Marx-Engels Correspondence 1857
Source: MECW Volume 40, p. 208;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in Marx and Engels, Works, Moscow, 1929.
You must excuse me for not having acknowledged receipt either of the money, or of the article or of various letters. The comings and goings connected with domestic affairs have made such demands on my time that little was left for work.
The monetary panic in London has subsided to some extent during the past few days but will soon begin afresh with the assistance of, among others, Fould, who has come over here with a French bank director in order to regulate the export of gold from England to France. The actual suspension of the Bank Act could, of course, only be effective in so far as it did away with the panic surplus artificially created by the Bank Act. The banking department should have had to declare itself insolvent the following day since the reserve fund amounted to no more than four or five hundred thousand pounds, whereas deposit — public and private — exceeded 17 millions. On the other hand this danger was created solely by the Act itself in that the metal reserve in the issuing department was not much below one-third of the issued notes. The Act precipitated the outbreak of the money panic, thereby perhaps reducing its intensity. However, lendings by the Bank up to a maximum of 10% (on first-rate papers) will keep a mass of transactions going which must ultimately lead to another crash. If, for instance, the price of corn, sugar, etc., is currently being maintained it is because their owners are discounting the bills drawn on them for the same instead of selling the commodities. A fall in the price of these commodities seems to me inevitable and hence I believe that these chaps are simply heading straight for serious bankruptcies. That was exactly the case in May 1847. As distinct from earlier crises, what is still to some extent supporting the so-called money-market in London is the existence of joint-stock banks which didn’t really begin to expand until the last ten years. The interest they pay the philistines, small rentiers, etc., is 1% less than the Bank of England’s official rate. The lure of 9% is too great to meet with any serious resistance. So the City mob has the philistines’ small capital at its disposal to a greater degree than ever before. If just one of these banks were now to collapse, there would be a general uproar. Hence it is greatly to be regretted that the Royal British Bank should have crashed prematurely.
As for America, it seems almost certain that the protectionism will prevail as a result of the crisis. This will have lasting and disagreeable repercussions so far as the worthy English are concerned.
I don’t know whether Steffen has already told you that he is leaving England. This is because the crisis has caused his sister (how, I don’t know) to lose what little money she had. He is going to Germany to join forces with her, so that they can scrape along together. I think he’s doing quite the wrong thing. I have it from a reliable source that Mrs Ruge (all she speaks is a kind of Saxon patois) is the only teacher of German in Brighton and, so greatly does demand exceed supply, that she is now launching her daughter in the same trade. So Steffen’s sister would find good employment in Brighton were Steffen himself able to get on better with people. Apropos Ruge. Some months ago the old jackass sent out a prospectus for the resuscitation of the ci-devant [former] Deutsche Jahrbücher, the main object of which is to combat materialism in the natural sciences and in industry; idem the proliferation of comparative linguistics, etc. — everything, in short, that calls for exact knowledge. To carry out his scheme he requires 1,000 subscribers à 10 talers. Over a period of 2 months summa summarum 40, I repeat 40, enthusiasts for ‘Intellectual freedom’ have come forward. The muster-roll of his adherents in Germany is, consequently, far from creditable.
I know nothing about Mr Dronke save that some months ago he urged Freiligrath to play the middleman (viz. the discounter) in a kite-flying operation upon which he thought to embark with old Naut. Freiligrath, of course, sent him away with a flea in his ear. Shortly afterwards he wrote saying that, though his circumstances were ‘quite good’, he was prepared to work anywhere as a clerk at a salary of £200-250, and asked Freiligrath to look out for a post of this kind. All this would seem to indicate that he is about to make his exit from the world of commerce.
Becker has been released from prison; Bürgers, on the other hand, has been subjected to additional restrictions.
In one of your letters you say that the manufacturers will be able to make headway only when cotton is at 6d. But won’t the substantial curtailment of production soon bring cotton prices down to that point anyway?
Jones is playing a very inane role. As you know, long before the crisis and with no particular end in view unless to provide a pretext for agitation during the lull, he proposed to hold a Chartist conference to which bourgeois radicals (not just Bright, but even men like Cunningham) were also to be invited. The general idea was to come to a compromise with the bourgeois whereby they were to be given the ballot and, in return, accord manhood-suffrage to the workers. This proposal gave rise to splits in the Chartist Party and these in turn involved Jones even more deeply in his project. Now, instead of making use of the crisis and substituting genuine agitation for an ill-chosen pretext for agitation, he clings to his nonsense; he shocks the working-men by preaching co-operation with the bourgeois while in no way inspiring in the latter the slightest degree of confidence. To complete his ruin he is being cajoled by some of the radical papers. In his own sheet [The People’s Paper] that old ass Frost, whom he himself proclaimed a hero and appointed chairman of his conference, has attacked him in a brutally outspoken letter in which inter alia he tells him that if he considers that the co-operation of the middle class is necessary — and nothing can be done without it — he should speak out bona fide. Who, Frost goes on to ask, gave him the right to draw up the programme for the conference without consulting his allies, and who empowered him to appoint Frost chairman and himself to play the dictator, etc.? So now he’s in hot water and, for the first time, is playing a role that is not merely inane but also ambiguous. I haven’t seen him for some while but now intend to call on him. I believe him to be an honest man and, since in England it is impossible for a public character to render himself ‘impossible’ by his stupidities, all he has to do is extricate himself as soon as he can from his self-laid snare. The ass should begin by forming a party, for which purpose he must go to the manufacturing districts. Then the radical bourgeois will come to him in search of compromise.