How to Change the World: Reflections on Marx and Marxism
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Eric Hobsbawm provides a fascinating and insightful overview of Marxism. He investigates its influences and analyses the spectacular reversal of Marxism's fortunes over the past thirty years.
the probability of revolution in Russia. Moreover, for the first time since 1815 a world war was visibly approaching, observed and analysed with remarkable prophetic acumen and military expertise by Engels. Nevertheless, as we have seen, the international policy of the powers now played a much smaller, or rather a more negative role in their calculations. It was considered chiefly in the light of its repercussions on the fortunes of the growing socialist parties and as an obstacle rather than as
General Council in 1850), but they did not, by definition, apply to situations different from the ones for which they were compiled – as Engels pointed out in his later thoughts on Marx’s Class Struggles in France. But post-Marxian situations were inevitably different from those in Marx’s lifetime, and insofar as they contained similarities, these could only be discovered by a historical analysis both of the situation Marx had faced and the one to which later Marxists sought his guidance. All
description and analysis of capitalism. Marx 136 Marx on pre-Capitalist Formations concentrated his energies on the study of capitalism, and he dealt with the rest of history in varying degrees of detail, but mainly in so far as it bore on the origins and development of capitalism. Both he and Engels were, so far as history goes, exceptionally well-read laymen, and both their genius and their theory enabled them to make immeasurably better use of their reading than any of their contemporaries.
which Marx 139 How to Change the World already noted as outstanding in the 1860s) and was as keenly aware as any modern scholar of the crucial importance of such economic documents of the dark ages as the Polyptych of Abbot Irmino of St Germain. However, one cannot escape the impression that, like Marx, his real interest lay in the ancient peasant community more than in manorial development. So far as primitive communal society is concerned, Marx’s and Engels’ historic views were almost
made the native inhabitants cultivate the soil for them.’ And again, about wage-labour: ‘The first capitalists already encountered wage-labour as a form. But they found it as something ancillary, exceptional or makeshift, or a point of passage.’64 This distinction between modes of production characterised by certain relations, and the ‘forms’ of such relations which can exist in a variety of periods or socio-economic settings, is already implicit in earlier Marxian thought. Sometimes, as in the