Frederick Engels 1882

Preface to the First German Edition of
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Source: MECW Volume 24, pp. 457-9;
First published: in F. Engels, Die Entwicklung des Sozialismus von der Utopie zur Wissenschaft, Hottingen-Zurich, 1882;

The following work is derived from three chapters of my book: Herrn E. Dürings Umwalzung der Wissenschaft, Leipzig, 1878. Iput them together for my friend Paul Lafargue for translation into French and added a few extra remarks. The French translation revised by me appeared first in the Revue socialiste and then independently under the title: Socialisme utopique et socialisme scientifique, Paris, 1880. A rendering into Polish made from the French translation has just appeared in Geneva and bears the title: Socyjalizm utopijny a naukowy, Imprimerie de l’Aurore, Genève, 1882.

The surprising success of the Lafargue translation in the French-speaking countries and especially in France itself forced me to consider the question whether a separate German edition of these three chapters would not likewise be of value. Then the editors of the Zurich Sozialdemokrat informed me that a demand was generally being raised within the German Social-Democratic Party for the publication of new propaganda pamphlets, and they asked me whether I would not apply those three chapters to this purpose. I was naturally in agreement with that and put my work at their disposal.

It was, however, not originally written for immediate popular propaganda. How could what was in the first place a purely scientific work be suitable for that, What changes in form and content were required?

So far as form is concerned, only the numerous foreign words could arouse doubts. But even Lassalle in his speeches and propaganda writings was not at all sparing with foreign words, and to my knowledge there has been no complaint about it. Since that time our workers have read newspapers to a far greater extent and far more regularly and to the same extent they have become thereby more familiar with foreign words. I have restricted myself to removing all unnecessary foreign words. Where they were unavoidable, I have refrained from adding so-called explanatory translations. The unavoidable foreign words, usually generally accepted scientific-technical expressions, would not have been unavoidable if they had been translatable. Translation, therefore, distorts the sense; it confuses instead of explaining. Oral information is of much greater assistance.

The content on the other hand, I think I can assert, will cause German workers few difficulties. In general, only the third section is difficult, but far less so for workers, whose general conditions of life it concerns, than for the “educated” bourgeois. In the many explanatory additions that I have made here, I have had in mind not so much the workers as “educated” readers; persons of the type of the Deputy von Eynern, the Privy Councillor Heinrich von Sybel and other Treitschkes, who are governed by the irresistible impulse to demonstrate again and again in black and white their frightful ignorance and, following from this, their colossal misconception of socialism. If Don Quixote tilts his lance at windmills, that is in accordance with his office and his role; but it would be impossible for us to permit Sancho Panza anything of the sort.

Such readers will also be surprised that in a sketch of the history of the development of socialism they should encounter the Kant-Laplace cosmogony, modern natural science and Darwin, classical German philosophy and Hegel. But scientific socialism is after all an essentially German product and could arise only in that nation whose classical philosophy had kept alive the tradition of conscious dialectics: in Germany.

[“In Germany” is a slip of the pen. It should read “among Germans.” For as indispensable, on the one hand, as German dialectics were for the genesis of scientific socialism, as equally indispensable for it were the developed economic and political conditions of England and France. The economic and political stage of development of Germany, which at the beginning of the forties was still more backward than today, could produce at the most caricatures of socialism (c.f. Communist Manifesto, III, 1. c., “German, or ‘True’, Socialism”). Only by the subjection of the economic and political conditions produced in England and France to German dialectical criticism could a real result be achieved. From this angle, therefore, scientific socialism is not an exclusively German, but just as much as international product. – footnote was added by Engels to the third German edition of 1883.]

The materialist conception of history and its specific application to the modern class struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie was only possible by means of dialectics. And if the schoolmasters of the German bourgeoisie have drowned the memory of the great German philosophers and of the dialectics produced by them in a swamp of empty eclecticism-so much so that we are compelled to appeal to modern natural science as a witness to the preservation of dialectics in reality-we German Socialists are proud of the fact that we are descended not only from Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen, but also from Kant, Fichte and Hegel.

Frederick Engels
London, September 21, 1882