Marx-Engels Correspondence 1866
Source: MECW Volume 42, p. 325;
First published: in Die Neue Zeit, Rd. 2, Nr. 2, Stuttgart, 1901-1902;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.
I hope I must not conclude from your lengthy silence that my last letter has in any way offended you. The case should be quite the reverse. Any person, who is in desperate straits, sometimes feels the need to ventilate his feelings. But he only does so to people in whom he has a special and exceptional confidence. I do assure you that my domestic troubles disquiet me far more for being an obstacle to the completion of my work [Capital] than for any personal or family reasons. I could dispose of the whole problem tomorrow if I were prepared to take up a practical trade tomorrow, instead of working for the cause. And I equally hope that you are not embarrassed by the fact that you can do nothing to alleviate my plight. That would indeed be the most unreasonable of reasons.
And now to some more general matters.
I was profoundly apprehensive about the first congress in Geneva. By and large, however, it went off better than I expected. We had not in the least anticipated the effect it would have in France, England and America. I was unable to attend, nor did I wish to, but I did write the programme for the London delegates. I deliberately confined it to points which allow direct agreement and combination of efforts by the workers and give direct sustenance and impetus to the requirements of the class struggle and the organisation of the workers into a class. The Parisian gentlemen had their heads stuffed full of the most vacuous Proudhonist clichés. They prattle incessantly about science and know nothing. They spurn all revolutionary action, i.e. arising from the class struggle itself, every concentrated social movement, and therefore also that which can be achieved by political means (e.g., such as limitation of the working day by law). Beneath the cloak of freedom and anti-governmentalism or anti-authoritarian individualism these gentlemen, who for 16 years now have so quietly endured the most wretched despotism, and are still enduring it, are in actuality preaching vulgar bourgeois economics, only in the guise of Proudhonist idealism! Proudhon has done enormous harm. His pseudo-critique and his pseudo-confrontation with the Utopians (he himself is no more than a philistine Utopian, whereas the Utopias of such as Fourier, Owen, etc., contain the presentiment and visionary expression of a new world) seized hold of and corrupted first the ‘jeunesse brillante’ the students, then the workers, especially those in Paris, who as workers in luxury trades are, without realising it, themselves deeply implicated in the garbage of the past. Ignorantly vain, arrogant, compulsively talkative, rhetorically inflated, they were on the verge of spoiling everything, as they flocked to the congress in numbers quite out of proportion to the number of their members. In my report I shall give them a discreet rap over the knuckles.
I was exceedingly pleased at the American workers’ congress, which took place at the same time in Baltimore. The watchword there was organisation for the struggle against capital, and, remarkably enough, most of the demands I had put up for Geneva were put up there, too, by the correct instinct of the workers.
The reform movement here, which was called into being by our Central Council (quorum magna pars fui [in which I played an important part]), has now assumed enormous and irresistible dimensions. I have always kept behind the scenes and have not further concerned myself with the matter since it has been under way.
Apropos. The Workman is a philistine paper, and has nothing to do with us. The Commonwealth belongs to our people, but has for the moment transformed itself purely into a mouthpiece for Reform (partly for economic and partly for political reasons).
I have recently read Dr T. Moilin: ‘Leçons de Médecine Physiologique’, which came out in Paris in 1865. A lot of fanciful ideas in it and too much ‘construing’. But a lot of criticism of traditional therapeutics, too. I would be glad if you would read the book and let me have your opinion in detail. I would also recommend to you Trémaux: ‘De 1'origine de tous les êtres, etc.’ Although written in a slovenly way, full of geological howlers and seriously deficient in literary-historical criticism, it represents — with all that, and all that — an advance over Darwin.