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Marx's "Private Property and Communism"

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mickst3r Posted: Mon, Nov 5 2012 7:46 AM

Does anyone know where I can find a good copy of Marx's "Private Property and Communism" as referenced by Rothbard here:


I did find this but am unsure if it's the essay Rothbard references.

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That indeed looks to be the piece Rothbard is referencing. Near the beginning you can see the quote he uses--in a slightly different translation and with a note from Marx.

Just as woman passes from marriage to general prostitution, [Prostitution is only a specific expression of the general prostitution of the labourer, and since it is a relationship in which falls not the prostitute alone, but also the one who prostitutes – and the latter’s abomination is still greater – the capitalist, etc., also comes under this head. – Note by Marx [31]] so the entire world of wealth (that is, of man’s objective substance) passes from the relationship of exclusive marriage with the owner of private property to a state of universal prostitution with the community.

It's worth reading the footnote that the editor added to the sentence preceding this quotation:

30. Marx refers to the rise of the primitive, crude equalitarian tendencies among the representatives of utopian communism at the early stages of its development. Among the medieval religious communistic communities, in particular, there was current a notion of the common possession of women as a feature of the future society depicted in the spirit of consumer communism ideals. In 1534-35 the German Anabaptists, who seized power in Münster, tried to introduce polygamy in accordance with this view. Tommaso Campanella, the author of Civitas Solis (early 17th century), rejected monogamy in his ideal society. The primitive communistic communities were also characterised by asceticism and a hostile attitude to science and works of art. Some of these primitive equalitarian features, the negative attitude to the arts in particular, were inherited by the communist trends of the first half of the 19th century, for example, by the members of the French secret societies of the 1830s and 1840s (“worker-egalitarians,” “humanitarians,” and so on) comprising the followers of Babeuf (for a characterisation of these see Engels, “Progress of Social Reform on the Continent” (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 3, pp. 396-97)).

So it seems that Rothbard has completely misread Marx. Marx wasn't talking about the stages that society will go through after the revolution but rather the stages of thought and practice that communism has already gone through.

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That is the editors impression upon what he thought Marx meant and honestly with all the interpretations of Marx and his ambiguous writing, it has no more or less value then Rothbard's. And really I do not see the connection between medieval communes and this obscure passage. I have yet to read in any of Marx's writings his acknowledgement of communal societies in the Middle Ages. I'm sure he heard of Saint-Simon, Babeuf, maybe Mably but Thomas Munster? Communals in the Middle Ages were not like the ones around Marx's time. Extremely antinomian in religious background, these groups were hardcore millennialists. Very different then these 19th century socialists.  

'Men do not change, they unmask themselves' - Germaine de Stael


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Well, I think he might also be talking about his immediate predecessors, like Owen, Saint-Simon, Babeuf and others who sought to establish utopian communities. He was pretty critical of other socialists. In any case, he doesn't say anything to indicate he is talking about the future revolution.

I really haven't studied this particular text. It's part of Marx's unpublished early manuscripts and much of it has been lost. So the ambiguity is somewhat to be expected.


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