Letter to Eduard Bernstein, August 9, 1882

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 9 August 1882


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 46.
First published: in Russian, in Marx-Engels Archives, Book I, Moscow, 1924;

To Eduard Bernstein in Zurich

Dear Mr Bernstein,

Today just a few comments in great haste, as I shall be going to the seaside in a few days’ time and my hands are absolutely full.

1. A German edition of Socialisme utopique et socialisme scientifique is something I have long had in mind, particularly now that I have seen what a regular revolution the thing has wrought in the minds of many of the better people in France. I am glad that we see eye to eye here. The only thing is that the German text, because more concentrated, is appreciably more difficult than the French from which quite a lot is omitted. To popularise the work without prejudice to the substance. and in such a way as to make it fit for general use as a propaganda pamphlet is a difficult task; however, I shall do the best I can at the seaside. When shall you be able to start printing and how long will the impression take? I must, of course, be sent the proofs in duplicate, as in France, which has a number of advantages).

2. Naturally you would have thought that, in view of our old friendship, Liebknecht was really within his rights in asking you to hand over my letter, to him, and that you were under an obligation to put it at his disposal. I can find nothing to complain about in that. Nor could you know that, of the many differences I have had with Liebknecht, four-fifths were due to similar high-handed acts on his part, to the public misuse of private letters, to notes, etc., on my articles that were either silly or ran immediately counter to the sense of the passage. On this occasion, too, he has made unjustifiable use of my letter. That letter was written with specific reference to your article. Liebknecht treated it as though it were ‘my’ account of the Irish question as a whole. Frightfully easy and all the more so if one trots out in refutation Davitt’s speeches which had not as yet been made at all at the time the letter was written and, indeed, have no bearing at all on that letter, Davitt and his state ownership of land having hitherto been no more than a straw in the wind. But Liebknecht always takes this kind of easy way out when trying to come the top do. Now, I don’t begrudge him his fun, but he ought not to misuse my letters for the purpose and in this way he has compelled me to request you in future (let me try to make this sound as formally diplomatic as possible) de lui donner – tout au plus – lecture de mes lettres sans cependant lui abandonner l’original ni lui en laisser copie.

3. I have passed on to Marx, in as humorous a form as possible, the substance of the Hirsch-Mehringiad and I fear that, should little Carl see Marx, he will go through a not altogether agreeable quarter of an hour.

4. I should say that, in the Egyptian affair you take the so-called National Party rather too much under your Wing. We don’t know much about Arabi, but I’d wager 10 to 1 that he is a run-of-the-mill Pasha who begrudges the financial chaps their tax revenue because he would, in good oriental fashion, sooner pocket it himself. Here we have the same old story as in all agrarian countries. From Ireland to Russia, from Asia Minor to Egypt, the peasant of an agrarian country is there to be exploited. It has been the same since the time of the Assyrian and Persian empires. The satrap, alias pasha, is the eastern prototype of the exploiter, as are the business men and jurists in the west today. REPUDIATION of the Khedive’s debts may be all right, but the question is, what then? And we West European socialists ought not to allow ourselves to be so easily duped as the Egyptian fellaheen or as – all Latins. Strange. All Latin revolutionaries lament the fact that their revolutions invariably redound to someone else’s advantage – quite simply because they have always been taken in by the word ‘revolution’. And yet it’s hardly possible for a scrap to break out anywhere without revolutionary Latins raving about it with one voice – and quite uncritically. As I see it, we can perfectly well enter the arena on behalf of the oppressed fellaheen without sharing their current illusions (for a peasant population has to be fleeced for centuries before it learns from experience), and against the brutality of the English without, for all that, espousing the cause of those who are currently their military opponents. The utmost caution should be observed in making use of the politically emotional French and Italian party papers in all questions of international politics; we Germans, however, now we have attained superiority where theory is concerned, are duty bound to preserve it in this sphere also by the exercise of criticism.

But now, enough of criticism. Unfortunately I haven’t got sufficient time left today to send you a contribution for the feuilleton. I am particularly keen to prove to our good little Carl in black and white what tremendous piffle it was he fobbed off on Mehring about my relations with the Sozial-demokrat. However, you will get it before long and may then, if you like – it’s all the same to me – make some direct allusion to it in a note, without, of course, actually mentioning our little Carl, who must surely by now be panting for cooling streams.

Well, my kindest regards. If at all possible, I shall also send you a letter from the coast for ce brave Kautsky whose address, or such as I have, is of somewhat ancient date. The last one was that of some lassie with a French name – a genuine accommodation address, I trust.

Yours,
F. E.