There are also studies which see an underlying unity between the ‘early’ and the later’ Marx. Some studies have even tried to assess the influence that Engels exercised on Marx and influence that Marx exercised On Engels. Such studies have a valid point to make because initially Marx was basically a philosopher, while Engels was basically an economist.
Due to influence that they exercised on one another Marx moved from Philosophy to Economics; while Engels moved from Economics to Philosophy. So much so that it is almost impossible to give a universally acceptable and a non-partisan assessment of Marx.
Marx’s vision of a new social order in which there will be neither alienation nor exploitation, no classes, no class antagonism, no authority, no state is highly fascinating and because of this attraction, Sabine called Marxism a Utopia but a generous and a humane one.
However, though he admitted that historical developments are always open to several possibilities yet he did not agree that such possibilities were open to his own theory. However though, not putting his own theory to the possibility of dialectical critique as Avineri said was a grave mistake.
Berlin commenting on his tremendous popularity for generations found that to be a negation of Marx’s rigid framework of determinism. Plamenatz distinguished between a German Marxism and Russian Communism. Harrington portrayed the contemporary radical view of Marx as being an excellent critic of capitalism but unable to provide a detailed alternative to it.
This failure of Marx is mainly because of the fact that he was writing at a time when democracy was only one of the possibilities and not a universal reality as it is today. Because of this lacuna he could not grasp the dynamics of democracy and the importance of civil and political liberties for any civilised society.
The year 1956 was a turning point. The Soviet invasion of Hungary and Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin had a major impact on the left. These events were catalysts which led a number of people to break with the Communist Party. Some abandoned Marxism altogether, but others began to develop Marxism in new and innovative ways.
This group formed what came to be called the ‘new left’. This was primarily an intellectual movement. It’s most important and enduring vehicle in Britain was the journal New Left Review.
A number of major intellectual figures emerged from this movement at this time, including the historians E. P. Thompson and Perry Anderson, and the philosophers Alasdair Maclntyre and Charles Taylor. Maclntyre and Taylor soon abandoned Marxism and the left.
Anderson has been the dominant force in New Left Review from its foundation right down to the present. In the 1960s, under his influence, the journal played a leading role in introducing the work of many ‘western Marxist’ and continental European thinkers to an English-speaking audience.
The British Communist Party at the time was authoritarian and bureaucratic. Its ideology was a doctrinaire version of Marxism closely based on Soviet sources. The thinkers of the new left were reacting against this. They criticised received Party orthodoxy and began to rethink some of the fundamental tenets of Marxism.
They began to explore aspects of Marx’s theory which had been ignored, or even positively excluded from discussion by the Communist Party orthodoxy. In particular, Marxism began to be seen not only as an economic and historical theory but also as a humanistic outlook, with an important moral, social and even aesthetic dimension.
These new interests were greatly stimulated by the first translations into English of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and other of Marx’s early writings which began to appear in the late 1950s. There was intense discussion of the concept of alienation and other humanist themes in Marx’s early works.
There was a new interest in the philosophical roots of Marx’s ideas. Hegel was no longer treated only as an aberrant idealist influence on Marx. He was seen, rather, as an important source of many of Marx’s most fruitful ideas.
The new left started as a small movement among a few intellectuals on the left. It rapidly gathered strength as it united with other strands of left wing activity which grew in the 1960s. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Anti-Apartheid movement were particularly influential in Britain in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
These were soon augmented by the impact of the US civil rights movement, the student movement, growing protests about the War in Vietnam and, later, the beginnings of the women’s movement.