What is Victor Hugo's most underrated work

The underrated son-in-law

Transcript

1 The underrated son-in-law NOT UNFRIENDLY NOTES ON PAUL LAFARGUE AND HIS ESSAYISTICS Streifzüge 3/2002 by Franz Schandl Paul Lafargue () is only known as the son-in-law of Karl Marx, who proclaimed the right to be lazy. Other facets of his versatile personality and his theoretical work are largely unknown (p. 373), says Fritz Keller, editor of the essay volume by Lafargue, which appeared a few months ago. That’s the case. But that should be remedied. He already liked it, but didn't always endure it. Actually, Karl Marx was quite taken with Paul Lafargue. He is a very good friend and a good guy, handsome, intelligent, energetic. (Quoted from Hans-Magnus Enzensberger (ed.), Conversations with Marx and Engels, Frankfurt am Main 1973, S) When Marx then notices that the other person's attention is even more focused on his daughter Laura than himself, he becomes suspicious and complains about the habits of being too familiar. (Fritz Keller, epilogue to Paul Lafargue, Die Religion des Kapitals, Vienna, undated, p. 105) Love and latitude Because, according to the guardian of his daughters, the father of his time, in his opinion true love is expressed in Reluctance, modesty and even shyness of the lover towards the idol. The young Lafargue does not seem to have fully followed the etiquette and ideas of Jenny and Karl Marx: If your love for her is not expressed in the form that corresponds to the latitude of London, you will have to come to terms with it, she to love from a distance, he rumbles. (Ibid.) But it was also more coarse: our Negro had no feeling of shame at all. (Marx; quoted from Enzensberger (ed.), P. 715) There is no doubt that racist resentment resonates here. Born in Santiago de Cuba, the medical Creole (Marx) counted among his ancestors French colonizers, Caribbean natives, mulattos and Jews. A mixed bag. Lafargue could never have fitted so completely into the image of the white, male and local worker functionary. But in the end he gets his Laura, even if the old man demands complete clarity from his future son-in-law about your economic situation. The marriage took place in Paris on April 2, 1867. Friedrich Engels is the best man. After the fall of the Paris Commune, the couple had to flee to Spain and then to England. In just two years, all the Lafargues children die, three in number.

2 Not until 1882, after the amnesty for the Communist fighters, did Paul and Laura return to Paris. Lafargue was to become the most intellectually important leader of socialism in France in the next few years, as the later revisionist Eduard Bernstein noted. Most of the time, Lafargue roams the country as an agitator. It was during these years that his best-known pamphlet against work addiction was created: The right to be lazy. On November 26, 1911, Paul and Laura Lafargue passed away voluntarily by injecting themselves with potassium cyanide. Before that, they had been to the opera and dined like a king. Have fun, dine, liquidate what a finish! People followed the funeral procession to Père Lachaise. Hugo and Zola It's just a shame that this volume begins with the weakest contribution. In the early essay The Bourgeois Corruption from 1866, the author pulls the bourgeoisie in an almost crude manner: Their moral and physical decline is terrifying, it says. The bourgeoisie is rotten (). They are a miserable bunch. The political world consists only of prostitution. (All quotations on p. 16) This article hardly gets beyond the cliché of the (ver) splattering rich. But he demonstrates, if you read the following essays, how Lafargue has developed over the next few years. What follows is usually of exquisite quality. For example the essays on literary greats like Victor Hugo and Emile Zola. Victor Hugo, who was never 24 hours ahead of public opinion, but always knew how to adapt his steps to the circumstances (p. 38), is presented as an early market artist (p. 35) of the type of the great writer as a high earner. With Hugo everything is for advertising (p. 60), claims Lafargue. The market artist certainly needed the initial spark from the state, namely Louis XVIII. As early as 1822 Hugo was rewarded with an annual pension for his poems, this was doubled to Francs (p. 38): Victor and his brothers Abèle and Eugene bravely and stubbornly besieged this literary fund (p. 38), writes Lafargue. They were regarded as ministerial special scribes. (P. 38) 1848: The republic is proclaimed. Victor Hugo doesn't lose a minute and turns into a Republican. People who only pay attention to appearances accuse him of fickleness because he was successively a Bonapartist, Legitimist, Orleanist, Republican. On the contrary, a more detailed investigation shows that under all these regimes he never changed his behavior, that he always pursued a single purpose without being distracted from the accession or overthrow of a government, his personal interest, that he was always Hugoist remained, which is worse than selfish, as this merciless mocker Heine said, whom Hugo, unable to appreciate a genius, could not smell. (S)

3 But the Hugomanes (p. 43), of which the author speaks, are likely to have at least in the meantime established themselves. Hugo's image, which was shaped primarily in and by the labor movement, is different from that drawn by Lafargue. With him the Creator of the wretched is presented himself as a wretched one. Whereby this assessment does not care about the actual work. An individual cretin doesn't have to be a bad writer. But there is no doubt that there are many Hugos in the publishing guild, then as now. They are even produced in series. The winged word of the made author reveals exactly what it says. In his essay on Emile Zola, Lafargue proves that he can also deliver excellent literary studies. While Hugo is exposed to contempt without Lafargue getting involved in his oeuvre, Zola enjoys a very differentiated view, which distributes praise and criticism fairly evenly. Emile Zola's achievement is to have taken on topics in the Rougon-Macquart that were previously frowned upon, just think of novels like Der Totschläger or Germinal. Workers and the working class move into the center of the action here. In the foreword to the first volume, Zola wrote in 1877: It is a work of truth, the first novel about the people who do not lie and who breath the smell of the people. Last but not least, the Rougon-Macquart see themselves as the natural and social history of a family under the Second Empire. For Zola, it was primarily about giving the novels a scientific touch. (P. 95) However, his social history is often reduced to a natural history. Lafargue rightly calls Zola's criminal theories vulgar-fatalistic (p. 95), yes, one can certainly speak of an organic fatality (p. 96). This biological element is an integral part of the composition of the novel cycle. What Lafargue complains about Zola is that he leaves the press, this magazine by Gift (Balzac), largely unscathed, or that he has no idea of ​​some of the things he writes about. For example, when he speaks of and about Marx and his theories, he does not manage to get beyond socialist platitudes that have been hackneyed for ten years (p. 122). Furthermore: What one can and may reproach Zola for is the fact that he presents what he claims to be reality without espirit, without satire and humor. He writes boringly. He is not a writer who gets drunk on his work, but rather a conscientious worker who does a job that he is not particularly interested in. (P. 119) Which also means: a writer who does not philosophize is only a craftsman. (P. 120)

4 In this he sees the weakness of naturalism in general: Naturalism, which in the field of literature is the same as Impressionism in the field of painting, denounces reflections and generalizations. According to his theory, the writer must behave completely passively, he must take in and reproduce an impression, he must not go beyond this task, he must not analyze the cause of a phenomenon or a process, he must not suggest the effect of a process. Its ideal is to resemble a photographic plate. This purely mechanical method of artistic reproduction of life is extremely easy; it does not require any preliminary studies and only a small amount of intellectual effort. But if the brain, which plays the role of the photographic plate, is not very receptive and versatile, one runs the risk of receiving only an incomplete, imperfect picture, which is further removed from reality than the painting which the most unbridled fantasy designs from her. The method proves nothing but the low intellectual talent of the naturalistic writers. (P. 120) Regarding Germinal, Lafargue notes: In order to write a novel of the kind described, its author would have to live in close proximity to one of these economic monsters, he would have to grasp and penetrate his nature, his innermost being, he would have to be angry with the atrocities whose author is the monster, trembled. Such an author has not yet appeared, indeed it seems impossible to us that he should appear (). It is, therefore, inevitable, inevitable, that this task falls to fiction writers who, as a consequence of their poor practical knowledge, the way they live and think, are generally in no way prepared for it. They lack experience and only superficially observe the people and things of the world to be portrayed. (P. 102) In other words, Zola himself can also see this. In the quoted foreword to Der Totschläger it says: Oh, if you only knew how much my friends are amused by the amazing legend with which one amuses the crowd! If you only knew how much the blood drunkard, the bloodthirsty novelist, is an honest citizen, a man of studies and art, who lives well in his corner and whose only ambition is to leave behind a work that is as comprehensive and as lively as it is is only possible. Lafargue indicates that this is recognized in the novels, and the reviewer's reviewer would agree with this, but also with the following sentence: Zola's talent, however, is so powerful that, despite the imperfection of his method of observation and despite his numerous documentary errors, his novels are the most important literary testimonies of our epoch remain. He has deserved her tremendous success. (P. 107) Above all, money is the work of a 'maître'. (P. 115) Catholic Communism?

5 The article on the life and work of the Dominican monk Thomas Campanella is also extremely instructive, even though it clearly demonstrates Lafargue's limits. The starting point of Campanella's sun state is described as follows: And one could only fight the church if one shifted the fight to the religious realm and attacked it in the name of spiritual interests, as their guardian and representative she appeared (). Since they couldn't be done militarily, they were done theologically. (P. 252) The Catholic Church was attacked in the spiritual area only in order to expropriate it in the worldly. Reforming religion was only one means of achieving economic reform. (P. 269) Campanella's relationship to the Jews was marked by contradictions. So he initially appears as their defender, often referring to Kabbalah in a positive way. But after he saw the inauguration of the unity of society that was to be established in the papacy, Jews, Mohammedans, Protestants and other idolaters had to be fought resolutely. (P. 278) Campanella even became a partisan of the Spanish monarchy and the Habsburgs, one who proclaimed: The immense growth of the Spanish monarchy is the work of God. He chose the most pious of the peoples of Europe and stamped it with the divine seal to make use of his providential intentions. He gave him the keys to the new world so that wherever the sun shines, the religion of Jesus Christ may have its festival and its sacrifice. The Catholic king should unite the whole world under his scepter, his title is no longer an empty word. With the crucifix in one hand and the sword in the other, he is to fight Protestantism and Islam until he has enforced the disappearance from the earth, for his mission is to bring about the triumph of the Church by crushing her enemies and puts her foot on the back of her neck. (P. 279) It sounds somewhat astonishing, downright trivializing, when Lafargue defends this: But this religious and political unity, to which Campanella appeals without hesitation to violence, he only demands in order to put an end to the discord prepare and establish peace and happiness on earth. Throughout his long and painful life his activity had only one goal, the establishment of communism. (P. 279) This communism by the grace of Habsburg under the thumb of the Pope, the main forces of the Inquisition and Counter-Reformation, is, of course, an idea that should not be imagined. And where it is introduced, it promises downright terrible things. Our monk even suggests that people should be carefully bred like dogs and horses. (P. 289) The most beautiful women are selected for reproduction and the procreative couples are selected accordingly. (P. 291) Such utopias fatally remind us today of Nazi breeding projects for a blonde breed. Lafargue is silent on this. He does not even comment on the Dominican's hostility to eroticism. Without comment, he writes about the (probably male) inhabitants of the sunny state: They love natural and not artificial women. Anyone who tried to paint, use make-up or make themselves taller with high heels would be punished with death. But the imposition of such a merciless punishment never pains her, for none of her wives thinks of resorting to such artifacts to beautify herself, and even if she wanted them, she would have no means of satisfying it. (P. 291)

6 This communism, which sprang from the monastery, remains completely imprisoned in it. The castle in the air is a hallucinated Konvikt: large dormitories, large dining rooms, etc. a Catholic male fantasy beyond compare. The philosopher Ernst Bloch called it a bureaucratic utopia, a song of order, with master and supervision. (The principle of hope, Frankfurt am Main 1985, p. 607) More an early Jacobin template of a bourgeois coercion than the sympathetic blueprint of a liberated society. Happiness occurs as a worship service and as a civil service. (Cf. Bloch, S) But who (like Campanella) shouldn't have gone mad after 27 years in Neapolitan, i.e. Spanish, dungeons. Campanella's communism is one of the fantasies of discipline and punishment. The fact that the otherwise strict critic Lafargue leaves him uncritical suggests that he not only paid tribute to the authoritarian understanding of socialism of his time, but remained largely attached to it. Like Fichte, Campanella is a forerunner of state socialism, not communism. It therefore fits when, around 1944, the publisher of a new edition of the Sun State in a publishing house affiliated with the Partito Communista Italiano () appropriates Campanella's utopia for communism based on the Russian model. (P. 301) At least in this article Paul Lafargue does not run out of the link of labor movement Marxism. In any case, this is where Lafargue has to be contradicted. If he even thinks: Campanella's utopia is one of the boldest and most beautiful utopias that has ever been written (p. 281), then that must be strictly denied. It is impossible to follow Lafargue's hymn of praise to this god- and sun-burned mixture of monastic Spartanism and clerical fanaticism, numerical metaphysics and misogyny. Excursus: Democratized death penalty In the sunny state of Campanellas, of course, war also has its traditional place. As later with Hegel, it serves to protect against effeminacy. (P. 283) Of course, we shouldn't miss it either, we heard from her about the death penalty for women with make-up, although she is undoubtedly supposed to experience her boost to democratization. In the Lafargue version: Since in a communist state (sic !, F. S.) there is no place for an executioner to have free and equal people, the judgment is carried out by the people with their own hands by stoning the condemned; the prosecutor throws the first stone. This procedure, which is reminiscent of the just but often cruel administration of justice by the barbarians, is tempered by the following restriction: The convict must acknowledge that he has earned the punishment, otherwise he will not be punished. (P. 290) Which, of course, he does quite naturally. In this case, the person found guilty must reconcile himself with the plaintiff and the witness by giving them a kiss and a hug, as it were, as doctors of his illness, says Campanella in the original. (Quoted from Bloch, The Principle of Hope, p.612) The condemned person is even deprived of the refuge of being a rebel or an insistent heretic. This is how total conformism triumphs, says Ernst Bloch. (Ibid.) This ritual of self-infliction reads like an anticipation of the Moscow show trials.

7 The democratic stoning everyone has stones to throw is one of the most brutal punishments of all, a superlative of execution. Not only should death be a punishment (which is bad enough), it should also be suffered slowly. The stoning breathes like the cremation the demon of the Inquisition. If hanging still grants a minimum of honor to the hanged man, death comes quickly and apart from the broken neck, the body may remain intact, stoning and burning illustrate an almost instinctual lust for murder, which the audience can enjoy. Yes, the stoning not only creates an excited audience, it creates lustful participants who stir up each other, where anyone who does not throw a stone is immediately suspected. Spectators and perpetrators should become one, that is the noble goal of stoning. Let's look at it from the side of the victim: When the still living bodies are crushed and cremated, the condemned should really have to savor the limbo of death, no: may! The soul is screamed out of the body, the delinquent is robbed of all humanity. The killing is said to be so cruel that the person to be killed practically begs after death that he asks his tormentors to finally put an end to it. The infinite life promised by Christians returns negatively as infinite death. If you can only promise the former, you can also organize the latter. Nothing is worse than when the person to be tortured dies prematurely. This really spoils the crowd's mood. Crucifying, stoning, skinning, burning, gassing (and in a certain sense also the electric chair) mean the incorporation of torture into the killing, this must not be an act, but wants (in two senses of the word) to continue the process. The condemned man should whimper and yell, precisely thereby betraying himself and satisfying the pathic pleasure of the unsatisfied with his pain. We would call this negative desire. A devastating accident of feeling that now wallows and grazes in the misery of others. Their place is the large intestine and what fills it fills them too. But these are only thrown down rudiments of a typology of the death penalty based on various types of execution. Transfer figure Back to Lafargue. Much more can be found in this thick book, e.g. B. an anticipatory critique of journalism (p. 104), an anticipation of man-made people (p. 20) and other treasures. For example, an essay on the development of language after the French Revolution by Lafargue tells us how the passionate, violent language of newspapers and pamphlets (p. 158) was born and found its way into linguistic conventions, he tells of newly invented words, of those who have been resuscitated and those who have disappeared. He tells of the scholars' struggle for the use and prohibition of words, mocks the word hangers who tried to wash the language from the revolutionary crust of dirt (p. 158). Despite this mad hunt for words and idioms, a great many of them survived in the language that had penetrated through the breach of the revolution. (P. 159) The new era was full of new vocabulary.

8 Not only does language change, but also man has no brazen nature: Man is in reality by no means the immutable creature of the romantics and moralists, who docile parrots the lesson heard by the economists. And with reference to this alleged immutability of the human type, the well-paid defenders of capitalist privileges justify their infallible refutation of communist theories. They measure humanity with the capitalist yardstick and exclaim triumphantly: 'Man is an egoist and will forever remain an egoist. When private interest can no longer be the only motive for action, you destroy society, you halt progress, and we fall back into barbarism. But like everything in nature, man is in a state of constant change; he acquires, develops and loses vices and virtues, feelings and passions. (P. 210) Lafargue was more than one of the many leading figures of Marxism, his thinking and acting were by no means absorbed in it, but rather goes beyond it. Actually, he is already a transition figure. His self-consciousness in the obligatory thoughts was less than that of many contemporaries. Let us be sure that most of the luminaries of the labor movement will shrink in their historical relevance, while the Lafargues will still grow. Fritz Keller made an important contribution to this. Undoubtedly, this publication has more than documentary significance. The volume is excellently edited. The somewhat bulky (although not in every case successful) annotation apparatus provided by the editor is reminiscent of the blessed editions of the GDR. What is to be understood as a compliment, despite all the ambivalence and clumsiness, can never be assumed that people and events can be assumed to be known. What occasionally bothers us is the font, especially the somewhat absurd idea of ​​putting quotations in capital letters. But all in all, one simply enjoys reading something like that. The essays are sometimes extremely amusing. In the labor movement there are quite a few bored authors among the authors. Paul Lafargue wasn't one, nor was he a disciple, a plagiarist, or a reteller. He was independent and original. Conventions are ignored and surprises cannot be ruled out. For example: the proletarian is a citizen who, at least in theory, has civil rights. (P. 365) At that time, calling proletarians as citizens was completely at odds with the propagated class antagonism. That was beyond the class standpoint. But it is precisely this afterlife that is interesting about Paul Lafargue today. After all, it is with him that theoretician and practitioner from the labor movement who scratched the heroic song of work. That took some courage. Approaches to value criticism Capitalist development has pushed humanity down to such a low level that it only knows and can know one motive: money. Money has become the great engine, the alpha and omega of all human actions. (P. 109) In this competitive atmosphere, we live from cradle to grave. (P. 89) That too sounds different from the much-invoked class struggles as the engine of history.

9 Yes, there are also somewhat strange echoes of what is called value criticism today: the pantheimus and the transmigration of souls of the Kabbalah are nothing more than metaphysical expressions for the value of goods and their exchange. Like being, which lives in every created thing, value is contained in everything that can be bought and sold; every commodity has a certain value, just as every animate and inanimate thing participates in the properties of being in different degrees. The value of one commodity migrates into another, just as the value of the raw material and a part of the tools used in its production revive in a commodity. All commodities, no matter how different in quality, express the different quantities of their value in money, which becomes the commodity par excellence and embodies the unity of the commodities. (S) The early labor critic Lafargue at least had a sense of where things could have continued. But almost no one followed these bold ideas at the time. He didn't quite trust them himself. Paul Lafargue, essays on history, culture and politics. Ed. by Fritz Keller, Karl Dietz Verlag, Berlin 2002, 392 pages, 27 euros.