What follows is an excerpt from Maurice Cornforth’s 1952 Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics.
II. THE BASIC PRINCIPLES OF MARXISM-LENINISM
(B) MORE ADVANCED READING
(2) Frederick Engels. Anti-Dühring. Karl Marx & Frederick Engels Collected Works, Vol. 25, International Publishers, 1989. pp. 1-309.
(a) Introduction: Chapters 1 & 2 (pp. 16-32)
(b) Part 1: Chapters 3 & 4 (pp. 33-44)
Engels’ great book Anti-Dühring (or, to give it its full title Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science) contains the most complete and comprehensive exposition of Marxist teachings, ranging over the whole field covered by Marxist theory. It is a masterpiece, clear, simple and witty in its style, profound in its content, demonstrating in every field the power of the Marxist method.
The book is divided into three parts:
II. Political Economy.
It is polemical in style, having been written, as its title indicates, against a certain Dr. Eugen Dühring, who was making a noise in the socialist movement in Germany in the 1870’s. Dühring claimed to be the inventor of a complete “system” of philosophy and science, founded on eternal and self-evident “first principles,” which enunciated the final truth about “all things under the sun and then a few more” and which, in particular, would instruct socialists as to their future policy. In exposing Dühring’s nonsense and answering it, Engels makes clear the Marxist standpoint.
Anti-Dühring first appeared as a serial in the journal Forward, beginning in 1877, and was published as a complete book in 1878. Parts of it were subsequently published separately under the title Socialism, Utopian and Scientific.
Part I, on Philosophy, begins by refuting the idea that we can deduce anything from “self-evident first principles.” Principles are only valid, says Engels, in so far as they can be shown to conform to nature and history; they are therefore not the starting point of investigation but its final result.
[To be Continued.]