Thursday, July 14, 2011

Frederick Engels on the Historical Development of Modern Socialism

By Thomas Riggins
Dissident Voice
July 14th, 2011

Robert Owen's New Lanark

In the first chapter of Part Three of his classic work “Anti-Dühring”, Engels discusses the origins of the modern socialist movement. He begins with the enthronement of “Reason” by the pre-revolutionary 18th century French philosophers who thought that only reason could be used to answer any of the questions of existence.

After the overthrow of Louis XVI and the abolition of the monarchical French state, a new state was constructed by the revolutionaries — one based on “eternal” reason and designed to be completely rational. The spiritual progenitor of this state was Rousseau’s book “The Social Contract”. But “eternal” reason turned out to be simply the explanation of existence from the point of view of the rising bourgeois class. The complexity of the new political reality they had created quite eluded them as the contradictions between their class and the newly conscious masses of the disposed poor of Paris and the countryside began to manifest themselves. The wretched of the earth exerted themselves and the bourgeois rational state fell apart and morphed into the Reign of Terror under which the masses, for a moment, gained “the mastery” and saved the Revolution.

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