Proudhon and Marx

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PROUDHON AND MARX

No discussion of Proudhon would be complete without mentioning Marx particularly as Marx’s discussions of Proudhon’s ideas “span almost the entirety of his career”[17] The first public work on Marxism, The Poverty of Philosophy, was directed against Proudhon while jabs at him surface in Capital, Theories of Surplus Value and throughout his correspondence. For most Marxists (and even some anarchists) all they know of Proudhon has been gathered from Marx and Engels.

Suffice to say, the accounts of Marx and Engels are highly distorted and almost always charged with scorn.[18] This is unsurprising given that they considered Proudhon as their main theoretical competitor within the socialist movement. Indeed, at the start of the Franco-Prussian war Marx wrote that the French needed “a good hiding” and that a German victory would “shift the centre of gravity of West European labour movements from France to Germany” which would “mean the predominance of our theory over Proudhon’s.[19]

Be that as it may, and regardless of the misrepresentations that Marx inflicted on Proudhon, it is also fair to say that he developed many of the themes he appropriated from Proudhon (“One of Marx’s most important teachers and the one who laid the foundations for his subsequent development.”[20]). As Marx suggested:

Proudhon’s treatise Qu’est-ce que la propriété? is the criticism of political economy from the standpoint of political economy... Proudhon’s treatise will therefore be scientifically superseded by a criticism of political economy, including Proudhon’s conception of political economy. This work became possible only owing to the work of Proudhon himself.[21]

Marx may well have done this, but in so doing he distorted Proudhon’s ideas and claimed many of his insights as his own. To set the record straight is not a call for Marx to be rejected in favour of Proudhon, it is a call for an honest appraisal of both.

The awkward fact is that many key aspects of Marxism were first suggested by Proudhon. For Benjamin Tucker “the tendency and consequences of capitalistic production... were demonstrated to the world time and time again during the twenty years preceding the publication of ‘Das Kapital’” by Proudhon, as were “the historical persistence of class struggles in successive manifestations.” “Call Marx, then, the father of State socialism, if you will,” Tucker argued, “but we dispute his paternity of the general principles of economy on which all schools of socialism agree.”[22] Moreover “Proudhon propounded and proved [the theory of surplus value] long before Marx advanced it.”[23]

Tucker had a point. It was Proudhon, not Marx, who first proclaimed the need for a “scientific socialism.”[24] It was Proudhon who first located surplus value production within the workplace, recognising that the worker was hired by a capitalist who then appropriates their product in return for a less than equivalent amount of wages. Marx, a mere 27 years later, agreed that “property turns out to be the right, on the part of the capitalist, to appropriate the unpaid labour of others or its product, and the impossibility, on the part of the worker, of appropriating his own product” as “the product belongs to the capitalist and not to the worker.”[25] He also repeated Proudhon’s analysis of “collective force” again without acknowledgement.[26] In The Holy Family he was more forthcoming:

Proudhon was the first to draw attention to the fact that the sum of the wages of the individual workers, even if each individual labour be paid for completely, does not pay for the collective power objectified in its product, that therefore the worker is not paid as a part of the collective labour power.[27]

Marx mocked that Proudhon “might perhaps have discovered that this right [of free competition] (with capital R) exists only in the Economic Manuals written by the Brothers Ignoramus of bourgeois political economy, in which manuals are contained such pearls as this: ‘Property is the fruit of labour’ (‘of the labour’, they neglect to add, ‘of others’).”[28] This would be the same Proudhon who proclaimed, three decades before, that “Property is the right to enjoy and dispose of another’s goods, – the fruit of another’s labour”?[29] He also ridiculed Proudhon for the axiom that “all labour must leave a surplus” by stating he “attempts to explain this fact” in capitalist production “by reference to some mysterious natural attribute of labour.” Yet Marx points to the “peculiar property” of labour that results in “the value of the labour-power” being “less than the value created by its use during that time”[30] which sounds remarkably like Proudhon’s axiom.

Little wonder Rudolf Rocker argued that we find “the theory of surplus value, that grand ‘scientific discovery’ of which our Marxists are so proud of, in the writings of Proudhon.”[31]

Comparing Proudhon’s critique of property with Marx’s we discover that “Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriation.”[32] Which echoes Proudhon’s argument that possession does not allow the appropriation of the means of life (land and workplaces) as these should be held in common.

Much the same can be said of the co-operative movement. For Marx it was “one of the transforming forces of the present society based upon class antagonism. Its great merit is to practically show, that the present pauperising, and despotic system of the subordination of labour to capital can be superseded by the republican and beneficent system of the association of free and equal producers.”[33] In the 1880s, Engels suggested as a reform the putting of public works and state-owned land into the hands of workers’ co-operatives rather than capitalists. Neither he nor Marx “ever doubted that, in the course of transition to a wholly communist economy, widespread use would have to be made of co-operative management as an intermediate stage” although “initially” the State “retains ownership of the means of production.”[34] That these echoed earlier comments by Proudhon goes without saying.

Marx argued that credit system presents “the means for the gradual extension of co-operative enterprises on a more or less national scale” and so the “development of credit” has “the latent abolition of capital ownership contained within it.” It “constitutes the form of transition to a new mode of production” and “there can be no doubt that the credit system will serve as a powerful lever in the course of transition from the capitalist mode of production to the mode of production of associated labour.”[35] Proudhon would hardly have disagreed. For Marx, abolishing interest and interest-bearing capital “means the abolition of capital and of capitalist production itself.”[36] For Proudhon, “reduction of interest rates to vanishing point is itself a revolutionary act, because it is destructive of capitalism.”[37]

Marx asserted that “Proudhon has failed to understand” that “economic forms” and “the social relations corresponding to them” are “transitory and historical,” thinking that “the bourgeois form of production” and “bourgeois relations” were “eternal.”[38] Yet Proudhon explicitly argued that the “present form” of organising labour “is inadequate and transitory.”[39] Hence the need to “organise industry, associate labourers and their functions.” Association “is the annihilation of property” and this “non-appropriation of the instruments of production” would be based on “the equality of associates.”[40]

Marx ignored this. He commented upon Proudhon’s exchange with Bastiat many times and in all of them overlooked that Proudhon was discussing a post-capitalist economy. Proudhon was well aware that under capitalism “a worker, without property, without capital, without work, is hired by [the capitalist], who gives him employment and takes his product” and his wages fail to equal the price of the commodities he creates. “In mutualist society”, however, “the two functions” of worker and capitalist “become equal and inseparable in the person of every worker” and so he “alone profits by his products” (and the “surplus” he creates).[41] So much for Marx’s assertion that this exchange showed Proudhon “want[ed] to preserve wage-labour and thus the basis of capital.”[42] As he acknowledged elsewhere, when “the direct producer” is “the possessor of his own means of production” then he is “a non-capitalist producer.” This is “a form of production that does not correspond to the capitalist mode of production” even if “he produces his product as a commodity.”[43]

Marx usually argued that Proudhon was “the scientific exponent of the French petty bourgeoisie, which is a real merit since the petty bourgeoisie will be an integral part of all impeding social revolutions”[44] and wrote The Philosophy of Poverty accordingly. Yet when it comes to Proudhon, Marx never expressed Capital’s clear distinction between commodity production and capitalism and presents him as advocating wage-labour. Proudhon explicitly did not and argued that while interest was justified in previous societies, it was not in a mutualist one and lambasted Bastiat for refusing to envision anything other than capitalism – a refusal Marx shared in this instance. So when Marx interpreted Proudhon as defending “the productive capitalist in contrast to the lending capitalist” and argued that ending interest “in no way affects the value of the hats, but simply the distribution of the surplus-value already contained in the hats among different people”[45] he utterly missed the point. Marx did, once, vaguely recognise this:

In order that it should be impossible for commodities and money to become capital and therefore be lent as capital in posse [in potential but not in actuality], they must not confront wage-labour. If they are... not to confront it as commodities and money... labour itself is not to become a commodity... this is only possible where the workers are the owners of their means of production... Mr. Proudhon’s hatters do not appear to be capitalists but journeymen.[46]

Precisely, Herr Marx, precisely…

So Marx, like Proudhon before him, differentiated between possession and private property and argued that co-operatives should replace capitalist firms. Both recognised that capitalism was but a transitory form of economy due to be replaced (as it replaced feudalism) with a new one based on associated rather than wage labour. While their specific solutions may have differed (with Proudhon aiming for a market economy consisting of artisans, farmers and co-operatives while Marx aimed, after a lengthy transition period, for centrally planned communism) their analysis of capitalism and private property were identical. Understandably, given the parallels, Marx was keen to hide them.

In terms of politics, Marx also repeated Proudhon. When Marx placed “the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves”[47] in the statues of the IWMA, the mutualist delegates must have remembered Proudhon’s exhortation from 1848 that “the proletariat must emancipate itself without the help of the government.”[48]

Both argued that the state was an instrument of class rule, Proudhon in 1846 and Marx a year later in reply to that work.[49] Then there is Proudhon’s call for a dual-power within the state in early 1848 and support for the clubs which Marx subsequently echoed in 1850 in an address to the Communist League.[50] With the Paris Commune of 1871, this appropriation became wholesale. Marx eulogised the political vision of the Communards without once mentioning that their decentralised, bottom-up system based on federations of mandated and recallable delegates who combined executive and legislative powers had been publicly urged by Proudhon since 1848.

Not bad for someone dismissed as an advocate of “Conservative, or bourgeois, socialism”![51] Of course, all this could be just a coincidence and just a case of great minds thinking alike – with one coming to the same conclusions a few years after the other expressed them in print…

The Poverty of Philosophy

Given all this, we can see the point of Proudhon’s comment, scribbled as a marginal note in his copy of Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy, that “what Marx’s book really means is that he is sorry that everywhere I have thought the way he does, and said so before he did. Any determined reader can see that it is Marx who, having read me, regrets thinking like me. What a man!” And it is to that book which we need to turn, as no account of Proudhon’s ideas would be complete without a discussion of what the Frenchman proclaimed “a tissue of vulgarity, of calumny, of falsification and of plagiarism” written by “the tapeworm of socialism.”[52]

The Poverty of Philosophy[53] was written in reply to Proudhon’s System of Economic Contradictions. What to make of it?

First, it must be remembered that this work is not really about Proudhon but Marx. Proudhon’s fame is used to get people to read the work of an unknown radical thinker and for that thinker to expound his ideas on various subjects. Second, it is a hatchet-job of epic proportions – although as few Marxists bother to read Proudhon as Marx has pronounced judgment on him, they would not know that and so they contribute to “the perpetuation of a spiteful distortion of his thought” produced by Marx’s “desire to denigrate” his “strongest competitors.”[54]

While, undoubtedly, Marx makes some valid criticisms of Proudhon, the book is full of distortions. His aim was to dismiss Proudhon as being the ideologist of the petit-bourgeois[55] and he obviously thought all means were applicable to achieve that goal. So we find Marx arbitrarily arranging quotations from Proudhon’s book, often out of context and even tampered with, to confirm his own views. This allows him to impute to Proudhon ideas the Frenchman did not hold (often explicitly rejects!) in order to attack him. Marx even suggests that his own opinion is the opposite of Proudhon’s when, in fact, he is simply repeating the Frenchman’s thoughts. He takes the Frenchman’s sarcastic comments at face value, his metaphors and abstractions literally.[56] And, above all else, Marx seeks to ridicule him.[57]

Here we address a few of the many distortions Marx inflicted on Proudhon and see how his criticism has faired.[58]

Marx quotes Proudhon as stating that the economists “have very well explained the double character of value; but what they have not set out with equal clearness is its contradictory nature” and then goes on to state that, for Proudhon, the economists “have neither seen nor known, either the opposition or the contradiction” between use-value and exchange-value. (37-8) Marx then quotes three economists expounding on this contradiction. Except Proudhon had not suggested that economists had “neither seen nor known” this, but that they had “not set out with equal clearness” this contradiction. Presumably Marx hoped that readers would be distracted by his witticism to notice that he had lambasted Proudhon for something he had not actually said. Nor did Proudhon “say that J.B. Say was the first to recognise ‘that in the division of labour the same cause which produces good engenders evil.’” (140) Rather Proudhon wrote that “Say goes so far as to recognise that in the division of labour the same cause which produces the good engenders the evil.”[59] Which makes the subsequent quoting of economists showing that Say was not the first to recognise this fact misleading.

Marx repeatedly accused Proudhon of advocating ideas which he rejected in his book. We find Proudhon discussing the suggestion of an economist, M. Blanqui, who argued for “an increase of wages resulting from the co-partnership, or at least from the interest in the business, which he confers upon the labourers.” Proudhon then asked: “What, then, is the value to the labourer of a participation in the profits?” He replied by providing an example of a mill, whose profit amounts to “annual dividend of twenty thousand francs.” If this were divided by the number of employees and “by three hundred, the number of working days, I find an increase... of eighteen centimes, just a morsel of bread.” He concluded that this would be “a poor prospect to offer the working class.”[60] All of which makes this comment by Marx incredulous and misleading:

If then, in theory, it suffices to interpret, as M. Proudhon does, the formula of the surplus of labour in the sense of equality without taking account of the actual relations of production, it must suffice, in practice, to make among the workers an equal distribution of wealth without changing anything in the actual conditions of production. This distribution would not assure a great degree of comfort to each of the participants. (109-10)

Moreover Proudhon was well aware of the actual relations of production. He indicated that with “machinery and the workshop, divine right – that is, the principle of authority – makes its entrance into political economy. Capital... Property... are, in economic language, the various names of... Power, Authority.” Thus, under capitalism, the workplace has a “hierarchical organisation.”[61] He was well aware of the oppressive nature of wage labour. As Proudhon argued in volume 2 of Système des Contradictions Économiques:

Do you know what it is to be a wage-worker? It is to labour under a master, watchful for his prejudices even more than for his orders... It is to have no mind of your own... to know no stimulus save your daily bread and the fear of losing your job.

The wage-worker is a man to whom the property owner who hires him says: What you have to make is none of your business; you do not control it.[62]

Which raises the question of what Marx had in mind if not those relations within the workplace? Proudhon was well aware that exploitation occurred there as workers had “parted with their liberty” and “have sold their arms” to a boss who appropriated their product and “collective force.”[63] To suggest that Proudhon was blind to what happened in production under capitalism is false.

Then there is the perennial Marxist assertion that Proudhon wished to return to pre-industrial forms of economy.[64] Marx suggests “[t]hose who, like Sismondi, would return to the just proportion of production, while conserving the existing bases of society, are reactionary, since, to be consistent, they must also desire to re-establish all the other conditions of past times.” (73) Yet Proudhon explicitly rejected such an option, using almost the same words as Marx did.[65] Unsurprisingly, given that Proudhon argued that workers’ co-operatives were essential to ensure the application of large-scale technology.

Marx then goes on to argue that either you have “just proportions of past centuries, with the means of production of our epoch, in which case you are at once a reactionary and a utopian” or “you have progress without anarchy: In which case, in order to conserve productive forces, you must abandon individual exchanges.” (73) This comes from the extreme technological determinism Marx expounds:

The social relations are intimately attached to the productive forces. In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, their manner of gaining a living, they change all their social relations. The windmill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist. (119)

This is nonsense, with Marx himself subsequently acknowledging that co-operatives show “[b]y deed instead of by argument” that “production on a large scale... may be carried on without the existence of a class of masters employing a class of hands.”[66] In them “the opposition between capital and labour is abolished,” they are “a new mode of production” which “develops and is formed naturally out of the old.”[67] So the steam-mill can be run without the industrial capitalist, by a workers association. Which was precisely what Proudhon did advocate:

it is necessary to destroy or modify the predominance of capital over labour, to change the relations between employer and worker, to solve, in a word, the antinomy of division and that of machinery; it is necessary to ORGANISE LABOUR.[68]

Marx’s comments were related to his dismissal of Proudhon’s “constituted value” which he asserted was incompatible with an advanced economy. Commodities “produced in such proportions that they can be sold at an honest price” was “only possible in the epoch in which the means of production were limited, and in which exchange only took place within very narrow limits.” (72-3) Yet Proudhon has had the last laugh for, as capitalism has developed, the market price of goods has been replaced to a large degree with administered prices. Empirical research has concluded that a significant proportion of goods have prices based on mark-up, normal cost and target rate of return pricing procedures and “the existence of stable, administered market prices implies that the markets in which they exist are not organised like auction markets or like the early retail markets and oriental bazaars” as imagined in mainstream economic ideology.[69] Proudhon’s notion of an economy based on the “just price”, one which reflects costs, has become more possible over time rather than less as Marx had asserted.

Another area where Marx’s critique has proven to be lacking was his argument in favour of central planning. Given the actual experience of planned economies, it is amusing to read him suggest that “[i]f the division of labour in a modern factory, were taken as a model to be applied to an entire society, the best organised for the production of wealth would be incontestably that which had but one single master distributing the work, according to a regulation arranged beforehand, to the various members of the community.” (147) In reality, such a centralised system would be, and was, swamped by the task of gathering and processing the information required to plan well. Proudhon’s decentralised system would be the best organised simply because it can access and communicate the necessary information to make informed decisions on what, when and how to produce goods.[70]

The core of Marx’s critique rested on a massive confusion of commodity production (the market) and capitalism. Yet in 1867 he was clear that wage-labour was the necessary pre-condition for capitalism, not commodity production, as “the means of production and subsistence, while they remain the property of the immediate producer, are not capital. They only become capital under circumstances in which they serve at the same time as means of exploitation of, and domination over, the worker.” When the producer owns his “conditions of labour” and “employs that labour to enrich himself instead of the capitalist” then it is an economic system “diametrically opposed” to capitalism.[71]

While Proudhon was in favour of commodity production, he was against wage-labour, that is labour as a commodity. Yet this did not stop Marx asserting that in Proudhon’s system labour was “itself a commodity.” (55) Marx did let that awkward fact slip into his diatribe:

[Proudhon] has a misgiving that it is to make of the minimum wage the natural and normal price of direct labour, that it is to accept the existing state of society. So, to escape from this fatal consequence he performs a volte-face and pretends that labour is not a commodity, that it could not have a value... He forgets that his whole system rests on the labour commodity, on labour which is trafficked, bought and sold, exchanged for products... He forgets all. (62-3)

Or, conversely, Marx remembers that Proudhon’s whole system rests on abolishing labour as a commodity…

In short, the future Marx, with his comments on artisan production and co-operative workplaces, shows how wrong he was in 1847 to assert against Proudhon that the “mode of exchange of products depends upon the mode of production... Individual exchange also corresponds to a determined method production, which itself corresponds to the antagonism of classes. Thus there is no individual exchange without the antagonism of classes.” (84)

This is not the only area in which the Marx of 1847 is in direct contradiction to his more mature future self. Marx proclaims against Proudhon that “relative value, measured by labour-time, is fatally the formula of the modern slavery of the worker. Instead of being, as M. Proudhon would have it, the ‘revolutionary theory’ of the emancipation of the proletariat.” (55) Come 1875, Marx-the-older proclaims in his Critique of the Gotha Programme the use of labour-notes in the period of transition to communism.[72]

Key aspects of Marx’s later analysis of capitalism can be found in Proudhon’s work. Marx mocks the suggestion that labour “is said to have value, not as merchandise itself, but in view of the values supposed to be contained in it potentially. The value of labour is a figurative expression, an anticipation of effect from cause” which “becomes a reality through its product.”[73] Marx argues:

All the reasonings of M. Proudhon confine themselves to this: We do not purchase labour as an instrument of immediate consumption. No, we buy it as an instrument of production... Merely as a commodity labour is worth nothing and produces nothing. M. Proudhon might as well have said that there are no commodities in existence at all, seeing that every commodity is only acquired for some use and never merely as a commodity. (62)

Marx-the-older, however, argued that the “purchaser of labour-power consumes it by setting the seller of it to work” and so “becomes in actuality what previously he only was potentially,” a worker who produces “a specific article.”[74] Thus Proudhon “anticipated an idea that Marx was to develop as one of the key elements in the concept of labour power, viz. that as a commodity, labour produces nothing and it exists independently of and prior to the exercise of its potential to produce value as active labour.”[75] Marx-the-older used this insight to argue that labour-power “is purchased for the production of commodities which contain more labour than [is] paid for” and so “surplus-value is nothing but objectified surplus labour.”[76] In this he repeated Proudhon who argued that non-labour incomes are “but the materialisation of the aphorism, All labour should leave an excess.” As “all value is born of labour” it meant “that no wealth has its origin in privilege” and so “labour alone is the source of revenue among men.”[77] Thus profit, interest and rent came from the capitalist appropriating the surplus-labour and collective force of workers:

the worker... create[s], on top of his subsistence, a capital always greater. Under the regime of property, the surplus of labour, essentially collective, passes entirely, like the revenue, to the proprietor: now, between that disguised appropriation and the fraudulent usurpation of a communal good, where is the difference?

The consequence of that usurpation is that the worker, whose share of the collective product is constantly confiscated by the entrepreneur, is always on his uppers, while the capitalist is always in profit... and that political economy, that upholds and advocates that regime, is the theory of theft.[78]

This analysis of exploitation occurring in production feeds into Proudhon’s few tantalising glimpses of his vision of a free society.[79] Thus we discover that as “all labour must leave a surplus, all wages [must] be equal to product.” To achieve this, the workplace must be democratic for “[b]y virtue of the principle of collective force, labourers are the equals and associates of their leaders” and to ensure “that association may be real, he who participates in it must do so” as “an active factor” with “a deliberative voice in the council” with everything “regulated in accordance with equality.” These “conditions are precisely those of the organisation of labour.” This requires free access and so all workers “straightway enjoy the rights and prerogatives of associates and even managers” when they join a workplace. This would ensure “equality of fortunes, voluntary and free association, universal solidarity, material comfort and luxury, and public order without prisons, courts, police, or hangmen.”[80]

Needless to say, Marx ignores all this. Once acknowledged, it is incredulous to assert that Proudhon “borrows from the economists the necessity of eternal relations” and to end its troubles society has “only to eliminate all the ill-sounding terms. Let it change the language” and that such “activities form an essential part of the argument of M. Proudhon.” (137, 61) In reality, Proudhon denounced “the radical vice of political economy” of “affirming as a definitive state a transitory condition – namely, the division of society into patricians and proletaires.” He noted that the “period through which we are now passing” is “distinguished by a special characteristic: WAGE-LABOUR.”[81] His arguments for socialisation and self-management prove that he sought to end bourgeois relations within production. As Marx-the-older admitted, capital’s “existence” is “by no means given with the mere circulation of money and commodities.” This “new epoch” in social production requires the proprietor finding “in the market” the worker “as seller of his own labour-power.”[82] So “if one eliminates the capitalists, the means of production cease to be capital[83] and when “the workers are themselves in possession of their respective means of production and exchange their commodities with one another” then these commodities “would not be products of capital.”[84]

This is not to suggest that Marx’s diatribe did not make some valid points. Far from it. Revolutionary anarchists would agree with Marx on unions being “a rampart for the workers in their struggle with the capitalists” and that “the determination of value by labour time, that is to say the formula which M. Proudhon has given us as the regenerating formula of the future, is... only the scientific expression of the economic relations of existing society”. (187, 74) Such valid points should not blind us to the distortions that work contains, distortions which ultimately undermine Marx’s case.

Significantly, while Marx’s 1847 work has become considered by Marxists as a key document in the development of his ideas, at the time its impact was null. Proudhon remained one of Europe’s foremost socialist thinkers and Marx’s attack “sank into obscurity” and “by 1864 his name meant nothing to the new generation of working-class leaders” in France.[85] It is only after the eclipse of Proudhon by social democracy that it became better known. It undoubtedly helped that, unlike when it was written, few would have read Proudhon’s two volumes.

Proudhon carefully read and annotated his copy of The Poverty of Philosophy. Sadly a family crisis followed swiftly by the outbreak of the February Revolution of 1848 stopped a reply being written. Proudhon, rightly, thought social transformation more pressing than bothering with an obscure German communist. That he never did so is one of the great lost opportunities of socialism as it would have clarified some of the issues raised by Marx and allowed Proudhon to extend his critique of state socialism to Marxism.

Finally, given how many people think Marx was extremely witty in reversing the sub-title of Proudhon’s book, it should be pointed out that even in this he was plagiarising Proudhon:

Modern philosophers, after collecting and classifying their annals, have been led by the nature of their labours to deal also with history: then it was that they saw, not without surprise, that the history of philosophy was the same thing at bottom as the philosophy of history.[86]

All in all, it is hard not to disagree with Edward Hyams summation: “since [The Poverty of Philosophy] no good Marxists have had to think about Proudhon. They have what is mother’s milk to them, an ex cathedra judgement.”[87]

End Notes

[17] Thomas, 193

[18] In response to a comment in Marx’s “Political Indifferentism” on Proudhon’s attitude to strikes even the editor of a collection of Marx’s works had to state “[t]o give Proudhon his due, he was not so much justifying the actions of the French authorities as exposing the ‘contradictions’ he saw as an inevitable evil of the present social order.” (The First International, 330)

[19] Marx-Engels Collected Works 44: 3-4

[20] Rudolf Rocker, “Marx and Anarchism”, The Poverty of Statism (Orkney: Cienfuegos Press, 1981), Albert Meltzer (ed.), 77

[21] Marx-Engels Collected Works 4: 31

[22] Liberty 35 (1883): 2

[23] Liberty 92 (1887): 1

[24] What is Property?, 264

[25] Capital 1: 730-1

[26] Capital 1: 451. Engels in one of his many introductions to Capital notes that “passages from economic writers are quoted in order to indicate when, where and by whom a certain proposition was for the first time clearly enunciated.” (111) Clearly Marx could not bring himself to acknowledge that Proudhon had first formulated this part of his critique of capitalism.

[27] Marx-Engels Collected Works 4: 52

[28] The First International, 331

[29] What is Property?, 171

[30] Capital 1: 1011-2, 270, 731

[31] “Marx and Anarchism”, 77

[32] Marx-Engels Reader, 486

[33] The First International, 90

[34] Marx-Engels Collected Works 47: 239, 389

[35] Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (London: Penguin Books, 1981) 3: 571-2, 572, 743

[36] Theories of Surplus Value (London: Lawrence and Wishart , 1972) 3: 472

[37] quoted in Edward Hyams, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Revolutionary Life, Mind and Works (London: John Murray, 1979), 188

[38] Marx-Engels Collected Works 38: 97, 103

[39] System of Economical Contradictions, 55

[40] What is Property?, 310, 363, 372, 365

[41] Oeuvres Complètes 19: 295, 305

[42] Theories of Surplus Value 3: 525

[43] Capital 3: 735, 1015

[44] Marx-Engels Collected Works 38: 105

[45] Capital 3: 467

[46] Theories of Surplus Value 3:525-6

[47] The First International, 82

[48] quoted in Woodcock, Proudhon, 125. The expression “the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself” was first used by the remarkable socialist-feminist Flora Tristan in 1843. (Mattick, 333)

[49] Although Marx, unlike Proudhon, repeatedly stated that universal suffrage gave the working class political power and so could be used to capture the state. See section H.3.10 of An Anarchist FAQ.

[50] Marx-Engels Reader, 507-8.

[51] Marx-Engels Reader, 496

[52] quoted in Thomas, 211

[53] All quotes unless indicated otherwise are from this work.

[54] Vincent, 230

[55] “He wished to soar as a man of science above the bourgeoisie and the proletarians; he is only the petty bourgeois, tossed about constantly between capital and labour, between political economy and communism.” (137) If Marx embodied proletarian socialism, regardless of whether the proletariat knew this or not, then Proudhon must, by definition, represent another class. Given the starting assumption, what other conclusion could flow?

[56] Thus we find Marx ignoring Proudhon’s analysis of classes in capitalism in favour of this assertion: “What... is this Prometheus resuscitated by M. Proudhon? It is society, it is the social relations based on the antagonism of classes... Efface these relations and you have extinguished the whole of society, and your Prometheus is nothing more than a phantom.” (109) It is almost redundant to note that Proudhon analysed the class nature of capitalist society in System of Economic Contradictions. His discussion of machinery, for example, shows that he was well aware that capitalists introduce it to increase their profits at the expense of the workers.

[57] Somewhat ironically, Marx himself has suffered from being subject to the approach he inflicted on Proudhon. Just as Marx mocked Proudhon for his high-level of abstraction when the Frenchman used the notion of a consuming and producing Prometheus to illustrate some of his points, so the German has been subject to similar abuse by bourgeois economists for his high level abstractions in Volume 1 of Capital which they stress are unrealistic. Poetic Justice, some would say.

[58] We have taken the liberty of adding footnotes to the extracts of System of Economic Contradictions we provide to show what Marx claimed and what Proudhon actually wrote.

[59] System of Economical Contradictions,  134

[60] System of Economical Contradictions,  145

[61] System of Economical Contradictions,  203-4

[62] Oeuvres Complètes 5: 230-1. So much for the assertion by Marxist Paul Thomas that “Proudhon had no real conception of alienation in the labour process.” (243)

[63] System of Economical Contradictions,  301-2

[64] “M. Proudhon has not got beyond the ideal of the petty bourgeois. And in order to realise this ideal he thinks of nothing better than to bring us back to the companion, or at most the master, workman of the Middle Ages.” (157)

[65] “M. de Sismondi, like all men of patriarchal ideas, would like the division of labour, with machinery and manufactures, to be abandoned, and each family to return to the system of primitive indivision, – that is, to each one by himself, each one for himself, in the most literal meaning of the words. That would be to retrograde; it is impossible.” (System of Economical Contradictions,  206)

[66] The First International, 79

[67] Capital 3: 571

[68] System of Economical Contradictions,  244

[69] Frederic S. Lee, Post Keynesian Price Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 212

[70] See section I.1.2 of An Anarchist FAQ.

[71] Capital 1: 938, 931

[72] Discussing communism as “it emerges from capitalist society” Marx argued that the individual producer... receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such-and-such an amount of labour” and “draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as the same amount of labour cost.” So (“obviously”!) “the same principle prevails as that which regulates the exchange of commodities, as far as this is exchange of equal values. Content and form are changed” as “nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals, except individual means of consumption” (Marx-Engels Reader, 529-30)

[73] System of Economical Contradictions,  101

[74] Capital 1: 283

[75] Allen Oakley, Marx’s Critique of Political Economy: intellectual sources and evolution, 1844 to 1860 Vol. 1, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984), 118

[76] Capital 1: 769, 325

[77] System of Economical Contradictions, 56-7

[78] Oeuvres Complètes 5:246-7

[79] While Marx suggests that Proudhon’s work was presenting a panacea to society’s ills, it was primarily a work of critique: “We will reserve this subject [the organisation of labour] for the time when, the theory of economic contradictions being finished, we shall have found in their general equation the programme of association, which we shall then publish in contrast with the practice and conceptions of our predecessors.” (System of Economical Contradictions,  311)

[80] System of Economical Contradictions, 340, 411, 312, 307, 37

[81] System of Economical Contradictions, 67, 198 (translation corrected)

[82] Capital 1: 274

[83] Theories of Surplus Value 3: 296

[84] Capital 3: 276

[85] Archer, 50

[86] System of Economical Contradictions,  171

[87] Hyams, 92

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