Letter to Conrad Schmidt, September 12, 1892

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 12 September 1892


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 49, pp 525-528;
First published: in Sozialislische Monatshefte, Nr. 24, Berlin, 1920.

To Conrad Schmidt in Zurich

London, 12 September 1892[edit source]

Dear Schmidt,

A few days ago I came back from Ryde where I had been paying an involuntary six-week visit to Pumps. A tiresome but otherwise insignificant complaint ruined both my holiday and a continental tour in the course of which you might otherwise have very possibly, seen me in Zurich.

I look forward to seeing your other papers on the rate of profit. Fireman didn’t send me his article – can one get hold of that particular number? If so, I shall order it, provided you can tell me exactly which number it was, and also the title of the article. To print the section on the rate of profit separately and in advance is quite out of the question, for you should know that in Marx everything is so interrelated that nothing can be torn out of context. In any case always provided my health holds out and I am left in peace I shall be done with Volume III this winter (but please don’t breathe a word about this; I know how often something has intervened), whereupon the poor professorial soul will be set at rest upon that count, only to be plunged instantly into an even worse state of agitation.

As regards Marx’s view of history, you will find an article of mine about it in the next number of the Neue Zeit – it has already appeared over here in English.

The Germans are utterly useless on the subject of money and credit. Many years ago Marx himself mercilessly ridiculed Knies. The most useful things in English are Tooke’s An Inquiry into the Currency Principle, 1844 and Fullarton’s On the Regulation of Currencies, 2nd ed., 1845, both of which are only to be had second-hand. Everything there is to be said about money qua money may be found in the first volume of Capital. In the third there will, of course, be a great deal about credit and credit money; it is that particular section that is giving me most trouble.

Roger’s Economic Interpretation of History is in many respects a very instructive book, if exceedingly superficial, theoretically speaking. There is, of course, no question of an interpretation à la Marx.

Your essay in the Neue Zeit gave me great pleasure. It’s as if cut out for this country, since the Fabian Society positively pullulates with Jevons-Mengerians who look down with infinite contempt on a Marx they have long since outdistanced. If there were a review over here that would take it, I would, with your permission, get Aveling to translate it under my supervision. But just now nothing is likely to come of this, there being no such review.

As regards the worthy Independents, their fate is of their own making. For years the party has endured their yapping with truly angelic patience and even at Erfurt it gave them ample opportunity to substantiate their mendacious tittle-tattle, but a million people cannot go on forever putting up with the obstructionism of fifty young whippersnappers who reserve the right to cast aspersions without having to substantiate them. Now that they’ve been chucked out, now that they have the chance of showing what they are capable of, all we get is endless lies and vituperation. And what, may I ask, has been achieved by those who showed some promise – the Kampff-meyers, Ernsts, Müllers et al. – now that they are no longer under the thumb of the party leadership? Their paper is utterly without substance and apart from that they produce nothing. If these gentlemen believe they are capable of something, why don’t they do it? Nor is the case in any way altered by the fact that, in polemicising against them, as in so much else, the Vorwärts is sometimes clumsy and all too often overshoots the mark. Did not these gentlemen, even before the split, treat the parliamentary group and the party leadership to language no less intemperate than that used by the Vorwärts against themselves? In addition they are by and large completely harmless. In Germany they are as moribund as anyone else who detaches himself from the big movement. Now that the movement has grown strong actually inside Germany and is directed from within that country, the societies abroad are the only favourable breeding ground for the kind of wrangles I have had to endure for 45 years in the society, over here. Up till 1860 the best chaps were, as a rule, abroad; now the position is reversed. The societies abroad consist of very impermanent elements who very seldom attain the average level of those at home, stand outside the movement in Germany to which they are merely extraneous appendages, and, since they rarely have any genuine occupation, are bored and hence far more susceptible to petty squabbling.

I am aware that you have many childhood and university friends amongst the Jungen, but it’s something you must come to terms with. Indeed it’s perfectly possible to remain good friends despite political differences. But we’ve all had to go through the same thing, in my case, in my own pious ultra-reactionary family. And then there is always the possibility of exerting a beneficial influence on your old friends by guiding their footsteps towards study rather than rodomontade. If the gentlemen would only go on with their studies, the more serviceable amongst them would soon come to their senses. But I’m afraid that the chronic megalomania so rampant among these people will prevent them from so doing. And as for provocation and embitterment, these are things that are unavoidable in the circumstances. ‘I came not to send peace but a sword.’

In the next few days I shall let you have the Condition of the Working-Class.

With kind regards

Your
F. Engels