Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library


Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library (1965), 35, (1), 8–11.


- 8 T~ ORIGINS - ,-,- ......... p_w OF MARX HOUSE Readers of volume I of Marx' s "Capital" may remember in chapter 25 (pp.621-8 in the older English editions, or pp.614-5 in the more recent Moscow editions) his quotations from Bernard de Mandeville's "Fable of the Bees", first published in 1705. lJiandeville was a Dutchman who came over in 1691 - three years after William of Orange was brought in "to ease the nation's grievance", i.e. to round off the establishment of bourgeois rule in England. In Holland the bourgeoisio hadoo~~ to powor by war against a foreign invader, without any talk of Magna Carta or Bills of Riahts. They had no need for the maroy hypocrisies with which their English brethren, from Oliver Cromwell onwards, had cloaked the firmer yoke which they were fixing on the working people, now that their support against feudal absolutism was no longer necessary. Mandeville was revolted by what he regarded as English soft soap: he called a spade a spade, however brutal it might sound. And so Marx quoted his e:.:planations with gusto, that if property is "well secured", you must have poor - "for who would (otherwise) do the work?" All rich nations, said Mandeville, are interested in most of the poor hardly ever being idle, and yet continually spending what they get - "the only thing then that can render the labouring man industrious is a moderate amount of money" (no nonsense about the honest apprentice saving up and marrying his master's daughter): if he had too little~ he might lose heart or become desperate, but if he had too much, :~ t would make him "insolent and lazy". Without eve:!' having heard of Surplus Value, Mandeville explained that "in a free nation, where slaves are not allowed of," (he did not stop to mention that whe~~llese iree nations had slaves - in their colonial plantations - they did very well out of them) "the surest wealth consists in a multitude of laborious poor; for besides that they are the rever failing nursory of fleets and armies, without them there could be no enjoyment, and no product of any country could be valuable" (i.e, have value). And ther~fore, he added, "it is requisi~e that great numbers of them should be ignorant as well as poor o Knowledge both enlarges and multiplies our desires, and the fewer things man wishes for, the more easily his wants may be supplied" V'rhat Nnrx did not nerrt I on , however, was that the latter part of quot,:tions CP'!"'lC from Mandeville's "Essay on Charity Schools", wr~tten ~n 1112 and first included in his "Fable of the Bees" in 1123 _ and that this large-scale denunciation of education for the poor aroused an uproar lasting over many years. Before looking at the reasons for this - end why it bears very much on the history of Marx House - it is worth retrieVing some more gems from Mandeville's forgotten (but not so out-of-date) work. hi~

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