NOTES ON THE GERMAN IDEOLOGY

"Socialism requires the most submissive prostration of all citizens before the absolute State as has never yet been realised".

(Nietzsche, "Human All Too Human").

"Communism rightly revolts against the oppression I experience from individual proprietors, but more horrible is the might it puts into the hand of the collectivity".

(Max Stirner, "The Ego and Its Own").

"The German Ideology" clearly expresses the Marxist anti Nietzschean position and disputes the importance of ideas in life and history.

"the premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, but real premises, from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing, and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way." (p34)

Also p37,

"If the conscious expression of the real relations of these individuals is illusory, if in their imagination they turn reality upside down, then this in turn is the result of their limited mode of activity, and their limited social relations arising from it".

Out of all the desires one might have, the attention is focussed quite narrowly upon survival values. Rationality is held to dictate that values be determined by economic position. Some desires are to be renounced, happily discarded. It may be wondered what compensation there ever be for the renunciation of desire. There are compensations, which are connected, on a Stirnerite or Nietzschean view, with the whole process of submission. I might take a submissive attitude with respect to an idea. I renounce desire if I believe it is right to do so. A happiness is promised conditional on our renouncing certain objectives. These would include dynastic ambitions, desire for life after death, for original creative achievement, ie ambitions incompatible with materialism and equality. How is this to be done? By reason of a belief, a value that is accepted, it seeming necessary that it be so. It is slavish because there is so much renunciation in it, though it is denied that it involves any renunciation at all.

The project of trying to argue what fundamental ideas we should put in our minds, is what Marx is essentially opposed to, what he argues against in the German Ideology. Our fundamental ideas are, he says, already fixed, they exist as material realities even before they are abstracted.

Marx would be the first to argue that surface reality, 'illusory' reality, conscious reality, may differ from what he considers to be scientific, 'real' reality. This is a question of what should be versus what is. The difficulties here faced by Marx are closely similar to those faced by Nietzsche. By Marx's own standards, he claims to have discovered what is. How do we move from here to what should be in the mind? Both Marx and Nietzsche believe in a reality, which is not conscious reality, behind conscious beliefs. Both therefore have the task of explaining clearly why conscious reality should change; why my conscious reality should be like this rather than that.

From Nietzsche's perspective communism is intrinsically a doctrine of and for slavery. He is not concerned to deny whether it might suit the 'consumptive starvelings' for whose interests Marx and Engels claim to speak. On Nietzsche's principles, it does not necessarily follow that if you are rational, you have to be a Nietzschean, because scientific enlightenment is not the only rational aim. We may concede to Marx and Engels that the consumptive starveling has rational motives for supporting revolution, dogma, ignorance, and unenlightenment.

I can debate with you provided we share certain aims in common. As for converting the world, that is a distinct objective, rooted in distinct criteria. You and I are not consumptive starvelings. There are a great many purposes we might have. The question arises of what ideas in our mind might best serve the achievement of these ends. Some such ideal of freedom to determine the ideas in our minds seems to have been behind renaissance magic and neoplatonism. Max Stirner argues that at each stage of development new 'ghosts' spectres etc, arise to chain and restrain the will. He dealt with the age of Feuerbach. Today perhaps it is different ideas such as feminism and Freudianism, that enthral us with spurious claims to rationality. The Pied Piper voices of Marx and Freud serve to obscure the clear purpose of the will.

The capacity of what Marx accounts to be the significance of life to come to consciousness as such is dependent on whether we are persuaded of its truth. Whether life is futile, whether death makes it futile, cannot be said to be a question that has been already answered. Medical materialism takes a strictly empirical attitude to questions of the futility of life but raises a further question, the ad hominem question as to whether this doctrine is itself able to do the trick.

Effectively the communist promise of paradise is predicated on a denial of certain expressions of the will, including many people's opinions of themselves. The strength with which these are able to assert themselves is undermined through promise of paradise. Power and ambition face obstacles in the path, seemingly overcome by the mirage of paradise. The values one is engaged in resisting acquire an illusory strength. The major problems of life appear to be solved, by means of a simplification, a la Walt Disney. These simplifications we feel tempted to describe as slavish. The will to power of a slave is clearly restricted in its expression. There is a melancholy attached to his lot, but he is thereby enabled to abandon himself to the sensual paradise, as with jazz. The slave can simplify greatly, just because some of his potential desires have simply no prospect of realisation.

Marx writes disparagingly of the satisfaction in outmoded values, pride of ancestry, for example. Pride is not just in aristocratic lineage, English, Jewish, or peasant ancestry may give pride to some people. To find out whether there is any worthwhile pride lower down the social scale, imagine one is God, incarnating into human life, or the purusha of the hindus, creating the world through his desire for experience. How low would one want to go? Why restrict oneself to the aristocratic? Might one even want to be working class? One may feel that people take pride in the working class, faute de mieux. In history there have been many different sources of identity. There was a pride and a happiness peculiar to any past age, subsequently lost.

It is not only the Marxist picture that dismisses all this. There is the European 'federalist' idea of dissolving present nationalities in a new superstate, in which the dominant value would be that the only important thing is to be more wealthy. People of the past we can see today, if we travel to poorer, less developed countries, ancient cities like Srinigar, Ishfahan. There is an interpretation of what is left behind as rubbish, as if only the future, what is to be achieved, has any value. The future justifies itself on overcoming the past.

Marx treats Stirner's book pedantically. Of course Stirner's history is not academically sound, but to take issue with him on the details of that is a sign that Marx takes him very seriously. The happiness Marx offers is a servile happiness. In criticising Stirner's psychologically illuminating account of the consciousness of childhood and youth, he sneers that the child is most interested in his toys, and the young man in chasing young women. Here is one of the main points at issue, the question of a will to power.

Marx has a lot to say about illusion and reality, what people think their values are and what they really are. So the sort of unconscious reality represented by a will to power is not altogether alien to him. To suggest that true values are no more than toys for a child or chasing young women for young men, implicitly denies the will to power. The young man wants young women, but not on anyone's terms. Much as he rejects the present order, Marx is as despotic as any authoritarian conservative. He envisages a happiness in which the will to power is suppressed, ie. considered not to be necessary, all happiness is to be obtained within the framework of a given set of values. So the values proclaimed may seem straightforward and distinct. Pursue your economic interests and live according to the pattern. It is this pattern itself that a certain cast of mind finds so monumentally obstructive.

Marx describes a pattern of what true values are, they are determined by circumstances and they are 'real', that is what authenticates them. Because of this 'reality' they are what one is supposed to put in one's mind, to live by consciously, and believing in which, one is to get one's happiness. From Nietzsche's point of view, such happiness is slavish, because based on the repression of desires the fulfilment of which might bring great satisfaction. Marx's 'reality' is like a repressive God, the happiness he offers like the millenarian fantasies that appealed to slaves and the oppressed. Any kind of slave values offer a way of putting a check upon dissatisfaction. Wherever satisfaction is very easily induced there may arise a suspicion of slave values. We can see how Marx attempts to undermine the perspective from which such judgements appear possible.

Here is a question of points of view, the Stirnerite or the Nietzschean, versus the Marxist. What ideas can we put in our mind? Marx aims to eliminate Fortune from life. He emphasises the insecurity of certain modes of existence, such as what he calls the petit bourgeois. Any idea of a perennial philosophy, or an ageless wisdom, he would utterly reject. He attacks Kant's 'Critique of Practical Reason' as the ineffectual ideology of burghers and bureaucrats not yet become bourgeois. He sees an attack on the ideology of the French Revolution as pointless. The Revolution was produced by economic forces, and its ideology likewise. Rousseauism at the time, was politically inevitable. Stirner's idea of 'liberation' he sees as merest illusion.

The behaviour of the bourgeoisie he describes as an extreme anti semite would that of the Jews. Nevertheless, developing stock markets he sees as a more genuine activity than the speculations of German philosophy. But all this has implications into the future. Criticism of the reigning idea of western culture has been a German speciality. The Germans have been best at it, as with Spengler, Nietzsche, Weininger, Stirner,Schopenhauer. Ideas are criticised from supposedly objective criteria. But Marx says these criteria do not exist. The bourgeois ought to put all his energy into building factories and speculating on the stock exchange. The grosser features of culture are hardly to be criticised because they make no difference, they are entirely ineffectual.

When Marx gets to the real meat of Stirner's attack on communism he is very rattled. Of course he would say that Stirner's idea of communism, the supposed communist paradise, which he finds so oppressive, is only a phantom of his own mind, a kind of straw man, for if Marx saw communism in the way that Stirner saw it, he would have to agree with Stirner. The imagined communist paradise must not be seen as religion. Religion is certainly not how Marx sees it, he sees it as science, or as others might say, magic.

Stirner imagines how a communist society would work, Marx would view it differently. Virtually his only argument against Stirner, apart from the appeal to some prejudices of popular morality, is the assertion that Stirner's perspective is only a class point of view, that of petit bourgeois handicraftsmen. There is an uneasy mix of paradise for all and kill the bourgeois.

The same argument could be put with respect to Marx as to Nietzsche. Class interest and conscious class interest correspond to will to power and conscious will to power. One could even take the same talk about the three levels. This can be illuminating. What ideas should we put in our minds? What is the superiority of accepting Marx's perspective, what guarantee is there that one's interest and happiness are best served by adopting these ideas rather than some apparent illusion?

And what of the ad hominem argument Marx himself applies? How can he himself escape the perspective of his class? How is it possible to identify with the interests of a class to which you do not belong and thereby acquire its perspective? Are Marx and Engels gifted with extraordinarily sympathetic dispositions? If mere sympathy can bestow this perspective, why should it be so alien to the likes of Stirner?

Marx treats him in places as a class enemy, to be opposed and destroyed by all means possible.

Earlier Marx suggests than religion is not something it makes sense to oppose before the time is ripe. At some times and places, if you feel out of tune with orthodoxy, it is a sign that you do not understand your interests properly. What are those interests? Your class interests. But do these supposed class interests necessarily coincide with my happiness? May I not even be a Schopenhaueriandecoy duck?

Marx would seem to require a renunciation of past sources of satisfaction like dynastic ambitions. He finds it easy to attack these on straightforward moral grounds. He compares the planter from the southern USA, visiting England and complaining about the restrictions on 'larruping your nigger'.

Replying to Stirner's objections to communism, Marx is like a Jesuit in his passion to examine and destroy an opponent's point of view. Stirner's view of communism is natural to some people, they are hardly to be shifted, it is deep rooted in their personalities. There are those who would face martyrdom for it.

Marx wages total war. Stirner's point of view is something he can absolutely not tolerate. He is virulently opposed to Stirner's reduction of his own ideas, his 'realities', his 'truths', communism, to religious dogmas. He attributes this on Stirner's part to a naive idealism, a vast overestimation of the power of mere thought to determine reality.

One great value of Stirner is how strongly he objected to communism before it was ever tried out, he saw the oppression of the very ideal itself, what was later to be experienced by Solzhenitsyn's zek. In saying that Marx's communism is to be interpreted in terms of religious dogma, he is not being simpleminded. The satisfaction that is envisaged as being obtained under communism has a lot to do with acceptance of these beliefs as true. The rest, one could say, is magic.

Whether you, the reader, accept Marx's ideas as true, depends upon a number of factors, including simple questions of scientific method and testable hypotheses. Then whether or not you find it oppressive, depends on whether or not you identify yourself with values that Marx describes as bourgeois, which he finds morally reprehensible, as well as hateful from viewpoint of those oppressed. What ideas are in your mind depend upon what you are - a concatenation of circumstances. To find communism acceptable would involve a renunciation of certain desires, certain potential sources of satisfaction, including for Marx, who is not an exploited factory worker. The concatenation of circumstances, produces 'the unique', the standpoint from which Stirner speaks.

For someone in Marx's or Stirner's position, to accept Marx's ideas would be a question of belief in ideas, not a simple pursuit of egoistic self interests, which is how Marx says communism would be. It hardly matters precisely how much influence, ideals do have upon hard realities, the point is whether I now, should accept these particular ideas, and how I envisage what this projected future society would be like.

Marx's claim is that the desires which I feel to be frustrated by this doctrine, would either no longer be present, or would be simply satisfiable. He speaks from the viewpoint of the oppressed proletarian, possessed by millenarian idealism. Christian millenarian movements of the past likewise would claim to be not merely beliefs, but true insights. Why we now should share these convictions, rather than taking a more cynical view, is the real point at issue.

Were it not that Marx did make some genuine discoveries, his conviction here would seem foolish. He discovered the immense importance of economic factors upon ideologies, though presumably he overstated it.

We may try to envisage how the projected society might work, in terms of a belief, like a religious belief. The question is, will the perspective that sees this in terms of religious belief continue to be possible, or is it possible now to you? Nietzsche's will to power offers a concept of a perspective based on an understanding of human nature. From what perspective does Marx start? He makes certain predictions about the future, to what extent are these in principle falsifiable?

Stirner is only one of a line of anti socialist dissidents, including Nietzsche and Solzhenitsyn. Stirner would say that his own perspective would continue to be possible, he would foresee continuity with the zek. Whether or not we agree these two would understand each other, would come back to the 'present' ie the argument between Marx and Stirner.

According to Marx, ideology and beliefs are only the expression of economic forces. This includes the beliefs Stirner finds so oppressive. But from Stirner's viewpoint, an essential feature of the projected society is this very tyranny of doctrine.

Marx's dispute with Stirner about communism could easily be transferred to feminism. A feminist Marx could say that the ideas of feminism are nothing but determined by economic causes and that there is no point in even attacking or criticising them. To look at it from the other viewpoint, if feminist views are economically determined, so are anti feminist or post feminist ones. If ideological struggle is illusion, so be it. So what if I do represent some retrograde interest? I criticise and try to persuade in the realm of ideas. How much real influence that has is hardly for me to say. It does appear to have considerable influence.

There is an idea that you have to adapt yourself to some prevailing view, and not set your own standards against it. But why cannot, for example, a thoroughgoing antifeminism make a substantial contribution to the culture? Marx might say it is simply an obsolete survival. Why should anyone bother in the least whether it is or not? Because in his totalitarianism, Marx holds out more hope of happiness than that, a kind of total instinct satisfaction. This is what he promises, but how can he say that this is not dependent upon holding certain beliefs? If it is not dependent upon holding certain beliefs, why not reverse them and try others? Because the others don't achieve the revolution, it may be said, or perhaps don't sustain the revolution once achieved.

Equal rights doctrine includes equal rights of opinions etc. Marx sneers at Stirner's attack on this, the idea that he should see his opinions as a form of capital that he is scared of losing, then he denies that under communism there would be any loss of individuality. Only if you identify your individuality with the exploiting bourgeois, would it be in danger of loss, he says.

The renunciation demanded is the real issue at stake. Marx sees it as no renunciation (with qualification). What is called for is a renunciation not of doing but of thinking. The inhibition is not brought about by hard facts in the outside world. It is like a prohibition on heretical thoughts, thoughts which come naturally and inevitably to someone whose will to power is no linked up with orthodoxy. The call is for this inhibition.

All happiness offered is predicated upon acceptance of a belief for which the reasons are not good enough to accept. The projected society is a very frustrating society. The call for inhibition works like a girl who is a tease and wants you to marry her before you can fuck her.

The communist society only seems acceptable if you think in a certain way. If you do not think in this way, you could only accept it at the cost of a high degree of unhappiness. There would be no loss of individuality if you believed in communism as strongly as Marx does. Given that you do not, communism still possess a grotesque viability.

Equality, as well as material goods, may include every difference, every distinction, between men. My opinions are capital which I cannot help possessing. It seems to be possible to become sufficiently demoralised as to accept that I have no right to that capital. The effect of such a belief will not be to deprive me of my opinions, but to propel me into a demoralised condition of guilt and frustration. One might imagine such as the state of mind of the fifth century Roman patrician who accepted Christianity.

Such capital might consist of knowledge about human nature, or what appears to be knowledge. Marx would deny that it is knowledge, but here again his own ad hominem arguments may be turned against him. What is Marx's class and what does this determine? Or is he claiming a form of objective knowledge that transcends class? On what class basis can we put the claim to objectivity? Many of the apparent weaknesses in the Nietzschean position are also to be found in the Marxian, and actually less well worked out.

Communism appears to be the most absolute tyranny, demanding the surrender of all mental independence, as if all the goods of the mind are to be shared out, like material goods. This is not the way it looks to the communist. He does not believe there is a surrender of anything worthwhile. Far from a a surrender, the change of opinion is said to be just a thing that will happen, as opposition will just have no basis to it. Which is the true view?

If I have an opinion that I do not want to surrender, communism will seem like the described form of tyranny. There is the hostile threat, I could be an enemy of the people, identifying myself with hateful bourgeois values, opinions separate, heretical, independent.

Against the belief there should be no need for this demand that they be surrendered is set the contrary belief that there is nothing to surrender, and that such tyranny must therefore be lacking. One might concede a tyranny over the unreconstructed bourgeois, but not over the new man.

Here different views of human nature come in, the will to power theory and perspectives conceived by bourgeois intellectuals, no less than Marx's own theory. One has to bring this down to the ad hominem argument. For one might conceive a way in which communism might appear to work but one would not interpret it as working. For the will to power might not express itself in the form of enlightenment. Dogma may be so all pervasive as to provide an inevitable framework for any thought, as with Catholicism in the Middle ages.

Stirnerism is one means of staving off depression. It is significant that the great conflict between Marx and Stirner took place as early as the 1840s.

What is the point, Marx asks, of Stirner's exercise of turning all values into the holy and then repudiating them as impotent spectres? What are these spectres he is fighting? Nothing at all, says Marx. Bourgeois morality, which is only hypocrisy, and never inhibited anyone. Then all this alienation is only the result of division of labour. All Stirner sticks up for is the rights of an alienated self to its opinions.

The worker's wants are rooted in his human nature, need for food etc. So much Marx admits to be human nature, he allows human nature. He will not allow a will to power.

The spectres Stirner is concerned to banish are not impotent and pointless, they cause depression. A depressed way of life is entirely feasible, and may be promoted by certain beliefs. There is nothing pointless about Stirner's exercise, it is profoundly therapeutic. It is easy enough to slip into a view of life as a game played by other people's rules.

It is said that man cannot live by bread alone. On Marx's view of human needs, denying a will to power, passive entertainment might seem adequately fulfilling. Commonly there is depression envisaged in a life of passive entertainment, whether the panem et circenses of the ancients, or a modern habit of watching videos all day. In most projected visions of the future it is not easy to satisfy people with bread and circuses. Depression remains because resistances are present, what we could call a deprivation of power. There are different ways of reacting to this depression. One is acquiescence, existence as a mildly depressed person, no other point of view seeming possible, acceptance of a social standard, measurement of oneself by that, a form of induced deference.

Stirner offers a sovereign remedy against depression. Marx, of course, would dispute that a mere thought can make any such difference. To him, what is important is the satisfaction of the crude economic and biological appetites. He refuses to admit the additional factor here, the question of the will to power, which makes significant the value placed on the satisfaction of those appetites, the thought that is held in the mind, the significance they are held to have. Appetites may be satisfied as a slave or as a master. If the only important thing is to satisfy the appetites, perhaps it is best to be a slave.

A socialist may understand Stirner as advocating capitalist society, surrender thereto, as with the so called philosophy of Ayn Rand which was said to have attracted President George Bush. Stirner argues against attitudes of democracy, the democratic republic, as much as against Marx. He opposes the depressing implications of certain ideas. The essence of depression is unwilling submission to other people's ideas. This applies in the child as much as the adult, and is arguably the only depressing thing. If I am the captain of my soul, then ideas of caste, class, are mere devices which may or may not serve a purpose. Accepting other people's standards can, however, sometimes be a form of atonement, wiping out the mistakes of the past.

Marx's bourgeoisie were intensely concerned with making a lot of money. But wealth bred a class that were more concerned with enjoyment, and would risk poverty, and found the stock exchange boring.

There are limitations in a doctrine of pure hedonism. There can only be one Max Stirner. A hedonistic philosophy, like other philosophies, offers an extra pleasure to the one who devised it, that of having others follow his ideas. He recommends to others something slightly less than he enjoys himself. If one says the aim is power rather than pleasure, one is analysing a truth (if you believe it). There is no humiliation in others acknowledging it. It is not something one simply lives. It does not provide a pattern for living. If it is psychologically true it is a premise, for whatever ideas you may have of your own. Even if everyone wants to found his own religion, that desire has a basis, which may be understood as shared. Despite everyone's desire to think his own thoughts, and revel in the power that brings, one stops short of what one cannot fail to acknowledge.

Marx makes a relentless onslaught, designed to show that ideas make no difference, that ideas cannot be oppressive, that only material realities can be.

Ideas in the mind are not everything, but they are quite a lot. An oppressive structure of ideas can be countered by opposing ideas. What Stirner is talking about does not affect, material realities like how much money I have. Obviously such realities are profoundly important. Stirner is not pursuing some fantasy of magical omnipotence. That I have a philosophy, does not mean I do not have a network of other allegiances, to protect my perceived interests. If the matters affected by philosophical ideas are large or small, nevertheless they have their sphere. Marx promises that allegiance to his ideas will produce enormous benefits. That was dubious from the start.

If we look at Hegel in terms of the faith generated by the French revolution, perhaps we can approach this more intelligibly via Marx. It involves a vehement rejection of the Nietzschean and Stirnerite view of religious faith. The German Ideology is a key text. Boring as it usually found, it is interesting to someone who feels it is himself under attack. He may feel he has to be ready to defend himself against all assaults.

Hegel's philosophy is the defence of the true believer, of the enthusiast against the cynic, attempting to show that his faith is not an illusion, and that the very idea that it is an illusion, is only a stage in thought, which he has overcome. Every opposition to himself he treats as a phase, which he has managed to surmount in a higher synthesis. Wittgenstein in Moscow, was told to read more Hegel. Hegelianism is essentially a powerful attack on certain positions. Marx's position also seems to be that Stirner should read more Hegel.

Hegelian triumphalism claims to exclude and overcome certain types of criticism. What the real central doctrine of Hegelianism is, is not logically speaking all that important, only that it is or aspires to a type of orthodoxy, some kind of conventional thought. It is a response to the attack on orthodoxy. Thus it can be a defence of slave values.

The attack on orthodoxy, maintains that the truth of orthodoxy is entirely relative, and that it is essentially the refuge of the weak, dogmatic and irrational. All faiths should be treated with contempt, as constraints on the independence of the mind, attractive to mediocrity and inferiority. There is an aristocratic disdain for the enthusiasms of the mass. Those who feel at home in conventional thought naturally want to defend it against this attack, which threatens to be demoralising. So the attack is treated as only a phase of thought, one moment on the vast canvas of the rational.

Of your opinion, it is said that Hegel thought it through many years ago, and that it collapses because of its internal contradictions. The true desire is for happiness in conventional thought. This is the driving instinct. The apparent collapse and destruction of the enemy produces a triumphant feeling, which is the true meaning and purpose of Hegelianism.

Hegel gives confidence to those who would be conventional. If we are Stirnerites, should we begrudge it them? No, provided that we avoid any threat to ourselves. Our aim is not to enslave or depress others.

For Marx, the enemy is Stirner.

Marx makes Hegelian observations on ideas he doesn't agree with, such as utility, which he describes as emergent bourgeois values, and the philosophy of pleasure, of which he gives a socio historical analysis. Much of this is very interesting but it is also suspect. He wants to dispel the persuasive force of such ideas. Stirner addresses the reader, and aims to seduce him. Marx wanting to persuade in a different way, tries to expose the relative character of Stirner's values, in every respect in which they differ from his own. His use of scholarship is so dogmatic as to raise the suspicion that it is largely bogus.

Marx is aware that a conscious will to power can sometimes be an important motive, but he deplores it, writing sarcastically about Dr Kuhlmann from Holstein, whose desire for spiritual power he has exposed. What Nietzsche argues is that a conscious will to power becomes inevitable given certain beliefs about human nature. The very communist equality thesis is one manifestation of it, ie springing from deprivation. This is how the equality thesis can alone become plausible. The claim is that will to power is universal, that it is natural. It makes a difference insofar as different beliefs result in different desires. Here is a question of what options appear to be open. With different beliefs, different options appear to be open for desire.

Turning the will to power into rational persuasion, its exercise is hemmed in by social constraint, not abstract moral ideas, but the will to power of others. The thesis of a will to power concerns the importance of a doctrine in life. Marx's obvious high intelligence give him a powerful awareness of many objections to his ideas.

Marx calls for universal equality, which he sees as fairness, and others as submission to alien standards. The call that one submits to alien standards involves refusal to admit desire for power as a legitimate motive. Consider these opposing viewpoints, desire for power, desire for power moralised, desire for power opposed. The claim for universality of will to power, may be contrasted with the opposing viewpoint. Marx's own will to power was intense, he desired to crush opposing views, identifying with a will to power of the excluded.

Marx regards a will to power as a bad thing unless expressed in a collective spirit. With Nietzsche, the only motive to change things, and not accept prevailing standards, is an aggressive, competitive spirit, a conscious will to power. Without that, prevailing standards and their judgements are simply accepted. We are not to say that they are wrong, and that this is an insight that can be got.

Engels's shows a murderous enthusiasm for hanging people on lampposts.

Futility, death, pride in ancestry, all raise questions of what values one supports, what values one despises.

For Marxism as a constant subversive force running through our civilisation, the German Ideology is a key text. There is an argument about what are serious values giving meaning to life, and what are merely playful amusements. Serious values may seem to justify life in the face of death. Marxism presents itself in the guise of nihilism and cynicism. All the values by which people live are to be destroyed. The family is to be destroyed (Engels then amended the word 'destroyed' to 'revolutionised'). Every hope, every form of capital, every meaningful superiority, is to be taken away. This is a negation like that of some of the more pathological mystics, trying to give themselves wholly to God.

In the German Ideology Marx tries to counter all the objections that might be put to him, it is where all forms of petit bourgeois deviationism get denounced and where venomous scorn is poured on any effort to find meaning from anything other than what can be common to all. Most natural opponents of communism are scarcely aware that their natural objections are so easily dismissed.

Marx's real emotional motive is obvious enough, revolutionary enthusiasm, millenarianism of the oppressed, sansculottism, excitements of a plundering mob, hope of the return of Adam to Paradise, enthusiasm for la lanterne, for the ca ira. This can look very much like crime, the self justification of the criminal, legitimising his crime in the name of history, as if there was no happiness hitherto, what is promised being so much better.

In the German Ideology are all the seeds of Stalin's purges. Accordingly, some people regard any form of nihilism as the first stage of communist subversion, seeing intellectual confusion in the non Marxist left.

There is a patronising assumption that life must be worth living under given conditions. The aim is the elimination of all distinctions, as if there is progress, as if there is an objective to be attained, history has a meaning, and there is an objective that you must share.

JSM 1991
 

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