Letter to Friedrich Engels, August 9, 1862

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 9 August 1862


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 41, p. 403;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913.
Keywords : Letter, Law, Value, Price, Rent

To Engels in Manchester

In Manchester

9 August 1862[edit source]

Dear Engels,

Izzy doesn’t want to pay the £15 before 1 January.

So, I've been to see Borkheim. You are to draw 400 talers on Lassalle (I didn’t, of course, in speaking of Lassalle to Borkheim, say anything as to the £15 to be paid by Lassalle). At 3 months. Then, however, the thing will have to be renewed, as I told Borkheim that it wasn’t payable until 1 January. (This being the date stipulated by Lassalle.)

So, the main thing is that you should send Borkheim the bill.

As regards the theory of rent, I shall, of course, have to wait until I get your letter. But what follows will simplify the ‘debate’, as Heinrich Bürgers would say:

I. All I have to prove theoretically is the possibility of absolute rent, without infringing the law of value. This is the point round which the theoretical controversy has revolved from the time of the physiocrats until the present day. Ricardo denies that possibility; I maintain it. I likewise maintain that his denial rests on a theoretically false dogma deriving from A. Smith — the supposed identity of cost prices and values of commodities Further, that where Ricardo illustrates the thing with examples, he invariably presupposes conditions in which there is either no capitalist production or (factually or legally) no landed property. But the whole point is to examine the law precisely when such things do exist.

II. As regards the existence of absolute rent, this would be a question that would require statistical solution in any country. But the importance of a purely theoretical solution may be gauged from the fact that for 35 years statisticians and practical inert generally have been maintaining the existence of absolute rent, while the (Ricardian) theoreticians have been seeking to explain it away by dint of very forced and theoretically feeble abstractions. Hitherto, I have invariably found that, in all such quarrels, the theoreticians have always been in the wrong.

III. I demonstrate that, even presupposing the existence of absolute rent, it by no means follows that the worst cultivated land or the worst mine pays rent under all circumstances; rather, these will, in all likelihood, have to sell their products at market value, but at less than their individual value. In order to prove the opposite, Ricardo invariably supposes — which is theoretically false — that, under all conditions of the market, it is the commodity produced in the most unfavourable circumstances which determines the market value. You yourself had already put forward the correct argument against this in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher.

That is all I have to add as to rent.

As regards Brockhaus, Lassalle has promised to do his utmost, and I believe he will, having solemnly declared that he can neither publish his magnum opus on political economy, nor set to work on it — which in his case amounts to the same thing — until my book has come out.

Salut.

Your
K.M.

Borkheim further adds:

You are to draw the 400 talers on Lassalle at 3 months and renew it a fortnight before due date, till 1 January 1863. If you can’t manage to pay in instalments, Borkheim will see to it that Lassalle gets the money on the first due date.

As for the Evening Post, I should be glad if you could draft a letter for me, since I'm very bad at writing colloquial English.