Letters of Marx and Engels, 1845

Engels To Marx [28]
In Brussels

Source: MECW Volume 38, p. 26;
Written: 17 March 1845;
First published; in extracts in Aus dem Literarischen Nochlass von Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels und Ferdinand Lassalle, Bd. 2, Stuttgart, 1902 and in full in MEGA, Abt. III, Bd. 1, 1929

Barmen, 17 March 1845

Dear Marx,

Hess gave me your letter yesterday[39]. As regards the translations, the whole thing is not yet at all organised. I wanted Fourier — omitting, of course, the cosmogonic nonsense [40] — translated in Bonn by people there under my own eyes and my own direction and, the publisher being willing, to issue it as the first instalment of the proposed ‘library’. I talked this over occasionally with Bädeker, the publisher of the Gesellschaftsspiegel, and he seemed not disinclined, although he lacks the necessary finances for a larger ‘library’. But if we produce it in this form, we would doubtless be better advised to give it to Leske or somebody else equally able to spend something on it. As for translating the things myself, I simply won’t have the time this summer as I have to finish the English things. The first of them [The Condition of the Working-Class in England] went off to Wigand this week and since I stipulated that he pay me 100 talers on receipt of the manuscript, I expect to receive money in a week or a fortnight, and be able to send it to you. Meanwhile, there are fr. 122.22 c. on Brussels due 26 March [words probably added by Stephan Adolph Naut].

Herewith the remainder of the subscriptions; if the business hadn’t been so dreadfully held up by the Elberfelders, who could have got at least twenty more talers out of their amis-bourgeois, the amount would have been larger and have reached you sooner.

To return to the library, I don’t know whether it would be best to produce the things in historical sequence. Since Frenchmen and Englishmen would necessarily have to take turn and turn about, the continuity of the development would be constantly interrupted. In any case I believe that it would be better here to sacrifice theoretical interest to practical effectiveness, and to start off with the things which have most to offer the Germans and are closest to our principles; the best, that is, of Fourier, Owen, the Saint-Simonists, etc.

Morelly might also appear fairly early on. The historical development could be briefly outlined in the introduction to the series. In this way, even with the arrangement as proposed, people could easily find their bearings. We could do the introduction together — you taking France and England; this might actually be possible when I come to see you, as I intend to do in three weeks’ time. At least we could discuss the matter. But at all events it seems to me essential to start off with things that make a practical, effective impact upon the Germans and save us from repeating what others have said before us. If we were to seek to give a collection of sources on the history of socialism or rather, its history as revealed in and through the sources, a considerable time would, I fear, elapse before we finished it and, moreover, the thing would become boring. Hence I propose that we only use material whose positive content — at least the major part of it — is still of use today. Since you will be providing a complete critique of politics,[5] Godwin’s Political justice as a critique of politics from the political standpoint and the standpoint of the citizen and society, would, despite. the many excellent passages in which Godwin touches on communism, be excluded. And this more especially since, at the end of his work, Godwin comes to the conclusion that man must emancipate himself as much as possible from society and use it simply as a luxury article (Political justice, II, Vol. 8, Appendix to Chapter 8), and is altogether distinctly anti-social in his conclusions. However, it was a very long time ago that I made excerpts from the book, when many things were still not clear to me, and I must in any case look through it again, for it may well be that there’s more to the thing than I found at the time. But if we include Godwin, we cannot leave out his auxiliary, Bentham, although the fellow’s so tedious and theoretical.

Write to me about this and then we can consider further what is to be done. Since the idea occurred to both of us, it must be put into effect — the ‘library’, I mean. Hess will certainly be delighted to have a hand in it, and so will I, once I have the time — as Hess now has, having nothing to do at present save edit the Gesellschaftsspiegel.

If we're agreed on the principles, we can thrash out the details and at once get down to work during my visit, which I shall promote even more zealously with this in mind.

The Critical Criticism [The Holy Family] — I think I've already told you it had arrived — is quite outstanding. Your expositions of the Jewish question, the history of materialism and the Mystères [de Paris, E. Sue] are splendid and will make an excellent impact. But for all that the thing’s too long. The supreme contempt we two evince towards the [Allgemeine] Literatur-Zeitung is in glaring contrast to the twenty-two sheets we devote to it. In addition most of the criticism of speculation and of abstract being in general will be incomprehensible to the public at large, nor will it be of general interest. Otherwise the book is splendidly written and enough to make you split your sides. The Bauers won’t be able to say a word. By the way, if Bürgers reviews it in Püttmann’s first volume [Rheinische Jahrbücher — the review of The Holy Family did not appear in the journal] he might mention the reason — namely my short ten days’ stay in Paris — why I covered so little ground, restricting myself to what could be written without delving more deeply into the matter. Anyway, it looks odd, my having but 1 1/2 sheets in the thing while you have over 20. You'd have done better to have omitted the piece on the ‘conditions of prostitution’. It’s too slight and altogether unimportant.

It’s curious that another of my plans besides the library should have coincided with yours. I too intended to write a critique of Liste for Püttmann. [41] Fortunately I learned of your intention in good time through Püttmann. As I wished to discuss Liste practically, to develop the practical consequences of his system, I shall enlarge somewhat on one of my Elberfeld speeches (the transactions are to appear in Püttmann’s publication) in which I dealt briefly with this among other things. [32] In any case I assume from Bürgers’ letter to Hess and from my knowledge of your personality that you will deal with his premises rather than with his conclusions.

Just now I'm leading a real dog’s life. The business of the meetings and the ‘dissolute conduct’ of several of our local communists, with whom I, of course, consort, have again aroused all my old man’s religious fanaticism, which has been further exacerbated by my declared intention of giving up the huckstering business for good and all — while my public appearance as a communist has also fostered in him bourgeois fanaticism of truly splendid proportions. Now put yourself in my place. Since I am going away in a fortnight or so, I don’t want to cause ructions; I never take umbrage and, not being used to that, they are waxing bold. If I get a letter it’s sniffed all over before it reaches me. As they're all known to be communist letters they evoke such piously doleful expressions every time that it’s enough to drive one out of one’s mind. If I go out — the same expression. If I sit in my room and work — communism, of course, as they know — the same expression. I can’t eat, drink, sleep, let out a fart, without being confronted by this same accursed lamb-of-God expression. Whether I go out or stay at home, remain silent or speak, read or write, whether I laugh or whether I don’t — do what I will, my old man immediately assumes this lamentable grimace. Moreover my old man’s so stupid that he lumps together communism and liberalism as ‘revolutionary’, and, whatever I may say to the contrary, is constantly blaming me, e.g. for the infamies perpetrated by the English bourgeoisie in Parliament. In any case it is now the season of piety in this house. A week ago today a brother and sister of mine [Rudolf and Hedwig] were confirmed, today the whole tribe went toddling off to Communion — the body of the Lord did its work; this morning the doleful expressions surpassed themselves. Pour comble de malheur [to make matters worse] I spent yesterday evening with Hess in Elberfeld, where we held forth about communism until two in the morning. Today, of course, long faces over my late return, hints that I might have been in jug. Finally they plucked up enough courage to ask where I had been. — With Hess. — ‘With Hess! Great heavens!’ — Pause, intensified Christian dismay in their faces. — ‘What company you keep!’ — Sighs, etc. It’s enough to drive one mad. You have no idea of the malice of this Christian persecution of my ‘soul’. Now all my old man has to do is to discover the existence of the Critical Criticism and he will be quite capable of flinging me out of the house. And on top of it all there’s the constant irritation of seeing that nothing can be done with these people, that they positively want to flay and torture themselves with their infernal fantasies, and that one can’t even teach them the most platitudinous principles of justice. Were it not for my mother, who has a rare fund of humanity — only towards my father does she show no independence whatever — and whom I really love, it would not occur to me for a moment to make even the most paltry concession to my bigoted and despotic old man. But as it is, my mother is making herself ill with her constant fretting, and every time she gets particularly upset about me, she is afflicted with headaches for a week. It’s more than I can bear, I must get away, and hardly know how I shall be able to stand the few remaining weeks here. [42] But they'll pass somehow.

Otherwise there’s nothing new here. The bourgeoisie talk politics and go to church; what the proletariat does we know not and indeed could hardly know. The address to which you sent your last letter is still safe for the time being. This evening I hope to obtain the money, and Köttgen has just assured me that, as soon as he has more time — in a few days — he will be able to scrape up some more. But I don’t altogether credit this; Köttgen is ready and willing if he has a chance to shine, but otherwise is good for nothing and does nothing. Adios.