The following introduction to the inquiry was published by the American Trotskyist paper New International (Volume 4, Number 12, pp.379-81) in December 1938.

This little work, a product of Marx’s last years, first appeared in France, in 1880. It attained a comparatively wide circulation at that time, but subsequently disappeared from sight for fifty years. It has never before been published in this country. It retains, we believe, a variety of interests for us today. In the first place, it is a convincing commentary upon the neo-revisionists now flourishing who try to tell us and the world that Marx was a rabbinical metaphysician spinning out a deductive picture of society from the depths of an Hegelian imagination. We see from this series of questions how Marx’s decisive point of reference was not a set of abstract categories but the concrete incidents in the daily lives of the workers. “Exploitation”, “surplus value”, “rate of profit”, are here traced to their living source. Secondly, we may observe the simplicity and directness of Marx’s approach to the actual problems confronted by the workers; again, a comment upon those who today find Marx a “great theorist” but so lacking in “an understanding of psychology”. Thirdly, the indirect effect of the questions indicates what Marx meant when he said that the emancipation of the workers must come from the workers themselves. The whole aim of the questions is to make the worker aware of his own predicament in capitalist society, to cut through the fog of illusions and habitual responses and fictions which prevent the worker from understanding his social world, and by thus making the worker conscious of his predicament giving him a chance to solve it. With the changes in industrial production during the past half-century, certain of these questions in their given form have, of course, become archaic. But no one would find difficulty in modifying them in such a manner as to bring them up to date. And no one will doubt what the truthful answer to them would reveal, more shockingly and brutally today by far than fifty years ago: the incalculable, hideous cost that the masses of humanity pay for the continuance of the rule of capitalism. – THE EDITORS.


New International

The New International was the magazine of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States.