Letters of Marx and Engels, 1846
Source: MECW Volume 38 p. 67;
Written: 18 September 1846;
First published: slightly abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, 1913 and in full in MEGA, 1929.
A whole lot of things I wanted to write about privately have found their way into the business letter because that was the one I wrote first. No matter if the others read the rubbish for once.
Hitherto I have rather dreaded setting to work on the extracts from Feuerbach. Here in Paris the stuff strikes one as utterly insipid. But now that I've got the book [Feuerbach, Das Wesen der Religion] at home, I shall apply myself to it at the earliest opportunity. Weydemeyer’s sweet nonsense is touching. The fellow first declares that he wants to draft a manifesto in which he pronounces us blackguards and then expresses the hope that this won’t give rise to personal differences. Even in Germany such a thing would only be possible on the Hanoverian-Prussian border.
That you should still be in financial straits is abominable. I know of no publisher for our manuscripts [manuscripts for the quarterly, including that of The German Ideology] other than Leske who, while negotiations are proceeding, must be kept in the dark about our criticism of his firm. Löwenthal will certainly not take it. He has turned down, on all manner of rotten pretexts, a very good proposition from Bernays (a life of the old man here [Louis Philippe] in 2 volumes, the first to be printed forthwith and issued the moment the old man dies, the second to follow immediately afterwards). He’s also a coward and maintains he might be expelled from Frankfurt. Bernays has a prospect of acceptance by Brockhaus, who believes, of course, that the book is written in a bourgeois spirit.
Have the Westphalians [J. Meyer and R. Rempel] sent the manuscripts to Daniels?
And have you had any further details about the Cologne scheme? Hess wrote about it, you know.
But Lüning’s rubbish is the most ludicrous of all. One can almost visualise the fellow as he daringly looses a hypocritical turd into his trousers. If we criticise them for their general baseness, [Marx and Engels, Circular Against Kriege] the noble fellow declares this to be ‘self-criticism’. But soon these chaps will experience in their own persons the truth of the saying:
‘And if the noble fellow has no burn, on what does he propose to sit?'
And Westphalia seems gradually to be coming to realise that it has no bum or, in Moses’ [Hess] parlance, no ‘material basis’ for its communism.
Püttmann was not so wrong, where I am concerned, when he said that the people in Brussels were collaborating on Prometheus. Hear how cunningly this good-for-nothing set about it. Being also in need of money, I wrote to him suggesting that at last he fork out the fee he had owed me for so long. The fellow answered that as to the fee for the first essay which he had printed in the Bürgerbuch, [Engels, Description of Recently Founded Communist Colonies Still in Existence] he had instructed Leske to pay it to me (naturally not yet to hand), but so far as the one for the second essay in the second of the Rheinische Jahrbücher [Engels, The Festival of Nations in London] was concerned, — he had already received it from the publisher but, since the German soi-disant [so-called] communists had left him, big P, together with his other big P, Prometheus, most shamefully in the lurch — he, P No. 1, had been compelled to use the fees (including those due to Ewerbeck, etc.) for the printing of P No. 2 and would not be able to pay us same for another x weeks. Fine fellows, if you don’t give them a manuscript, they keep the money. In such a manner does one become one of the Prometheus collaborators and shareholders.
Yesterday evening, when I was with the workers here, I read the ‘London Address’ already in print. Trash. They address themselves to the ‘people’, i.e. the presumed proletarians in Schleswig-Holstein which is haunted exclusively by loutish, Low-German peasants and guildish Straubingers. They have learnt from the English this nonsense, this total disregard for actual circumstances, this inability to comprehend an historical development. Instead of answering the question, they want the ‘people’ — who, in their sense of the word, don’t exist at all there — to disregard it and behave peacefully and passively; it doesn’t occur to them that the bourgeoisie continues to do as it likes. Except for the denigration of the bourgeoisie, which is somewhat superfluous and entirely at odds with their conclusions (and for which free-trade catchwords could equally well be substituted), the thing could have been the work of London’s free-trade press, which does not want to see Schleswig-Holstein enter the Customs Union.
That Julius is in the pay of the Prussians and writes for Rother has already been hinted at in the German papers. Bourgeois [Heinrich Burgers], who was so delighted with his noble works, according to d'Ester, will be pleased when he hears of it.
A propos Schleswig-Holstein, the day before yesterday the Coachman [Georg Weber] wrote to Ewerbeck in 3 lines that caution should now be exercised in the matter of letters, since everything is being opened by the Danes. He believes that it could come to armed action.
Dubito [I doubt it], but it’s good that the old Dane [Christian VIII] should so rudely harry the Schleswig-Holsteiners. By the way, did you read the famous poem ‘Schleswig-Holstein, Sea-girt Land’, in the Rheinischer Beobachter? [M. F. Chemnitz, ‘Schleswig-Holsteinische Bundeslied’, Rheinischer Beobachter, 16 Sept. 1846. Engels parodies the song] I can’t possibly remember the words, but it goes something like this:
Schleswig-Holstein, of like stock sprung, Schleswig-Holstein, sea-girt land,
Schleswig-Holstein, German tongue, — Schleswig-Holstein German strand,
Schleswig-Holstein, to action stung, Schleswig-Holstein, fiery brand,
Schleswig-Holstein, hardly wrung, Schleswig-Holstein, make a stand,
Schleswig-Holstein, lustily sung, ‘Schleswig-Holstein, may Danes be banned.
Schleswig-Holstein, loudly rung, ‘Schleswig-Holstein’, throughout th’ land!
Schleswig-Holstein, strong of lung, Schleswig-Holstein, weak of hand,
Schleswig-Holstein, loutish young, Schleswig-Holstein, beastly band.
Schleswig-Holstein, of like stock sprung; Keep troth, O Fatherland, is how the drivel ends. It’s a ghastly song, worthy of being sung by the Dithmarschen, who in turn are worthy of being besung by Püttmann.
The Cologne bourgeois are bestirring themselves. They have issued a protest [Kölnische Zeitung, 10 Sept. 1846] against the gentlemen of the Ministry, which is the most a German citizen can do. The poor Berlin pulpit-drubber [Frederick William IV]! He’s at loggerheads with every municipal council in his kingdom; first the Berlin theological controversy, then the Breslau ditto, now the Cologne business. The rascal, by the way, is the spitting image of James I of England, whom he really seems to have taken for his model. No doubt, like the latter, he too will shortly start burning witches.
I did Proudhon a really crying injustice in my business letter. Since there was no room in this last letter, I must make amends here. For I believed he had perpetrated a trifling nonsense, a nonsense within the bounds of sense. Yesterday the matter came up again and was discussed at great length, and it was then I learned that this new nonsense is in truth wholly unbounded nonsense. Imagine: Proletarians are to save in the form of small shares. This will enable the initial building (needless to say no start can be made with fewer than 10,000-20,000 workers) of one or more workshops devoted to one or more trades, some of the shareholders to be occupied there and the products to be sold, 1) to the shareholders (who thus have no profit to pay for) at the price of the raw material plus labour, and 2) any surplus to be sold on the world market at the current price. As the association’s capital is increased by new shareholders joining or by new savings of the old ones, this will be used for building new workshops and factories and so on and so forth, until all the proletarians are employed, all the country’s productive forces have been bought up, thereby depriving the capital still in bourgeois hands of the power to command labour and produce profit! Thus capital is abolished by ‘finding an authority under which capital, i.e. the interest system’ (Grünification of the erstwhile drott d'aubaine, brought somewhat closer to the light of day) ‘so to speak disappears.’ In this sentence, repeated countless times by Papa Eisermann, hence learned by rote from Grün, you will readily discern a glimmering of the original Proudhonian flourishes. By dint of proletarian savings, and by waiving the profit and interest on their capital, these people intend, for the present, to buy up the whole of France, no more nor less, and later, perhaps, the rest of the world as well. Was ever more splendid plan devised, and if you want to perform a tour de force, what quicker way than to coin five franc pieces out of silver moonshine? And the workers here, fools that they are — the Germans, I mean — believe this rubbish, they who can’t keep six sous in their pockets to visit a marchand de vin on the evenings of their meetings, propose to buy up toute la belle France with their savings. Rothschild and company are mere dabblers compared with these mighty accapareurs [buyers-up]. It’s enough to make anyone throw a fit. Grün has so confused the fellows that the most nonsensical platitude makes more sense to them than the simplest fact adduced for the purpose of economic argument. It is disgraceful that one should still have to pit oneself against such barbaric nonsense. But one must be patient, and I shall not let the fellows go until I have driven Grün from the field and have swept the cobwebs from their brains. The only fellow clear-headed enough to see through the whole nonsense is our lunge who was in Brussels. Ewerbeck, too, has crammed the fellows’ heads with the most crackbrained stuff. You've no idea what desperate confusion the fellow is in; at times he verges on madness, being unable to tell you today what he saw with his own eyes, let alone heard, yesterday. To show to what extent he has been under Grün’s thumb, it need only be said that when last winter Walthr, of Trier, was complaining to all and sundry about the censors, Grün represented him as a martyr to the censorship, one who was waging the noblest and bravest of battles, etc., and induced Ewerbeck and the workers to draw up and sign a highly pompous address to this jackass, Walthr, thanking him for his heroism in the struggle for freedom of speech!!!! Ewerbeck is hanging his head in shame and is furiously angry with himself; but the stupidity has been done, and now it’s a question of knocking out of him and the workers the few platitudes he has dinned into his own head with toil and sweat before drumming same into the workers with no less toil and sweat. For he understands nothing until he has learnt it by rote and even then usually misunderstands it. If he were not so tremendously well-intentioned, besides being such an amiable chap — more so now than ever before, — there would be absolutely nothing doing with him. I can’t help wondering how I manage to get on with him; sometimes he makes quite apposite remarks, only to relapse at once into some colossal inanity — as, for instance, in his divinely inspired lectures on German history, whose every word is so beset with howlers and follies that it’s difficult not to burst out laughing. But, as already mentioned, tremendous zeal and remarkable readiness to join in everything with imperturbable good humour and self-mockery. I like the fellow better than ever, in spite of his silliness.
There is little to be said about Bernays. I have been out there several times and he here once. Coming here probably this winter, only short of money. Westphalians sent him 200 francs by way of a bribe; he accepted the money, but naturally did nothing further about it. Weydemeyer had offered him the money previously; he writes to say he must have 2,000 francs, otherwise it won’t be any use to him. I told him what the Westphalians’ answer would be — that they were unable to turn anything into liquid cash etc., and so it literally was. In token of his gratitude he is keeping the 200 francs. He is living quite happily, makes no secret to anyone of his whole calamitous story, is on quite happy terms with other people, lives like a peasant, works in the garden, eats well, sleeps, I suspect, with a peasant girl, and has also ceased to parade his sorrows. He is even coming to entertain more lucid and sensible views about party disputes, although, whenever something of the kind occurs, he likes to imagine himself more or less in the role of a Camille Desmoulins, and is generally unsuited to be a party man; there’s no arguing with him about his legal opinions because he always tries to break off with the objection that economy, industry, etc., is not his subject and, on the rare occasions we meet, no proper discussion takes place. I think, however, that I have already succeeded in partly breaching his defences and, if he comes here, I shall probably be able to cure him finally of his misapprehensions.
What is everyone doing there?
QUERY: Ought not the people in London [London leaders of the League of the Just — K. Schapper, J. Moll and H. Bauer] to be told the story of the Tolstoy affair, which is absolutely correct? If he continues to play the same role among the Germans, they might at some time dreadfully compromise one or two Poles.. And supposing the fellow were to cite you?
Bernays has written a pamphlet as part of the Rothschild controversy ; a German edition is appearing in Switzerland and a French one here in a few days’ time.