Letter to Friedrich Engels, August 1, 1877

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 1 August 1877


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First published abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Bd. 4, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA,
Abt. III, Bd. 4, Berlin, 1931

Extract published in Marx and Engels Correspondence and Marx & Engels on the Irish Question;
Publisher: International Publishers (1968) and Progress Publishers (1971);

Published in English in full for the first time in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 45

To Engels in Ramsgate

[London,] 1 August 1877[edit source]

DEAR FRED,

Herewith letter from Höchberg to Hirsch who went back to Paris on Saturday.[1] Kindly return the letter after reading it, as I have got to let Hirsch have it back.

Höchberg’s letter, I believe, gives a better idea of the man than anything that Liebknecht says (the latter again distinguishing himself by recommending addle-pated Acollas and that faiseur[2] Lacroix) or might say about him. Höchberg is the first man to buy his way into the party—with the best of intentions as I think—and seek to reshape it in his image. Evidently he has little if any knowledge of the personal standing of party members and writers ‘abroad’, whom he proposes to gather about him as an ‘international’ group. He takes au sérieux[3] the worthy B. Malon who was rejected even by the Liberté belge[4] as a superficial hack. As regards Elisée Reclus, the Protestant pastor’s son, he should at least have known that he and his brother Pollux[5] are the ‘souls’ (to use the words of one who formerly inspired our Neue Rheinische Zeitung) of the Swiss journal Le Travailleur (other contributors being Zhukovsky, Lefrançais, Razoua et tutti quanti) wherein, if in a more jesuitically refined form than is at the unfortunate Guillaume’s command, war without quarter is being waged against the German workers’ movement, its leaders in particular (not, of course, that Liebknecht, etc., are named) being denounced as people who—do nothing at the workers’ expense, but rather hamper the movement and sap the strength of the proletariat in mock fighting and parliamentary intrigues. And in gratitude for this, Höchberg proposes to invite his collaboration from Berlin.

A few days ago the cheery little hunchback Wedde turned up – only to disappear again to Germany shortly after. He had a pressing commission from Geib to enlist you and me for the Zukunft. I made no secret to him whatever of our intentions of abstaining, to his great sorrow, and of our reasons for this, and explained to him at the same time that when our time allows or circumstances demand that we should again come forward as propagandists, we, as internationalists, are in no wise bound or pledged to attach ourselves to Germany, the beloved Fatherland.[6]

In Hamburg he had seen Dr. Höchberg and ditto Wiede; the latter, he said, was rather tinged with Berlin superficiality and arrogance, but he liked Höchberg, who, however, was still suffering badly from “modern mythology.” For when the little chap (Wedde) was in London for the first time I used the expression “modern mythology” as a designation for the goddesses of “Justice, Freedom, Equality, etc.” who were now all the rage again; this made a deep impression on him, as he has himself done much in the service of these higher beings. He thought Höchberg rather Dühringised – and Wedde has a sharper nose than Liebknecht.

You will have received the Mehring.[7] Today I am also sending you a little anti-Treitschke pamphlet[8] which, while most boringly and superficially written, nevertheless has some points of interest.

The main trouble with Turkey is—the old story with all absolute monarchies. The Seraglio party—which is also Russian, just as the parties of Charles I, Charles II, James II, Louis XVI and Frederick William IV all sought to keep themselves going by recourse to foreign intrigue—is giving way but is far from being broken. In the first moment of alarm Abdul Kerim and Redif were summoned before a court martial. Mahmud Damad was disgraced, Midhat Pasha invited to return. Scarcely was the first panique over when Damad was again at the helm, protecting his trusties and keeping Midhat at arm’s length, etc. I am convinced that the Muscovite diplomats are following the moves in Constantinople more attentively than those on either side of the Balkans.

Apropos ‘value’ in the first[9] (most inadequate, even wholly erroneous, but not uninteresting) chapter of his Theory of Price Fluctuation[10] on ‘Value’, having passed under review all the epigonic musings of contemporary German, French and English scholastics, Kaufman makes the following, absolutely correct commente:

.’In our review of the doctrines of value ... we saw that the political economists had certainly grasped the importance of this category.... All the same ... everyone who occupies himself with economic science is familiar with the fact that in figures of speech the importance of value is raised to the extreme, but in actual fact is forgotten as quickly as possible, as soon as there has more or less been some mention of it in the introduction; it is impossible to give even a single example where what is said about value is to be found organically linked to what is said about other matters, where what is said about value in the introduction has any influence at all on the subsequent arguments. I refer here, of course, only to the pure category “value”, as distinct from price.’[11]

That is, indeed, the hallmark of all vulgar political economy.

Adam Smith began it; his few profound and surprising applications of the theory of value are found in haphazard remarks which have no bearing whatever on his exposés ex professo. Ricardo’s great transgression which, from the start, made him impossible to swallow, was precisely his attempt to prove the correctness of his theory of value in the light of economic facts which seemed wholly to contradict it.

My good nephews[12] yesterday did me the honour of presenting me with the five fat volumes of Bancroft’s The Native Races of the Pacific States of North America. The book, published by Longmans, came as a godsend to them, since all they had to do was put it down to their old man's[13] account at Longmans.

I have had a very nice reply from Dr Wiede to my letter of EXCUSE.

As for the Zukunft, I shall not answer at all, CONSIDERING THAT AN ANONYMOUS CIRCULAR, SIGNED BY NOBODY, IS FROM ITS VERY NATURE—UNANSWERABLE AND NOT TO BE ANSWERED.

The Irish skirmishing in the HOUSE OF COMMONS is most amusing. Parnell, etc., told Barry that the worst thing was the attitude of Butt who, with an eye to being appointed judge, threatened to resign his position as LEADER. He might, they said, do t h em a great deal of harm in Ireland. Barry mentioned BUTTS LETTER TO THE GENERAL COUNCIL OF THE INTERNATIONAL, a document they would like to have so as to prove that his inflexibility towards the intransigents was only put on; but where should I find the thing now?

Salut.

Your

Moor

...

The Irish skirmishes in the House of Commons are very amusing. Parnell, etc., told Barry that the worst was the attitude of Butt, who hopes to be appointed judge and has threatened to resign his leadership; and that he could do them great harm in Ireland. Barry mentioned Butt’s letter to the General Council of the International. They would like to have this document to prove that his stand-offishness in relation to the intransigents is mere pretence. But how am I to find the thing now?[14]

  1. A mistake: Wiede wrote to Engels on 10 July 1877.
  2. humbug
  3. in earnest
  4. Belgian Liberté
  5. Michel Élie Reclus (an ironical comparison of Elisée and Élie Reclus with the twin brothers Castor and Pollux.
  6. Cf. F. von Schiller's drama Wilhelm Tell, Act II, Scene 1.
  7. F. Mehring, Zur Geschichte der deutschen Sozialdemokratie.
  8. [F. Mehring,] Herr von Treitschke der Sozialistentödter und die Endziele des Liberalismus.
  9. A slip of the pen; should read: 'second'.
  10. Marx writes in Russian
  11. Kaufman, Kharkov, 1867, p. 123.
  12. Henry and Charles Juta
  13. Johann Carl Juta
  14. Isaac Butt’s letter from Dublin was read at the meeting of the General Council of the First International on January 4, 1870. Butt offered his offices in bringing about a union between English and Irish workers.