Letter from the Brussels Communist Correspondence Committee to G. A. Kottgen

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Friedrich Engels
Written 15 June 1846


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 6, p. 54;
Written: June 15 1846;
First published: in Russian in the Bolshevik No. 3, February 1933.
Keywords : letter, Communism

An allusion to the conflict between the Young Hegelian Karl Nauwerck and the professors of the Faculty of Philosophy at Berlin University (see Chapter III of The Holy Family, the MECW, Vol. 4, pp. 17-18).

Brussels, June 15, 1846 To G. A. Köttgen for Further Circulation[edit source]

We hasten to answer your call, communicated to us a few days ago, as follows:

We are in full agreement with your view that the German Communists must emerge from the isolation in which they have hitherto existed and establish durable mutual contacts with one another; similarly, that associations for the purpose of reading and discussion are necessary. For Communists must first of all clear things up among themselves, and this cannot be done satisfactorily without regular meetings to discuss questions concerning communism. We therefore also agree with you completely that cheap, easily understandable books and pamphlets with a communist content must be widely circulated. Both of these things, the former as well as the latter, should be taken up soon and energetically. You recognise the necessity of establishing regular money contributions; but your suggestion to support the authors by means of these contributions, to provide a comfortable life for them we must for our part reject. In our view the contributions should be used only for the printing of cheap communist leaflets and pamphlets and to cover the costs of correspondence, including that from here abroad. It will be necessary to fix a minimum sum for the monthly contributions, so that the amount of money that can be used for common purposes can be accurately determined at any moment. It is furthermore necessary that you should communicate to us the names of the members of your communist association — since we have to know, as you know of us, who it is we are dealing with. Finally, we await your statement of the size of the monthly contributions earmarked for common purposes, since the printing of several popular pamphlets ought to be proceeded with as soon as possible. That these pamphlets cannot be published in Germany is evident and needs no proof .

With regard to the Federal Diet, the King of Prussia, the assemblies of the estates, etc., you cherish really extensive illusions. A memorandum could only be effective if there already existed in Germany a strong and organised Communist Party, but neither is the case. A petition is only useful when at the same time it appears as a threat, behind which there stands a compact and organised mass. The only thing you could do, given suitable circumstances in your area, would be to produce a petition furnished with numerous and impressive workers’ signatures.

We do not consider the time to be appropriate yet for a communist congress. Only when communist associations have been formed in the whole of Germany and means for action have been collected will delegates from the individual associations be able to gather for a congress with any prospect of success. And this will not be likely to occur before next year.

Until then the sole means of cooperation is the clarification of questions by letter and regular correspondence.

We have already, from time to time, been engaged in correspondence from here with the English and French Communists, as well as with the German Communists abroad. Whenever reports on the communist movement in England and France reach us, we shall communicate them to you, and we shall enclose anything else which comes to our notice in our current correspondence with you.

We request you to specify a safe address to us (and in future not to, print the complete name, like G. A. Köttgen, on the seal, since this permits immediate identification of the sender as well as the recipient).

Write to us, however, at the following completely safe address:

Monsieur Ph Gigot, 8, rue de Bodenbroek, Bruxelles.
K. Marx, F. Engels, Ph. Gigot, F. Wolff

Weerth sends his regards, is at the moment in Amiens.

If you should carry out your intention with the petition, it would lead to nothing but the Communist Party publicly proclaiming its weakness, and at the same time giving to the Government the names of the people it has specially to watch. If you cannot produce a working men’s petition with at least 500 signatures, then petition rather, as the bourgeoisie in Trier wish to do, for a progressive property tax, and if, even then, the bourgeoisie of the area do not join in, eh bien, join them for the time being in public demonstrations, proceed Jesuitically, put aside teutonic probity, true-heartedness and decency, and sign and push forward the bourgeois petitions for freedom of the press, a constitution, and so on. When this has been achieved a new era will dawn for communist propaganda. Our means will be increased, the antithesis between bourgeoisie and proletariat will be sharpened. In a party one must support everything which helps towards progress, and have no truck with any tedious moral scruples. For the rest, you must elect a standing committee for your correspondence, which will draft and discuss the letters to be written to us, and meet regularly. Otherwise matters will become disorganised. For drafting the letters you must elect the person you consider most capable. Personal considerations must be utterly disregarded, they ruin everything. The names of the committee members must naturally be communicated to us.

Salut.
Signatories, as overleaf