge derived from a rejection of Kantian dualism. Kant had claimed that Reason (=science, knowledge) could only deal with the world of experience, but the world of experience, according to him, was only a world of appearances or, to use a word derived from Greek meaning the same, a world of ‘phenomena’. Thus science could never come to understand the world as it really was, the world of what Kant called ‘things-in-themselves’ of which he supposed the world of phenomena to be but appearances. For Kant. there were two worlds: a world of phenomena, which was all the human mind could come to understand, and a world of things-in-themselves beyond human experience and understanding.

For Dietzgen, to posit the existence of a second world beyond the world of experience was simply metaphysical nonsense. ‘Phenomena or appearances appear - voilà tout.’5 The world of phenomena was the only world; phenomena were themselves real, the substance of the real world. Phenomena, however, says Dietzgen, do not exist as independent entities; they exist only as parts or the entire single world of phenomena. The world of reality is a single entity embracing all observable phenomena, past, present and future. Reality is thus infinite, having no beginning nor end. It is constantly changing. The universe and all things in it consist of transformations of matter, which take place simultaneously and consecutively in space and time.

The universe is in every place and at any time itself new or present for the first time. It arises and passes away, passes and arises under our very hands. Nothing remains the same, only the infinite change is constant, and even the change varies. Every part of time and space brings new changes.6

The world of reality is a never-ending, everchanging stream of observable phenomena, and it exists only as a whole. That Reality, Existence, the Universe, Nature – call it what you will (and Dietzgen called it many things drawn from philosophy, e.g., the Absolute, the Good, Truth, even God) – is a united whole a single unit, is the basis of Dietzgen’s theories and is endlessly repeated in the Letters on Logic, written over the period 1880-3 to Eugene, one of his sons.

As can be seen, this conception of the universe is both materialist (since it posits the existence of a world of reality independent of men’s perception of it) and dialectical (since it sees the world of reality as a changing, differentiated unity). It was for this reason that Dietzgen called his philosophy ‘dialectical materialism’, a phrase he first used in his 1870s articles in the German Social Democratic press.7 This was some years before Plekhanov, who is generally said to have originated this phrase (which is not to be found in the writings of Marx or Engels), even claimed to be a Marxist. Plekhanov, it should be noted, meant something rather different by it than did Dietzgen; he was the father of the undialectical state philosophy of present-day Russia which also, unfortunately, goes under the name of ‘dialectical materialism’ and with which Dietzgen’s quite different theories are not to be confused.

What is Knowledge?

The human mind The human mind is not the metaphysical mystery that idealist philosophers try to make it. As something that can be observed and studied, it too is part the world of phenomena. Once this is recognised, as Dietzgen insists it should be, then it is possible to give a materialist explanation of the nature of thinking. Dietzgen’s philosophy is in fact essentially such a materialist epistemology. Human brainwork consists, says Dietzgen, in generalising from experience, in constructing abstract general concepts on the basis of perceptions supplied by the senses. The senses perceive a continuous stream of different phenomena; the role of the mind is to make sense of this stream by distinguishing and naming parts of it. The mind, as the organ of human understanding, understands the world by classifying it:

Knowledge, thinking, understanding, explaining, has not, and cannot have, any other function than that of describing the processes of experience by (division or classification.8

Phenomena are classified by the mind into different categories on the basis of common characteristics. But the categories, or concepts, are abstractions from reality, mental constructs. A table, for instance, does not have a separate, independent existence; it is the name given by the human mind to a certain group of recurring phenomena perceived by the senses. A table (and indeed all other things) is an abstraction, a mental construct. In reality all things are interdependent Darts of the whole which is the entire world of phenomena:

The world is not made up of fixed classes, but is a fluid unity, the Absolute incarnate, which develops eternally, and is only classified by the human mind for purposes of forming intelligent conceptions.9

This dialectical view contrasts with the everyday – and undialectical – view that the world consists of a collection of separate, fixed objects. Dietzgen does not challenge the usefulness of this latter view. On the contrary, he recognises that men must form such a view of the world if they are to orient themselves and survive in it. It is this ability to generalise, to, as it were, stop this continuous stream of phenomena (so that parts of it can become subjects for abstract thought), that distinguishes men from other animals and has enables them to intervene in and control the external world. But, says Dietzgen, we ought to know that stopping the stream of phenomena and classifying it into separate, fixed objects is only a mental operation, however vital to the survival of the human species:

The logical household use of rigid conceptions extends, and should and must extend, to all science. The consideration of things as ‘the same’, is indispensable, and yet it is very salutary to know and remember that the things are not only the same and congealed, but at the same time variable and fluid.10

To state that things are mental constructs can give rise to the misunderstanding that you are saying that they are only mental constructs and that you are therefore an idealist who sees the external world as the creation of the mind. Rut Dietzgen was not saying that things were simply mental constructs: things were mental constructs out of the real world of phenomena as perceived by the senses; things were abstractions, yes, but abstractions from an objectively-existing external reality. Although a thing as such, as a separate independent object, did not exist, there was certainly something in the real world of phenomena which corresponded to it that existed. The mind was not so much constructing the external world as reconstructing an image of it.

Science altogether does not want and cannot want to accomplish more than the classification of perceptible things according to species and varieties; its entire desire and ability is confined to the mental reconstruction of the different parts of a differential unity. [emphasis added] It is the substantial force of the Universe, in which they participate, which has brought about the things that are, and all that the human mind can do is to form a picture of its gradual, consistent and rational working.11

These passages make it quite clear that for Dietzgen the external world existed independently of the human mind. Unfortunately, as we shall see, this did not prevent him from being misunderstood on this point.

A further aspect of Dietzgen’s dialectical materialism is that knowledge can never be absolute or complete, all knowledge is relative; our classification or description of the world must always be regarded as a tentative approximation liable to revision in the light of further experience. Dietzgen’s last work, The Positive Outcome of Philosophy (1887), ends with the following rule for scientific investigation which remains valid to this day:

Thou shalt sharply divide and subdivide and farther subdivide to the utmost, the universal concept, the concept of the universe, but thou shalt be backed up by the consciousness that this mental classification is a formality, by which man seeks to register and Systematize his experience; thou shalt furthermore remain conscious of thy human liberty to progressively clarify thy experience, which is constantly enriched in the course of time, through modified classification.12

Mind and Matter

Dietzgen, as we saw, called himself a materialist. There are however various kinds of materialism and Dietzgen was careful to differentiate his dialectical materialism from what he called ‘onesided,’ ‘narrow’ and ‘mechanical’ materialism. This was the view (indeed the traditional materialist view going back to the philosophers of Ancient Greece) that the world is composed of tiny particles of tangible ‘matter’ and that the mind and thinking are simply the effects of the movement of these atoms. Writes Dietzgen:

The distinguishing mark between the mechanical materialists of the 18th century and the Social-Democratic materialists trained in German idealism consists in that that the latter have extended the former’s narrow conception of matter as consisting exclusively of the Tangible to all phenomena that occur in the world.13

Every phenomenon, everything that occurs, exists, as part of the entire world of phenomena. Since non-tangible phenomena, e.g. ideas, thoughts etc., also occur, they are just as real or, if you like, just as ‘material’ as tangible phenomena:

In the endless Universe matter in the sense of old and antiquated materialists, that is, of tangible matter, does not possess the slightest preferential right to be more substantial, i.e. more immediate, more distinct and more certain than any other phenomena of nature.14

Dietzgen had no objection to the classification of the world of phenomena into two general categories, one consisting of tangible phenomena and called ‘matter’ and the other consisting of mental phenomena and called ‘mind.’ He had no objection either to explanations of mental phenomena in terms of tangible phenomena. What he was concerned to point out was that, in this sense, both ‘mind’ and ‘matter’ were abstractions, even if very general ones, from the real world of phenomena. The rigid distinction between ‘mind’ and ‘matter’ was a mental distinction that did not exist in the world of phenomena which, despite this mental operation, remained an undivided whole:

The mind is a collective name for the mental phenomena, as matter is a collective name for the material phenomena, and the two together figure under the idea and name of the phenomena of Nature.15

This was the basis of Dietzgen’s statement, which, as we shall see, so upset Lenin, that ‘our materialism is distinguished by its special knowledge of the common nature of mind and matter’.16 By this he simply meant that both mind and matter were parts of the world of observable phenomena.

Those Dietzgen called the ‘narrow’ materialists made the mistake of not thinking dialectically, that is, of not realising that the parts of the world of phenomena do not exist independently but only as interconnected parts of that world. In taking one part of the world of phenomena and making it the basis of all the other parts, they were falsely ascribing a real, independent existence to what was in fact only an abstraction:

This materialism is so enamoured of mechanics, that it, as it were, idolizes it, does not regard it as part of the world, but as the sole substance of which the universe is made up.17

This was the same mistake as regarding the objects of everyday use as having an independent, separate existence. ‘Matter’ just as much as ‘table’ was a mental abstraction from the real world of phenomena; in reality tangible phenomena do not exist separately from other phenomena, they exist only as an integral part of the entire single world of all phenomena.

It is worth emphasising again that this equal epistemological status of tangible and mental phenomena does not at all rule out scientific explanations of mental phenomena in terms of tangible phenomena, e.g., in terms of the physiological functioning of the brain and nervous system, or indeed of the explanation of all phenomena in terms of the movement of atoms. The fact that ‘matter’ and ‘atoms’ were metal abstractions from the world of phenomena did not in the least detract from their possible usefulness as concepts for understanding the world. As Dietzgen said of atoms:

Atoms are groups. As smallest parts they exist only in our thoughts and thus give excellent service in chemistry. The consciousness that they are not plastic but only mental things, does not detract from their usefulness, but heightens it still more.18

To understand the world was to divide it into necessarily abstract concepts. It was not Dietzgen’s aim to decide which was the best way to classify, describe and explain the world but to show what we were doing when we did do this. To ascribe reality to any of these mental constructs, even so general a one as (tangible) matter was a confusion, was to think undialectically; the only thing that had a separate, independent existence was the entire world of phenomena itself. Dietzgen’s criticism of one-sided, narrow materialism was a criticism of its confusion on this point, and not at all a criticism of the basic principles of materialism.

Dietzgen was essentially a philosopher of science. We would not want to claim that he always expressed himself clearly or adequately (his ontological proof of the universe and his virtual pantheism will make some readers wince – or smile), but despite his shortcomings he must be given the credit for first formulating a theory of the nature of science – as basically a description of the world for purposes of prediction and control – which is now largely accepted even if it does not call itself ‘dialectical materialism’ or indeed refer to itself as ‘materialist’ at all (mainly for fear of confusion with the narrow, one-sided materialism of the past – and present-day Russia).

Dietzgen’s works, besides being difficult to obtain, make difficult reading. However, his best interpreter, the Dutch Marxist Anton Pannekoek, expressed himself very clearly. Pannekoek was himself a scientist, a professor of astronomy of world renown in fact, and wrote not only the introduction to the Kerr editions of The Positive Outcome of Philosophy but also, later, two short brilliant books applying Dietzgen’s dialectical materialism: Lenin as Philosopher (1938)19 and Anthropogenesis (1944). Unfortunately these are just as difficult to obtain as the works of Dietzgen himself.

Lenin versus Dietzgen

At about the same time as Dietzgen was writing, two other German-speakers, Ernst Mach in Austria and Richard Avenarius in Switzerland, were working out a theory of science which was in a number of ways similar to Dietzgen’s. One of Avenarius’ followers called this theory ‘empiriocriticism.’ We can’t go into this theory here except to say that it too saw knowledge as essentially the classification of experience. However, while Dietzgen never doubted the independent existence of the world of phenomena or experience, empiriocriticism was ambiguous on this point. It wished to construct the world from ‘experience’ (sense-data, etc.) but since experience is the experience of human beings it came very near to saying, and some of its exponents did say, that the human mind (or minds) was as vital to the existence of the external world as external phenomena themselves.

Empirio-criticism, partly because of its similarity with Dietzgen’s dialectical materialism, enjoyed a certain vogue in Social Democratic circles in the early years of the twentieth century. A number of Social Democrats, including Dietzgen’s son Eugene, misinterpreted Dietzgen in an empirio-criticist direction. Included in the Kerr edition of Dietzgen’s Philosophical Essays is an essay on Max Stirner by Eugene wherein we read that ‘whatever does not partake of the psychophysical nature of the universe, cannot exist for us’ and that ‘phenomena outside of us . . . exist independently of individual man, although they cannot exist for mankind independently of human consciousness.20

Eugene Dietzgen would seem to be suggesting here that the external world is not an objective world but only an inter-subjective world, i.e., a sort of collective creation of all human minds which would not exist in their absence. Similar views were expounded also by a number of members of the Russian Bolshevik Party. Lenin was scandalised by this departure from materialism (as indeed it was) and set out to refute this deviation once and for all. In 1908 was published Plekhanov’s Fundamental Problems of Marxism and in 1909 Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. Both contain a denial of the view we quoted earlier that Dietzgen had added something to the work of Marx and Engels. We won’t deal with Plekhanov’s criticism here except to say that he preferred Feuerbach’s materialism to Dietzgen’s dialectical
materialism (though he retained the phrase ‘dialectical materialism’).

Lenin devotes a section of Materialism and Empirio-Criticism to Dietzgen entitled ‘How could J. Dietzgen Have Found Favour with the Reactionary Philosophers?’ in which he criticises in particular Dietzgen’s view that the real, or material, world includes the intangible (thoughts, etc.) as well as the tangible:

To say that thought is material is to make a false step, a step towards confusing materialism and idealism.
That the conception of ‘matter’ must also include thoughts, as Dietzgen repeats in the Excursions, is a muddle, for if such an inclusion is made, the epistemological contrast between mind and matter, idealism and materialism, a contrast upon which Dietzgen himself insists, loses all meaning.21

Lenin regards this as a ‘deviation’ by Dietzgen from materialism, without seeming to realise that this view is the basis of Dietzgen’s whole materialist epistemology. It is not a question of Dietzgen expressing himself badly but of there being a fundamental difference between Dietzgen’s materialism and Lenin’s. Lenin was clearly one of those Dietzgen described as a narrow, one-sided, mechanical materialist.
Lenin’s claim about the epistemological contrast between idealism and materialism being blurred if thoughts are regarded as part of the world of phenomena (= the material world) is not true. As we have seen, Dietzgen was quite able to make this the basis of his epistemology and to remain a thoroughgoing materialist who never for one moment doubted the objective existence of the external world. Lenin was quite right, on the other hand, to attack people like Eugene Dietzgen who only gave the external world an inter-subjective existence. This was indeed a departure from materialism in the direction of idealism, but Lenin’s criticism of it was made from the point of view of what Pannekoek in his Lenin as Philosopher called ‘bourgeois materialism’ not that of dialectical materialism.
Pannekoek, in this work (which is a reply to Lenin following the publication of German, English and French translations in 1927 and 1928), attempted to give an explanation of why the Russian Bolshevik Party should have adopted ‘bourgeois materialism’ as its theory. By ‘bourgeois’ materialism Pannekoek meant a materialism which seeks to explain everything in terms of physics and chemistry. When the bourgeoisie had to fight to achieve and retain power, said Pannekoek, they believed in the power of the physical sciences to change the world, practically by developing modern industry, and theoretically by exposing the religious views of their class opponents as superstitious nonsense. That Lenin and the Bolsheviks 22 should have adopted a similar ideology to that of the rising bourgeoisie of Western Europe at an earlier period was to be explained, said Pannekoek, by the essentially similar task that confronted them: to carry out the equivalent of a bourgeois revolution in Russia which would sweep away the obstacles, institutional and ideological, to the development of modern industry there. Pannekoek saw Leninism as the ideology of a new ruling class whose historical task was to industrialise Russia on the basis of state capitalism, with militant physical-science materialism as its ideology. This materialism, though falsely called ‘dialectical,’ is still the dominant ideology in Russia today.

Dietzgen Today

Whatever the explanation as to why Lenin rejected Dietzgen’s dialectical materialism, the fact that he did contributed in large measure to Dietzgen becoming a neglected philosopher.23 Dietzgen’s ideas had been introduced into Britain before the first World War by the English-language translations of his works published by Kerr of Chicago, and had been propagated here by such organisations as the Labour College movement and the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Both of these continued to exist after the War and Russian revolution and both of them proclaimed a Marxism independent of Moscow. A textbook on Dietzgen’s philosophy by an NCLC lecturer, Fred Casey, called Thinking (1922) was widely read in militant working-class circles. Then in 1927 was published the first English translation of Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism.24 From then on, as in the 1930s, the Communist Party’s false claim to be genuine Marxists came to be widely accepted, Dietzgen receded into the background. In 1936 T.A. Jackson, a professional Communist Party writer, included a vituperative attack, in true Leninist style, on the unfortunate Casey in his book Dialectics; to be a ‘Caseyite,’ i.e., to accept Dietzgen’s philosophy without Lenin’s ‘correction,’ became a heresy in Communist Party circles.

We would not want to claim that the sole reason for Dietzgen becoming neglected was the fact that his materialism differed from that proclaimed by the State philosophers of Russia. Other factors entered into it too, including the difficult reading that his writings make. Also, with the decline of religion as a social force, working class militants have felt less need to arm themselves with a militant materialism such as Dietzgen provided. Nor is it now really necessary to ‘revive’ Dietzgen. For, as we have said, his basic views have been absorbed into modern science which in practice is both dialectical and materialist. For the historical record, though, it is worth paying a tribute to the working tanner and socialist militant who pioneered these views. Dietzgen, radical philosophers of today should be aware, was the man who first formulated the theory of dialectical materialism as an essential complement to Marx’s materialist conception of history.

1 Capital, Vol. I, p.16, FLPH, Moscow, 1961.
2 The Positive Outcome of Philosophy, Charles H. Kerr, Chicago, 1906. A second revised edition was published in 1928, from which the quotes for this article are taken. Philosophical Essays, Charles H. Kerr, Chicago, 1906 and 1917.
3 Positive Outcome p.63.
4 Science and Revolution p.161, Kerr, 1905.
5 ‘The Nature of Human Brainwork,’ Positive Outcome, p.102.
6 Ibid, p.101.
7 Essays, pp.139, 159, 208, 216 (231, 293, 294, 306, 307, 361).
8 ‘The Positive Outcome of Philosophy,’ Positive Outcome, p.425.
9 ‘Excursions,’ Essays, p.322.
10 ‘The Positive Outcome of Philosophy,’ Positive Outcome, pp.374-5.
11 ‘Excursions,’ Essays, pp.361-2 and p.310 respectively.
12 ‘The Positive Outcome of Philosophy,’ Positive Outcome, p.428.
13 ‘Excursions,’ Essays p.298.
14 ‘Excursions,’ Essays p.307.
15 ‘Excursions,’ Essays pp.311-12
16 ‘Excursions,’ Essays p.308.
17 ‘The Positive Outcome of Philosophy,’ Positive Outcome, p.368.
18 Ibid, p.418.
19 Lenin as Philosopher, New Essays, New York, 1948. A French translation was recently published by Spartacus, 5 rue Ste-Croix-de-la- Bretonnerie, Paris IVe. See also Pannekoek’s article ‘Society and Mind in Marxian Philosophy,’ Science and Society, 1, 4, 1937.
20 ‘The Proletarian Method,’ Essays, p.65 and p.61 respectively.
21 Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, p.290 and p.292 respectively, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1972.
22 Trotsky too was a mechanical materialist who believed that, in principle, it was possible to explain everything, from the movement of the planets to thinking and consciousness, in terms of the movement and properties of the tangible atomic particles he supposed the world to be made up of. See the extracts from two speeches made in 1925 and 1926, reproduced in The Age of Permanent Revolution: A Trotsky Anthology, edited and introduced by Isaac Deutscher, Dell, New York, 1964, pp.342-55.
23 Dietzgen was not entirely forgotten. See, for instance, ‘Empiricism and Ethics in Dietzgen’ by Loyd D. Easton, Journal of the History of Ideas, January 1958. Also the SPGB, and the World Socialist Party of the United States (from which this writer first learnt of the ideas of Dietzgen and Pannekoek), continued, and continue, to propagate his ideas.
24 There exist two English translations of Lenin’s work. The first, the one published in 1927, evidently had various inaccuracies. For instance, it has a passage ‘all materialists regard Dietzgen as an inconsistent philosopher’ which the second translates ‘materialists . . . regard Dietzgen as a philosopher who is not entirely consistent’!

See also:-


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Wages and exploitation

From the June 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard

Exploitation is the fundamental economic process underpinning all class societies. As its form has undergone change so too has the form of class society itself. In feudal society, for example, exploitation took the form of the serf having to work several days each week on the manorial estate, the proceeds of such labour going entirely to the manorial lord. In Marxist terms, this represented surplus labour as distinct from the necessary labour which the serf expended on producing his or her own means of subsistence during the other days of the week. In other words, there was a clear-cut time division of the working week which readily exposed the exploitative nature of feudal society.

In capitalism, workers also perform surplus labour but as Marx points out in Volume I of Capital "this fact is not directly visible" as the "money-relation conceals the uncompensated labour of the wage labourer". Lacking the means to provide for ourselves (which even the feudal serf had in the form of a small plot of land and access to pasture) we have to sell our working abilities - our labour power - to the capitalist owners of the means of production in return for a wage (or salary). Having purchased our labour power, the capitalists then require us to work for them.

In the course of working for them we produce a greater value in the form of the commodities we create than the value of the wages we receive. Out of this "surplus value", the capitalists obtain an income to support a lavish lifestyle but, more importantly, the necessary new capital to reinvest in their business enterprises. Indeed, the need to accumulate capital out of surplus value is the driving force of capitalism. It stems from the economic competition between enterprises which compels each enterprise to increase their market competitiveness or succumb to superior competition and go bankrupt. So, increasing the amount of capital at their disposal to invest in more productive technologies means increasing the amount of surplus value extracted from their workforce which in turn means, among other things, holding down their costs, including their labour costs - our wages!

As workers, we are exploited by virtue of the fact that we produce - and indeed must produce - surplus value for the capitalists to appropriate and use for their own ends. Unlike the feudal serf however, our necessary labour (the labour required to produce a value equivalent to our wage or salary) and our surplus labour (the labour required to produce surplus value) are not discontinuous in time but simultaneous - the point that Marx was driving at. This concept of exploitation is very different from the more popular version which equates exploitation with workers being paid low wages or being harshly treated by their employers. In our view, even if we were paid high wages and were relatively well treated, we would still be exploited. Exploitation, in other words, is something which is built into the very nature of the employment relation itself which implies the division of society into employers/owners and employees/non-owners and all this entails.

Nor do we advocate equal wages for all. That would in any case be impossible to achieve. Since wages are the monetary expression of the value of labour power and since it costs more to produce and maintain the labour power of a skilled worker than an unskilled worker, this is bound to be reflected in the different wages each receives. In short, labour power being a commodity, its price (our wages) must reflect on average the amount of socially necessary labour time (or value) embodied in it.

In socialism, however, labour power will no longer be a commodity to be bought and sold on a market. Indeed, the employment relationship as such would no longer exist by virtue of the fact that the means of production will have become the common property of society. Individuals will voluntarily contribute to the production of wealth and freely take what they require from the wealth thus produced.

Robin Cox

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Africa and the reality of capitalism

Africa, a continent with virtually all the resources it takes for development, is the worst hit by hunger, starvation, armed conflicts, instability, displacement and abject poverty. Politicians, jockeying for the little resources left by the capitalist class, display the politics of hide-and-seek, repression and oppression.

This is mainly because of the system which encourages capital accumulation and profit-seeking. The cumulative effect is flagrant corruption, deprivation, wastage and impoverishment which intensifies underdevelopment.

Worst of all, as Africa is helplessly dragged into the global free trade championed by the International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.) and World Bank, Africa's natural resources are further exposed for deep exploitation by international capitalism, which deteriorates the woes of the already impoverished African working class. This shows that the objective conditions of African socio-economic formations do not favour capitalism.

Capitalism and imperialism are perceived as the major cause of the current underdevelopment in Africa. Capitalist development has tended to reinforce the exploitative dependence that enables underdevelopment to persist. The fact remains that Africa will never witness any meaningful development under capital accumulation and market profit-seeking which breed dissension, division, greed, selfishness, tribalism, ethnic chauvinism and the like.

After the 22nd ECOWAS Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, one African president identified division and the exposure of the region's economy (market) to the Western capitalist class as the major source militating against the development of the region. But this is the base of capitalism—market profit-seeking and exploitation. It is not enough to identify these problems but more so to resolve them by helping to abolish the system that creates them.

The African working class have the cards in their hands for socialism if only they want it. Indeed, African conditions have revealed capitalism in its harshness and brutality: inequalities are too glaring. In the face of extremities of want and a meagre surplus, it is difficult to sell the idea that those who are in positions to accumulate should take what they can and leave the rest to suffer what they must. Africa's ruling class has run out of ideas for fashioning and inspiring a functional development strategy, limited as it is by the constraints of working with ideas compatible with the maintenance of the existing property relations.

The evils of capitalism are conspicuous in Africa and Africans have lost confidence in capitalism, exemplified by the renewed springing-up of working-class consciousness in South Africa, The Gambia, Namibia, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and others but are choked by the external forces of capitalism. Again, another problem for the transition to socialism is the state of the development of productive forces in Africa which may turn even the best of intentions into caricature. The lack of the development of the productive forces appears to encourage political authoritarianism and reduces "Socialism" to the management and redistribution of poverty.

But underdevelopment will surely persist if the existing capitalist relations of production are maintained, and if the dependence of Africa on international capital continues. Therefore, the overturning of the existing relations of production is necessary for overcoming underdevelopment. Socialism is inevitable if development is desirable.

It is obvious that in the event of protracted futile developmental efforts, the politics of anxiety has become institutionalised and increasingly the ruling class is displaying signs of paranoia while the subordinate classes have become frustrated, demoralised and available for induction into extremist movements as in Algeria, Senegal, Burundi, Rwanda and the like. The ruling class is fast psychologising failures which lie in the economic sphere.

The fact is that Africa has less hope of development if the property relations of production and distribution and the market system continue. The reverse is the solution—socialism abolishing capital accumulation and market profit-seeking and embracing production for need. The time is now to co-operate with fellow workers all over the world to establish global socialism.

Monday, June 4, 2007

That Price Problem

From the Western Socialist (the old name for our magazine) September 1947

Capitalist economists are more entertaining than the average radio program. They are always face to face with some profound problem that gives them a chance to fall over themselves in essaying the wrong answer. The difficulties surrounding the subject, however, in no way alter their attempts to accomplish the impossible. They assemble data and juggle statistics with a dexterity worthy of a happier conclusion.

Of late, the economists are concentrating on the problem of prices.
These, they contend, are much too high and must be lowered to a level where we can see them better. The price of labor power, in particular, has attained a status that threatens the disruption of our economy. Stratospheric wages must be scaled to an atmospheric altitude.

When prices go up the economists see black spots before their eyes that spell "inflation". When the prices come down the same experts view the silhouette of another "recession." A price movement in either an up or down direction is dangerous if not ruinous to the social system they represent. If they could only devise some sort of an economic gadget to get the prices to move sideways, then, equilibrium might be temporarily attained. But such a solution still suffers an unseemly delay.

To the socialist, versed in the economics of another school, the problem of prices does not represent this formidable appearance. To him prices are a phenomenon that can be explained through an understanding of economic laws. A knowledge of the nature of value, and value in exchange, gives us a good idea of what to expect when this exchange value is translated into terms of money, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Next, an acquaintance of market conditions is sufficient to expose the mystery that enshrouds the gyrations of price.

While there are various angles from which light can be thrown on the price problem, the one concerning market fluctuations offers the most profitable route for gauging the spiral curves that affect what we pay for commodities in every shop and store we enter. The law of supply and demand is the medium through which a variety of economic factors express themselves. This relation of supply to demand, as well as the other way around, provides the means for seeing what makes the market tick.

It does not require anything unusual, in the way of mental acumen, to grasp the fact that when a large quantity of an article is put on sale, and the demand for the same is not very keen, the price is certain to decline. When we use the term demand, in this connection, we mean of course an effective demand. There are unquestionably large number of "displaced persons" over the land, who could make use of the article so placed. Their demand is nullified by the lack of the means to consummate the transaction. In economics this kind of demand does not count. The only kind that does count is the kind that goes into the shop with the customers, lays the cash on the counter, and walks out with the article bought and paid for.

Just as a big supply of goods thrown on a market already groaning results in reduced prices, so does the reverse – a healthy demand running headlong into a piddling supply- have a tendency to make the cash register barometer go up. The market moves through natural causes in either direction, depending upon which side of the equation exerts the most pressure.

But it must also be noted that these two complimentary factors are not without their limitations. Neither has a roving commission to wander very far from the base; nor even to remain indefinitely in a given position. In a market that is not hampered by monopolistic restrictions, the natural flow of commodities will in a way balance the effect of the two factors.

Prices may rise sharply, but such an upward movement would tend to stimulate two things – buyers' resistance and more production. Prices may fall precipitately, but capitalism could not long function with the prices of commodities below the price of production and, at the same time, the lower price level induces more customers to move in the direction of the market. The center around which the spiral circulates can now be established as the price of production of the things involved.

And this, of course, presupposes capitalism in a relatively peaceful mood, and minus the periodic attacks of economic colitis to which it is always subject. When war occurs the circulatory mechanism is thrown out of gear. Even the law of supply and demand runs wilder than usual. Millions of men, in army and navy uniforms, make poor producers but good consumers. They are taken away from the field, the shop, and the factory but they must still be supplied with the means of life. The shortage of commodities which ensues, coupled with the fact that a larger civilian population has more in the way of dollars and cents to spend, forces prices if practically everything to move upward with seven league boots.

Here we must notice something anent the price of labor power, about which the excited experts are currently perturbed. True, wages have risen in the past seven years. Did the prices of hamburgers, potatoes, shoes and overalls remain anywhere near where they were when the war started? Then, we could consider that the workers economic status ended better than it began. But there's the rub. The pace of labor power moving upward has been dreadfully slow compared to that of the other commodities the workers must assimilate in order to exude the strength, endurance, and skill associated with such a productive entity.

Even the various governmental agencies concede that there is a marked differential between the recent advances of wages and other things. When prices are soaring labor power seems to suffer from a hesitancy in ascending the heights. When prices tumble labor power assumes facility for negotiating the bottom that is almost uncanny. This diminution in the "take home" pay is not necessarily accomplished by direct amputation of the wage scale. Other factors assist in attaining the same end, one potent example of which is unemployment.
J.A. McDonald
Western Socialist (September 1947)

Sunday, June 3, 2007


From the Education Series of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, a companion party of the World Socialist Movement.
Education Bulletin, Nº 2 [1979]



Alienation is one of those terms that started off as a philosophical concept and yet has now become almost a part of everyday speech. In this process new meanings have been ascribed to it and old meanings have been reinterpreted and broadened, so that, at times, it is hard to tell exactly what it does mean – other than denoting a general feeling of being dissatisfied in some way. Although at times it appears to be part of the common currency of everyday speech, it is also apparent that it has a close connection with various schools of thought that identify themselves with Marx where it has consequently taken on a distinctly political tone. But what is the relation between the term alienation and Marx's major theoretical contributions to the fight for socialism – the materialist conception of history and the theory of value? And of what significance can this term be now in the Party's work for socialism? This bulletin will attempt to look at some of these issues in an introductory way.

Marx's early writings

Marx put forward his theory of alienation at a time when he was still strongly influenced by Ludwig Feuerbach's book The Essence of Christianity, 1841, in which Feuerbach, an ex-student of Hegel, had gone beyond Hegel in his critical analysis of religion. Feuerbach argued that the notion of god is a product of the way people see themselves. He argued that people ascribe to god just those qualities that they see as being essentially human qualities.

" . . . in religion man necessarily places his nature out of himself . . . God is his alter ego, his other lost half" (p.195).

For Feuerbach, people alienate their essential being by attributing their human qualities to a god who is then worshipped on account of these qualities. In worshipping god, therefore, people are unconsciously worshipping themselves. Thus Feuerbach argues that religion is a form of alienation which prevents people from attaining realisation of their own species-being. Feuerbach's thinking has been described as humanist in that his theory of alienation is based on a theory of human nature as species-being, as innate to the human species.

Marx gave his fullest treatment of alienation in The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, 1844. At this time Marx was developing his critique of Feuerbach and Hegel whilst still being very much influenced by Feuerbach's work.

Marx had rejected Feuerbach's starting point of an abstract notion of human nature disconnected from the social and economic environment. Marx therefore attempted to look, not at people in the abstract, but at the position of the worker under capitalism. Therefore in the 1844 Manuscripts Marx starts his studies on political economy in order to understand the material conditions of the wage worker. It is in this context that Marx introduces the notion of estranged labour and alienation.

In the passage on "Estranged Labour" in the first manuscript, Marx outlines four different aspects of the alienation of workers under capitalism. Firstly, workers are alienated from the product of their labour.

"The alienation of the worker in his product means not only that his labour becomes an object, an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently, as something alien to him, and that it becomes a power of its own confronting him" (p. 108).

Marx seems to have three points in mind here. First, that the product of labour is legally owned by someone other than the workers who made it, and that in spite of their toil the workers are physically deprived of the fruits of their labour.

"So much does labour's realisation appear as loss of realisation that the worker loses realisation to the point of starving to death. So much does objectification appear as loss of the object that the worker is robbed of the objects made necessary not only for his life but for his work. Indeed, labour itself becomes an object which he can obtain only with the greatest effort and with the most irregular interruptions. So much does appropriation of the object appear as estrangement that the more objects the worker produces the less he can possess and the more he falls under the sway of his product, capital" (p. 108).

Second, Marx is also pointing to the absence of any control that workers have over the product, that, indeed, it is the product that controls them. The worker has become the slave to the product.

" . . . the object which labour produces – labour's product – confronts it as something alien, as a power independent of the producer" (p. 108).

Third, Marx is underscoring the fact that the working class can only have existence in capitalism in so far as they are workers. Being a worker comes first; being a person comes second.

"The height of this bondage is that it is only as a worker that he continues to maintain himself as a physical subject . . ." (p. 109).

The aspect of alienation follows from the first. Here Marx considers the alienation of the workers from their productive activity.

"If then the product of labour is alienation, production itself must be active alienation, the alienation of activity, the activity of alienation" (p110).

Here Marx argues that the kind of work and the condition of work that wage-workers have to accept is inimical to their essential-being. This work does not bring satisfaction but wears the worker down leaving on1y frustration.

" his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He is at home when he is not working, and when he is working he is not at home. His labour is therefore not voluntary, but coerced; it is forced labour. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it" (pp 110-111).

In the third aspect of alienation we can see more clearly that the influence of Feuerbach's humanism is still working strongly on Marx, Here Marx argues that workers are alienated from their essential species-being. By this Marx means that the character of every species is contained in the character or its life activity, and that the human species-being is "free conscious activity". But Marx argues that wage-labour does not conform to this notion or free and conscious activity, and is not, therefore, truly human activity.

"The object of labour is, therefore, the objectification of man's species life: for he duplicates himself not only, as in consciousness, intellectually, but also actively, in reality, and therefore he contemplates himself in a world that he has created. In tearing away from man the object of this production, therefore, estranged labour tears from his species life, his real objectivity as a member of the species and transforms his advantage over animals into the disadvantage that his inorganic body, nature, is taken away from him" (p114).

Finally, the fourth aspect of alienation follows on from the first three aspects, and is the "estrangement of man from man". In other words, instead of truly human relations between people, relations are governed by people's roles as agents in the economic process of expansion and accumulation of value.

Marx and the theory of alienation

As we have seen above, Marxs analysis of alienation is firmly embedded in a recognition of the material conditions of the wage-worker under early capitalism. This separates Marx most emphatically from all those writers on alienation from Hegel to the existentialists who see alienation as a necessary characteristic that haunts people through all time, irrespective of their material conditions. Instead of seeing alienation as part of the human condition, Marx argues that it is the result of a specific set of social relations where human productive activity is reduced to wage-labour and where the worker has no control over the means of production or productive activity.

In short, for Marx, the worker's alienation is the direct result of capitalist relations of production. Hence, for Marx, there is a solution. If alienation is caused by capitalist relations, then the removal of those relations will remove the alienation itself. Marx's solution, then, was not one of metaphysics, but the revolutionary transformation of social relations.

But there is one strand of thinking derived from Feuerbach that Marx had not completely discarded in the 1844 Manuscripts – the humanist notions of what it is to be "truly human". Marx argued that under capitalist social relations workers were prevented from leading "truly human" lives and that only a socialist/communist revolution could secure a "truly human" existence for them. This aspect of Marx's work has aroused considerable controversy, and a consequent ambivalence can also be seen in some of the literature published by the Party on this subject .

The problem is this. If according to the materialist conception of history it is argued that human nature is not pre-given to society, but is formed by it, and that the ideas prevalent in any age are largely determined by the material conditions of that age, then how can a humanist position be accepted with its notions of "species-being" and "truly human" activity determined abstractly for all time? In directly political terms this issue questions whether socialism is not only a means for ensuring control over the material means of life, but also represents a more "human" form of society in a broader sense.

Following on from this, there has been considerable controversy as to the value of Marx's early works such as the 1844 Manuscripts, and the theory of alienation in particular. Some have argued that they represent an important supp1ement to Marx's later works on political economy and politics where, they argue, the theory or alienation is itself still much in evidence, and represent a forceful insight into the human problems of living under capitalism. Indeed, the notion of alienation has been broadened to include many of the personal problems felt by people living and working under capitalism, from the boredom. of work to the loneliness of the concrete jungles where have to live.

Others however would regard the theory of alienation as a piece of juvenile criticism of the very Hegelian-Feuerbachian framework that Marx had still not completely rejected at that time. It is then argued that Marx himself later rejected these earlier works. Specifically, it is argued that Marx later rejected all remaining Feuerbachian notions when, together with Engels, he began to work out the materialist conception of history. For example, in the Sixth Thesis on Feuerbach, Marx is said to have directly repudiated any humanist notion of a human essence.

"Feuerbach resolves the religious essence into the human essence. But the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations".

Here Marx is saying that there is no such thing as the human essence. What people have taken to be the human essence has actually been dependent on the material and general conditions of that society, the "ensemble of the social relations".

Hence it is argued that, in spite of the presence of the notion of alienation in Marx's later writings, Marx abandoned his early theory of alienation. The presence of the notion of alienation in the later works is then explained away in some way. For example, it is argued that the concept of alienation shifted and no longer refers to it earlier formulation but instead refers only to the alienation of the worker from the product in that the worker does not own the product. Alternatively it is sometimes argued that the later presence of the concept of alienation represents some kind of sentimental attachment to or vestigial remain of Marx's earlier thinking and as such is largely redundant, having no place in the theoretical framework of the later works.

Alienation and socialism

Whether or not Marx came to reject the notion of alienation, a more important question for us to consider is that of its usefulness now in our work for socialism. Our fight for socialism is based on an economic and historical analysis of capitalism which shows that in a material sense, capital can never be made to work in the interests of the working class and that it is in our interests to overthrow it. But where does this leave the notion of alienation?

There is a strong feeling that a socialist society will allow a free development of human potential in a way that is impossible under capitalism and that alienation will be impossible in a socialist society. But is it possible to reconcile this aspect of the theory of alienation with a materialist analysis of human nature? One possible way forward to a reconciliation would be to argue that our notion of what it is to be is culturally conditioned. Thus the material advances that capitalist development has opened up have produced new notions of what it is to be human. But at the same time capitalism prevents the realisation of this for the working class. Indeed, this can be seen as one of its many contradictions. It is this alienation that the socialist revolution will abolish, whilst, in addition, new notions of what it is to live "humanly" will themselves be developed in the course of socialist development.


Page references in the text are from the following:
L. Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, Harper & Row, USA, 1957, first published 1841.
K Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts 1844, Lawrence & Wishart, 1973. Also available in vol 3 of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels Collected Works, L & W 1975.
K Marx, Sixth Thesis on Feuerbach in vol 5 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels Collected Works, L & W 1976.

Other references

Socialist Standard:
Sept 1973 Marx on Alienation
Jan 1974 Where do we go from alienation?
May 1978 What is Marxism?
May 1978 Dimensions of alienation
Feb 1979 Marx, People and Society
L. Althusser, 1977, For Marx, New Left Books, London.
I. Meszaros, 1972, Marx's Theory of Alienation, Merlin, London.
B. Ollman, 1976, Alienation, Cambridge University Press.