Understanding Socialism: Part Three.

The “Critique Phase” (1825–1870) .

Portraits of Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill in a gallery. Image Description: Portraits of Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill in a gallery.

Summary: We have the third installment in our socialism series, where we resume our journey beginning in 1825 and the collapse of Robert Owen’s New Harmony experiment. This next chapter introduces the work of John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx and touches on Mikhail Bakunin and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, both of whom we’ll explore more fully in Part Four. Not gonna lie, this series may never end. But this is a critical piece of the puzzle that we’re calling the “Critique Period,” lasting from 1825 to around 1870. This era is punctuated by widespread revolts in 1848 that inform some of the new thinking around capitalism and the plight of the working class — all leading into the explosion of socialist philosophy that hits the mainstream consciousness following the events of 1870 (again, for Part Four).

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In Part One of our series, we set the table for a lengthy discussion about one of the most amorphous political, economic and social concepts in history. To illustrate this, we began with the words of our audience, whom we asked to describe socialism as succinctly as possible. The answers were as diverse as they were thoughtful, and it truly set the tone for the series. We offered some of the more dubious modern claims about socialist theory from mainstream mouthpieces, talked about the importance of Bernie Sanders in normalizing concepts associated with modern socialism in the United States, and introduced some of the key concepts and vocabulary most commonly used in socialist economy theory.

Then, in Part Two, we went back to the origins of socialist theory by looking at the bridge between the Enlightenment period and the modern era with philosophers such as Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham, who in turn laid the groundwork for what would become socialist theory. This is where we introduced three men considered by some to be the progenitors of socialism: Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen.

My biggest takeaway from revisiting this period in history is just how profound their ideas were in a period when humanity was emerging from the feudal structures that dominated European culture for centuries. And, I should point out that most of our discussions center around the European experience with socialism, though we will cover other expressions of parallel thinking in other cultures and periods throughout history. But the concepts that we wrestle with today are most often associated with European philosophers and the influence they had on the world, so that’s what we’ve concerned ourselves with for the most part.

So, if Part Two described the foundational period, we’re heading into what I’m calling the “critique period” of socialism. The critique period is a relatively short period of time, but it is perhaps the most essential period to understand. The relevant philosophical period associated with Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen is the first part of the 19th Century; but, as we’ll see, there is a good deal of overlap between their productive years and what we’re about to cover.

I’ve chosen to bookend the foundational period and the critique period with two important events that relate to manifestations of socialist theory—Robert Owen’s New Harmony experiment in 1825 and the Paris Commune in 1871. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of these years and the enduring influence of the philosophers most associated with this period, each of whom builds upon the concepts of our founding trio and, in some cases, collaborates with them. In terms of the nomenclature, please know that these aren’t formal periods or names that you’ll find associated in any texts. It’s a shorthand for how I’ve personally come to understand the evolution of socialism. I call it the critique period for a couple of reasons.

First off, is that the philosophers we’re going to cover are primarily offering a critique of capitalism and striving toward the development of a general system theory that can be applied in political, social and economic realms. During this time, we witness both great collaboration and disagreement among leading philosophers striving to create these systems and wind up exiting this period with several expressions; mostly notably utilitarianism, socialism and anarchism. There’s a ton of overlap between them, and each will ultimately spawn scores of new doctrinal tributaries.

The other reason to consider this more of a critique period is that these theories are in development. They’re responding to both the foundational theories and unfolding realities of a maturing capitalist society. But they haven’t yet reached the application phase, or what we’ll call the “praxis” phase, to borrow from Marx. That’s what we’ll cover next, from the Paris Commune through the Russian Revolution.

So, we’re going to actually end this episode right before the Paris Commune of 1871 because, in so many ways the inflection point in European history and socialism as a burgeoning doctrine is the year 1870, one of the most pivotal years in modern history. For the American UNFTR audience, imagine what 1945 is to American imperialism, 1968 is to the civil rights movement or 2001 is to civil liberties all crammed together in a single momentous year. Truly fascinating stuff.

In terms of the protagonists, as expansive as this era is, I’m going to limit our discussion to four main philosophers. A few words on this approach before we begin Part Three in earnest.

We’re going to cover the works of John Stuart Mill and (finally) Karl Marx. These two giants will kick off the critique period; and two other massively influential theorists, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin, will kick off Part Four and serve as our bridge from the critique to praxis.

Students of Marxism, socialism, anarchism or history in general might find my omissions a bit startling. It would be impossible to fully explore the voluminous literature and philosophers whose work contributed so much to the conversation. So, I narrowed it down to these four for reasons that will hopefully make sense as we move forward. But Part Four will also introduce us to a slew of other big names.

Briefly, I believe that, in totality, Mill, Marx, Proudhon and Bakunin represent the most significant and enduring contributions to our understanding of socialism and challenged establishment thinking in a way that altered the course of history. And, in many ways, where they diverged wound up being more important and instructive than where they were aligned. Because, after this period, socialist theory would splinter into multiple disciplines, much like the major religions of the world did throughout history.

And, in the truest actualization of dialectical materialism, this brief period is a study of both the material influences of philosophers upon the world and the world upon them. In this exchange, these four challenged the foundations of modern society, culture, government, religion and morality in such a manner that we feel the resonance of their words to this very day.

Chapter Six: Revolutionary Conditions.

In the beginning of the 19th Century, the European continent was convulsing with new political, spiritual and social energy. The trio of Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen set the world’s collective imagination on fire, and new theorists were poised to build on their proposals for how to organize a new world.

Since we’re choosing 1825 and the collapse of Owen’s American New Harmony experiment as our jumping off point, it’s important to get a feel for the times. So, before we unpack the theories of our main characters today, let’s talk about the circumstances in which they were writing as intellectual heirs to the founders of socialist thought.

As I mentioned, there is a good deal of overlap between our theorists, and in many cases they were friends, enemies and even collaborators. For context, Beccaria and Bentham were born in 1738 and 1748, respectively. Saint-Simon, Hegel, Owen and Fourier were born about a half a generation later, just enough time to soak in the lessons of these founders and read their work in real-time in their formative years. The philosophers in the critique period were all born after the turn of the century and were most active from New Harmony through to our 1870 ending point, with the exception of Proudhon, who died in 1865 but was incredibly influential until that point, and perhaps even more so thereafter.

What Mill, Proudhon, Bakunin and Marx were experiencing during these years is so important because European life was advancing at a revolutionary pace unmatched in recorded history. For one, the population of Europe doubled in the 19th Century, from 200 million to 400 million, thanks to advances in industrial agriculture and the widespread use of coal, among other factors. These inventions facilitated industrialization on a colossal scale and contributed to the seismic changes in class structures, the nature of labor, urbanization, transportation and the development of international trade. It should be noted that this growth in population occurred in spite of historic European migration to America and other destinations.

Of course, not all of Europe developed in lockstep. There were surges and depressions, shifting power dynamics, wars, famines—all the normal events that punctuate the course of history. So, as a practical matter, I’m going to talk in generalizations. But, to be clear, political, industrial and social developments varied dramatically from England to Italy, Russia to France, and so on. But, on the whole, what our theorists were observing was nonetheless extraordinary, and they were able to connect several dots when committing their observations to the page.

In order to stay focused, I’m not going to cover major geopolitical or religious changes, though they certainly contribute to the evolving social landscape. For our purposes, there are a handful of critical innovations that ultimately impact the social and economic elements of socialism because they facilitated growth that would ultimately challenge the traditional political and religious structures that dominated European culture for centuries prior.

Perhaps the most significant ingredient in large scale economic growth, beyond technological innovations, was something we largely take for granted. Private property and its associated legal protections. English common law and the Napoleonic Codes would set the template for most of the developed world in terms of property rights and help usher in a slew of economic innovations in banking as a result.

Property could be pledged. From this tangible asset, one could build through leverage; and so long as the newly formed codes protected this underlying asset, one could also then take risks and take advantage of yet another innovation: the shareholder.

Private property pledged to a banking institution opened the burgeoning petit and haute bourgeoisie to the capital markets and allowed them to create corporate structures that could also invite capital from outside shareholders. If you’ve ever wondered what the Marxist obsession with the concept of private property is all about, this is it. Serfs and peasants didn’t possess land or assets and were therefore left behind in the industrial fervor. But, from the peasant class, there emerged a new class of laborer, consigned to working in urban factories and trading one form of serfdom for another.

This is the economic liberalism that Adam Smith envisaged. The innovations that Jeremy Bentham was reacting to. The very real circumstances that moved from the theoretical to the tangible. And it was the very real effects of economic liberalism that Marx, Mill, Proudhon and Bakunin saw unfolding in front of their eyes, often to their horror.

“It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood, it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage. It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and vast piles of building full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness. It contained several large streets all very like one another, and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and to-morrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next.”

This passage is from Charles Dickens’ introduction to Hard Times in 1859. Few described the soot and grime as vividly as Dickens. The cultural impact of such descriptions were as profound in Europe as Jacob Riis’ tenement photographs or Upton Sinclair’s fiction in America at the turn of the 20th century. Against this backdrop, our theorists chronicled the emergence of the new working class, subjected to horrific conditions in factories and urban hellscapes and experiencing the underbelly of capitalism. The new form of serfdom was called wage slavery. Hundreds of thousands of able bodied working men moved from the fields to factories within a generation, and as the capitalists thrived, they searched for ways to increase profits and productivity, leading to yet another devastating development that sent children and women into the factories, sometimes alongside the men and sometimes in place of them.

The economic dislocation of the newly formed labor class was horrifying. But, in this, our philosophers saw potential. The potential to form a new center of political and economic power in the hands of the working class. Without the laborer, the factories could not run. And the new working class was more literate than the peasant laborers just a generation or two before them.

The working class was a tinderbox, ready to explode at any moment because the industrial economy differed from the sleepy agrarian economy. It was subject to boom and bust cycles, shocks that often occurred with devastating frequency over a matter of a few short years.

In short, the risks and stakes were so much higher for the new working class than even the peasant class that had come before. This modern economic dislocation was wholly unnatural, brought about by the artificial forces of capitalism, as opposed to the natural occurrences that plagued feudal economies of the past. Sure, droughts, famines and diseases had devastating effects on feudal economic systems, but everyone experienced them. They were indiscriminate. On the contrary, in the early stages of capitalist industrialization, the bourgeoisie was far more insulated from periodic shocks due to the nature of capital markets, assets and private property protections. For this, let’s bring in one of our protagonists to explain the risk differential between the new laborers and the capitalist class. Writing at the time of Dickens, here’s Mikhail Bakunin from an article titled “The Capitalist System,” believed to be written sometime in the late 1840s:

“But the capitalist, the business owner, runs risks, they say, while the worker risks nothing. This is not true, because when seen from his side, all the disadvantages are on the part of the worker. The business owner can conduct his affairs poorly, he can be wiped out in a bad deal, or be a victim of a commercial crisis, or by an unforeseen catastrophe; in a word he can ruin himself. This is true. But does ruin mean from the bourgeois point of view to be reduced to the same level of misery as those who die of hunger, or to be forced among the ranks of the common laborers? This so rarely happens, that we might as well say never. Afterwards it is rare that the capitalist does not retain something, despite the appearance of ruin. Nowadays all bankruptcies are more or less fraudulent. But if absolutely nothing is saved, there are always family ties, and social relations, who, with help from the business skills learned which they pass to their children, permit them to get positions for themselves and their children in the higher ranks of labor, in management; to be a state functionary, to be an executive in a commercial or industrial business, to end up, although dependent, with an income superior to what they paid their former workers.”

Today, Bakunin is recognized as one of the fathers of anarchism, but he is also considered one of the most influential political and economic theorists of all time who offered several important contributions to socialist theory and challenged many of Marx’s most significant assumptions. And, with that, let’s fully bring our philosophers into the conversation to eavesdrop on the most important conversations in the development of socialism.

Chapter Seven: Marx and Mill.

“The materialist doctrine—that humans are the product of circumstances and education and that changed humans are thus the product of changed circumstances and education—forgets that circumstances are changed by humans and that the educator himself must be educated. It must therefore split society into two parts—of which one is elevated above society (for example in Robert Owen). The convergence of the changing of circumstances and of human action can only be understood and comprehended rationally as revolutionary practice.”

This excerpt from Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach in 1845 reflects the changing attitudes among the classes, altered by the circumstances of education and industrialization. As much as philosophers were imagining new social, political and economic structures, the newly formed working classes were changing, as well and agitating for change. It’s in this agitation that we find one of the most significant shifts among the great thinkers of the time. The commonality in their critiques is in many ways obvious. Where their paths diverge is in their beliefs about the future.

Turns out, the working class had its own ideas of where the capitalist system would go next.

To elucidate the emergence of socialist thought, let’s start with the oldest of the theorists who is least associated with socialism but provides a crucial bridge from some of our founding philosophers, most notably, Jeremy Bentham.

One of Bentham’s associates and mentees was a young John Stuart Mill. As I mentioned, Mill is sometimes excluded from the socialist conversation—he’s most associated with utilitarianism—but he’s a pure starting point for us because he paid little attention to our other philosophers while landing on very similar ideas.

James Mill was relatively poor, but had the good fortune of befriending one of England’s most prominent citizens, Jeremy Bentham. Mill himself possessed a keen mind and diligent work ethic and, together with his friend Bentham, they guided Mill’s prodigious son John Stuart, who would take up the mantle from Bentham to become one of Britain’s brightest intellectual lights.

Born in 1806, John Stuart Mill was treated from an early age to a radical and profound education, which included time in France at the age of 14, where he not only became proficient in French but mesmerized by French culture and politics. The forward thinking nature of Mill’s education included Bentham’s utilitarianism and David Ricardo’s synthesis of politics and economics. Over time, he would develop his own thoughts on the nature of capitalism and the developing industrial landscape and meld the teachings of his famous mentor and taskmaster father into his own unique brand of utilitarianism.

Mill pushed beyond the limited scope of philosophical morality to extend the concept of utility into all areas of life and governance from jurisprudence, democracy, worker’s rights and, most notably, women’s suffrage. You might have noticed, by the way, that our discussions thus far exclude female philosophers. That’s deliberate, because the fight for equal rights and suffrage was still in its infancy. As we’ll see in the next sections, some of the most fierce advocates for socialism and anarchism were women who linked worker’s rights and suffrage together in a profound way to advance the cause of feminism. So many consider Mill to be one of the earliest and most significant figures in the feminist movement, with one of his most well-known works titled The Subjugation of Women (1869) considered a cornerstone in the feminist literary canon.

Here’s Mill in his own words:

“The principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes—the legal subordination of one sex to the other—is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.”

In his attitude toward women, we see Mill’s mind at work with respect to human rights and class distinctions. He would carry this over to the industrial sector when examining the plight of the laborer, giving over their time and labor to a selfish breed of capitalists. Remember that there were already thought experiments and actual experiments such as New Harmony that attempted to contrive situations that alleviated the brutal conditions of the workplace by placing control in the hands of the proletariat.

So, Mill had a frame of reference and ideas to build upon. Rather than the more utopian visions that had been espoused, or the top down dictatorial concepts of someone like Owen, Mill believed in a more gradual evolution toward worker cooperatives. This could take the form of profit sharing or actual ownership over the means of production, or perhaps both. But he was practical enough to suggest that this would take time and education and that it was too early in the transition between peasant to industrial worker to assume that any such transformation would be possible in the immediate.

So, while it’s fair and accurate to put Mill in more of the moral philosopher bucket and append him firmly to utilitarianism, it’s important not to pigeonhole him. His ability to project the utilitarian ethos onto the trials and tribulations of the working class is revolutionary in its own right, and in many ways he would prove to be prescient in terms of his assessment of the working class ability to revolt against their circumstances. So, what we get from Mill is more procedural than doctrinal. A way of looking at the world and making connections between previously disparate philosophies.

Although Karl Marx was 12 years Mill’s junior, they were productive around the same time. And while there’s very little evidence that Mill studied Marx or even cared about his writing, we know for sure that Marx knew a lot about Mill but didn’t think much of him. In fact, Marx referred to Mill as shallow. But he wasn’t just picking on Mill; this was par for the course with Marx, as we’ll soon talk about.

Philosophically, Marx and Mill likely shared more in common than not. But Marx had a habit of treating contemporaries with disdain, partly out of professional jealousy and partly because he was pointedly against anyone who suggested that the transition toward economic liberty for the working class could be anything but revolutionary. He would soften this stance toward the end of his life, but most of his writing was electrifying and caustic when it came to the nature of uprisings. Evolution and incrementalism was antithetical to his world view, and he wasn’t shy about criticizing nearly everyone around him.

In his early years, when he first connected with his lifetime collaborator Friedrich Engels, Marx routinely felt obscured by those he considered to be lesser minds. So, he would sometimes write scathing rebukes of others’ work in the hopes of drawing them into a scrum and siphoning off their popularity.

Marx was the original influencer.

While there’s no question that his strategy worked and he had the brilliance to back up his pomposity, it sometimes worked too well. Time after time, Marx would find himself in exile by both friend and country.

Karl Marx grew up in Germany and received a great education, but was unremarkable in school. His family had tried to push him towards studying law, but he chose philosophy instead and thus consigned himself to a life of squalor. If not for the financial support he received from his friend Engels, Marx may very well be an unknown. Especially because my man had a little difficulty holding down a job, and his revolutionary ideals made him a pariah throughout Europe.

In fact, because he was prolific, Marx would often find work in journalism, but would constantly run afoul of authority in doing so and was therefore exiled from cities and entire countries. First, he was kicked out of his home country. So he went to France. Shortly thereafter, the French showed him the door, so he moved to Belgium, where he was suspected of arming radicals and once again kicked out and kind of snuck back to France.

Importantly, we’re in the 1840s, and the backdrop to his repeated exiles is important. It would be a stretch to suggest that Marx’s writing to this point, while radical and provocative to be sure, had any demonstrable effect on the world around him and the protests that began to occur throughout all of Europe. But it was enough to convince Marx that he was onto something. We’ll come back to the political setting in a moment.

We rejoin the Marx caravan in 1849, when he was exiled from France once again and took his family to London, where he would reside for the remainder of his life.

Just the year before, he penned The Communist Manifesto, the work that would ultimately set him apart from the other scholars of the day, though few recognized it at the time. It’s perhaps the lightest of his works in terms of scholarship, but has endured as a revolutionary handbook that inspires to this day, no matter how wrong his prognostications ultimately were. The intellectual heft we associate with Marx came in the form of his other works, with Das Kapital being the most prominent.

But, throughout his life, Marx was seen as somewhat of an ornery figure. He drank. He smoked. Partied. Was uncomfortable speaking in public, preferring instead to write terrible things about people that were supposedly friends. Some posthumous texts about him are seething with bitterness and anger toward the man, calling him tyrannical, doctrinal and self absorbed. Others are far more kind, noting that despite the struggles and financial hardships he brought upon them, his family adored him and he was considered to be quite endearing in private.

Regardless of who Marx was as a person, the real takeaway here is that Marx’s influence in his life was shockingly small, considering how he is perceived today. Had subsequent philosophers not split so fiercely in their interpretations of his work, therefore amplifying it during a time when true revolution was sweeping across Eastern Europe, one must wonder whether we’d be reading him at all. I think it’s absolutely fair to state that if not for Engels’ support and dedication to completing, organizing and preserving his work, Marx may indeed be a footnote. As Louis Menand wrote in The New Yorker:

“Apart from his loyal and lifelong collaborator, Friedrich Engels, almost no one would have guessed, in 1883, the year Marx died, at the age of sixty-four, how influential he would become. Eleven people showed up for the funeral. For most of his career, Marx was a star in a tiny constellation of radical exiles and failed revolutionaries (and the censors and police spies who monitored them) but almost unknown outside it. The books he is famous for today were not exactly best-sellers. “The Communist Manifesto” vanished almost as soon as it was published and remained largely out of print for twenty-four years; “Capital” was widely ignored when the first volume came out, in 1867. After four years, it had sold a thousand copies, and it was not translated into English until 1886.”

Okay, so let’s get back to timing for a moment. Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848 during a time of great upheaval throughout Europe. Germany, Austria, Hungary, France, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Poland, Denmark—all in dramatic turmoil. Some nations experienced riots, some were overthrown. It was worker pandemonium all across the continent due to a few factors. There was a financial panic that gripped most of the European economies, as was the norm in the early stages of industrialization. This led to famine in rural areas that had already seen a decrease in population, and therefore viable workers, in the great urban migration to factories. But the urban areas were rocked with unemployment and thus faring no better. Those who were working were laboring in conditions that were truly the stuff of nightmares, and so discontent set in all over Europe. And smack dab in the middle of this, Karl Marx writes the Communist motherfucking Manifesto. (I think that’s translated from the original German.)

While the book didn’t ignite further demonstrations or prove to be true with respect to the grand uprising of the proletariat to overthrow the nations of the world, it would add credibility to Marx’s legend. It was a pocket guide to revolution that inspired both admiration and criticism and contributed as much to the splinter in Marxian interpretations as it did to coalesce radicals and revolutionaries around the notion of socialism and/or communism.

Let’s quickly dig into a few key takeaways from Marx’s work that we can use as building blocks. Recall from Part One, we mentioned that Marx was a student of Hegel and the concept of material influence on the world. Marx’s vision of materialism followed that the conditions dictated by the capitalists would alter the very nature of the working class and convert them into a revolutionary mindset. This mindset would forge a bond across nation states, and worker solidarity would ultimately lead to the proletariat seizing the mechanisms of state power. This, of course, did not happen. And we’ll talk more about why in later sections.

Marx was also decidedly wrong when it came to predicting that mechanization of plants and factories would ultimately kill profits. His theory was that if labor is what adds value to a commodity, then without labor, the value must therefore decline. In reality, the opposite wound up being true, and a century later economists like Schumpeter would drill into the nature of creative destruction to explain why this is the case.

Where Marx was absolutely right was in describing the volatile nature of capitalism and the tendency of bust cycles to rob the working class:

  • He understood the powerful nature of private property in a way that few others could really grasp at the time.
  • He predicted worker discontent and subsequent upheaval as a result.
  • He gave the world a practical understanding of the value of labor, surplus value as something fungible that could just as well belong to the laborer as the capitalist.
  • And Marx gave us the words to describe the fatigue that had already set into the factory worker.

In the Communist Manifesto, he declared:

“Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!”

In this way, Marx would easily become propagandized over time as a revolutionary rather than the practical philosopher he was.

As often happens over time, several generations of writers and activists have attempted to interpret Marx’s work in order to craft some sort of overarching ideology. But this is a fool’s errand. For, as prolific as Marx was, he was loath to put forth a doctrine or what we would consider Marxism. Atheists have attempted to cling to his work because of his dismissive attitude toward organized religion with statements like, “Christian Socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.” And, while he was Jewish, which made him the subject of contempt among many of his contemporaries, he rarely professed any fealty to his religion.

To my mind, Marx’s strength was in his power of observation. His ability to contextualize the rational and practical sentiments among the working class are the most enduring aspects of his work and place him among the giants of the intellectual class.

“In countries where modern civilization has become fully developed a new class of petty bourgeois has been formed, fluctuating between proletariat and bourgeoisie and ever renewing itself as a supplementary part of bourgeois society. The individual members of this class, however, are being constantly hurled down into the proletariat by the action of competition, and as modern industry develops they even see the moment approaching when they will disappear complete as an independent section of modern society, to be replaced in manufactures, agriculture and commerce by overseers, bailiffs and shopmen.”

It’s possible that Marxism as an ideology is a construct that has been thrust upon him and not something of his own invention. There exists countless critiques of Marx’s vast body of work, with many attempting to craft an ideology out of his observations. The opinions are as diverse as Marx’s work itself and offer no more insight into his heart than a re-reading of his works. It’s possible that one does not exist. There is no definitive interpretation. No ideology. And this is one of the reasons we’re still talking about him to this day. His contributions were so rich and abundant, and his criticisms so scathing, it’s difficult to find anyone before and since him that so thoroughly inspired and confounded the masses. The inability to definitively tie Marx to an idea has meant he somehow belongs to all of us and none of us.

In the next Part, we will connect Marx specifically to Proudhon and Bakunin, who are in many ways far more important to the events that would transpire between 1870 and 1917. So, we will begin Part Four by looking at how these two men as contemporaries of Marx and Mill more aptly captured the zeitgeist of the working class and predicted the rupture among the working class that gave rise to the organized labor movement and new ideas about how to organize industrial society. Proudhon and Bakunin will be our bridge to the rise of unions, state socialism, anarchism and a new breed of social philosophy characterized by figures like Peter Kropotkin, Karl Kautsky, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky. And an important development in the feminist and anarchist movement with the likes of Emma Goldman.

The inflection point of the next period, that we’ll refer to as the Praxis period, begins with the ever important turning point of 1870 and the Paris Commune in 1871. The peasant and factory uprisings throughout Europe in 1848 planted the seeds of revolution that inspired Marx and Engels, as well as Proudhon and Bakunin. And these seeds would blossom in 1870 and ’71 in a way that would transform the political and economic world.

Here endeth Part Three.

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