Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge, September 27, 1877

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To Friedrich Adolph Sorge in Hoboken

London, 27 September 1877[edit source]

41 Maitland Park Road, N. W.

Dear Friend,

Unfortunately it is not till now, on my return from the Continent (whither I had been sent by the doctors), that I have found your letter. Hence my answer may perhaps arrive much too late. As for the rest, Pater peccavi[1]! But the damned insomnia which has afflicted me this year has made me tremendously remiss about writing, since I have simply had to devote all my more tolerable moments to work.

Should Weydemeyer not have had Kapital und Arbeit printed yet, I would look it over as the original was full of the most appalling printing errors. You have absolutely no idea of the treatment meted out to me by the party, i.e. the Chemnitzers (AS REPRESENTED BY Vahlteich). Only at Liebknecht’s insistence, and also because Chemnitz had represented the thing as extremely urgent, did I undertake the work before leaving for Karlsbad, despite the highly disordered state of my nerves. And in view of the many asininities perpetrated by Most (now happily ensconced with Mr Dühring; a conceited laddie who, when he reads something, no matter what, instantly converts it into material for publication) and the small amount of space prescribed, this was no trifle. VERY WELL! Months went by without any news, I made enquiries to which Vahlteich ‘coolly’ replied, saying the thing was only being set up in such fleeting moments as were left to the party printing office after setting up the Chemnitzers’ philistine advertisements! Never before have I encountered such cool effrontery! This meant that the printing took almost a year! And when the opusculum did at last appear, it was swarming with printing errors which distorted the sense!

To avoid losing time it might perhaps be better if you were to go ahead with the printing in the way you suggested, and I was to correct for the second edition what had been printed (which would be far easier).

I and Engels will amend the Communist Manifesto straight away and then let you have it.

Ad vocem Capital and Douai:

Firstly: Has Douai got a publisher?

Secondly: The French edition consumed so much of my time that I myself shall not again collaborate in any way on a translation. You must know whether Douai knows enough English to do the thing on his own. If so, he has my full authorisation and my blessing. In which case, however:

Thirdly: He must without fail, when translating, compare the 2nd German edition with the French edition in which I have included a good deal of new matter and greatly improved my presentation of much else..There are two things I shall be sending you in the course of this week:

1. A copy of the French edition for Douai.

2. A list of places where the French edition shouldn’t be compared with the German, but the French text be used as the only basis. In Naples Mr Uriele Cavagnari is preparing the Italian edition of Capital (from the French edition); he is having the book printed at his own expense and is going to sell it at cost price.

Good man!

What you write about the Germans in no way surprises me. It’s exactly like that over here. That’s why Engels and I have disassociated ourselves from the whole bunch (as has Lessner). The only exception is a German working man with whom I am on friendly terms and whose name momentarily escapes me (Weyer[2], I think); he has a seat on the London TRADES’ UNION COUNCIL and was responsible for the only sensible resolution—that working men should elect only working men to represent them in the HOUSE OF COMMONS—at the SHAMEFUL TRADES’ UNION CONGRESS in Leicester,344 at which the bourgeois played patron, among their number Mr Th. Brassey, the great swindler and millionaire, son of the notorious railway Brassey who ‘contracted for’ Europe and Asia.

The Ghent Congress, whatever else it left to be desired, at least had the advantage that Guillaume and Co. were totally abandoned by their former allies. It was only with difficulty that the Flemish workers were restrained from lambasting the great Guillaume. That bombastic chatterbox De Paepe, and with him Brismée, insulted them; Mr John Hales ditto. The latter placed himself under the command of—Barry whom I had induced to go, partly as a member of Congress (as whose delegate, I don’t know), partly as correspondent for the Standard (London).345 I for my part do not wish ever again to become personally involved with Jung and Hales, but their second defection is useful so far as the Jurassians are concerned. Barry is my FACTOTUM here; he also kept an eye on the Times reporters (which newspaper has sacked Mr Eccarius). But more especially it was through him that, for months on end, I sustained incognito a cross-fire against that Russomane Gladstone in London’s FASHIONABLE PRESS ( Vanity Fair and Whitehall Review), as also in the English, Scottish and Irish provincial press, unmasking his underhand dealings with the Russian spy Novikova, the Russian Embassy in London, etc.; it was through him, too, that I exerted influence on English parliamentarians in the Commons and the Lords, who would throw up their hands in horror if they knew that it was the RED TERROR DOCTOR, as they call me, who had been their souffleur during the oriental crisis.

This crisis [Russo-Turkish war and Near Eastern crisis] is a new turning point in European history. Russia has long been standing on the threshold of an upheaval, all the elements of it are prepared--I have studied conditions there from the original Russian sources, unofficial and official (the latter only available to a few people but got for me through friends in Petersburg). The gallant Turks have hastened the explosion by years with the thrashing they have inflicted, not only upon the Russian army and Russian finances, but in a highly personal and individual manner on the dynasty commanding the army (the Tsar, the heir to the throne and six other Romanovs). The upheaval will begin secundum artem [according to the rules of the art] with some playing at constitutionalism and then there will be a fine row. If Mother Nature is not particularly unfavourable towards us we shall still live to see the fun! The stupid nonsense which the Russian students are perpetrating is only a symptom, worthless in itself. But it is a symptom. All sections of Russian society are in complete disintegration economically, morally and intellectually.

This time the revolution will begin in the East, hitherto the unbroken bulwark and reserve army of counter-revolution.

Herr Bismarck was pleased to see the thrashing, but it ought not to have gone so far. Russia too much weakened could not hold Austria in check again as she did in the Franco-Prussian War! And if it were even to come to revolution there, where would the last guarantee of the Hohenzollern dynasty be?

For the moment everything depends on the Poles (in the Kingdom of Poland) lying low. If only there are no risings there at the moment! Bismarck would at once intervene and Russian chauvinism would once more side with the Tsar. If on the other hand the Poles wait quietly till there is a conflagration in Petersburg and Moscow, and Bismarck then intervenes as a saviour, Prussia will find its--Mexico!

I have rammed this home again and again to any Poles I am in contact with who can influence their fellow-countrymen.

Compared with the crisis in the East, the French crisis is an altogether secondary affair. Still it is to be hoped that the bourgeois republic will be victorious or else the old game will begin all over again, and a nation can repeat the same stupidities once too often.

With warmest regards from myself and my wife,


Karl Marx


The Genevan notary, Wessel, has informed me of the business of Lingenau’s will.

We (i.e. the executors) shall have to appoint a proxy in America, and you would be the only suitable person. What we need to know above all, however, is how the matter stands in America and whether the will can be implemented without endless court proceedings. You would oblige me if you could make inquiries about this and let me know.

  1. ↑ Father, I have sinned (Luke 15:18).
  2. ↑ Adam Weiler