Letter to Friedrich Engels, December 7, 1867

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 7 December 1867


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 42, p. 493;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA, Berlin, 1930.

To Engels in Manchester

[London,] 7 December 1867[edit source]

Dear Fred,

Yesterday I presented myself at the Loan Society for bodily examination. This is more than just a formality, for if I were to die before September, the society would not get a farthing back. I was afraid I would have to undress (the fate of an Englishman who was there with me). In the first place, I do not like such inocular speculation, and second precisely at this moment I still have a carbuncle on the left loin not far from the centre of propagation, as well as numerous furuncles. Fortunately, the fellow was so impressed with my chest that he didn’t want to know about anything else. I shall get the money on Monday at 12 o'clock.

You forgot to put in the letter from Siebel. I am sending you back Kugelmann, along with enclosure. Also, a letter he has written to me, together with enclosures. The screed from Burgers to be put with the documents. That jackass was rightly reminded by the workers in Düsseldorf that 1. in Lassalle’s time he stated he ‘wished to take due account of conditions’, 2. he had lost his illusions about the class struggle’, and 3. he had found in Schulze-Delitzsch the solution to all past and future social mysteries.

As regards the little Swabian paper, it would be an amusing coup if we could hoodwink Vogt’s friend, the Swabian Mayer. It would be easy to contrive the thing as follows. D'abord to begin by saying that whatever one may think of the draft of the book [Capital], it is a credit to the ‘German spirit’, for which reason, too, it was written by a Prussian in exile and not in Prussia; Prussia having long ceased to be a country where any scholarly initiative, especially in the political or historical or social field, is possible or is actually to be found, it now being the representative of the Russian and not of the German spirit. In respect of the book itself, a distinction has to be drawn between two things, between positive developments (’solid’ would be the second epithet) given by the author, and the tendentious conclusions he arrives at. The former are a direct addition to the sum of human knowledge, since actual economic relations are treated in an entirely new way by a materialistic (‘Mayer’ has a liking for this catchword, on account of Vogt) method. Example: 1. the development of money, 2. the way in which co-operation, division of labour, the machine system and the corresponding social combinations and relations develop ‘spontaneously’.

Now as regards the tendency of the author, another distinction has to be drawn. When he demonstrates that present society, economically considered, is pregnant with a new, higher form, he is only showing in the social context the same gradual process of evolution that Darwin has demonstrated in natural history. The liberal doctrine of ‘progress’ (c'est Mayer tout pur) embraces this idea, and it is to his credit that he himself shows there is hidden progress even where modern economic relations are accompanied by frightening direct consequences. At the same time, owing to this critical approach of his, the author has, perhaps malgré lui [despite himself], sounded the death-knell to all socialism by the book, i.e. to utopianism, for evermore.

The author’s tendency to be subjective, on the other hand — which he was perhaps bound and obligated to assume in view of his party position and his past — i.e. the manner in which he represents to himself or to others the ultimate outcome of the present movement, of the present social process, bears absolutely no relation to its real development. If space permitted this to be more closely examined, it could perhaps be shown that its ‘objective’ development refutes his own ‘subjective’ fancies.

Whereas Mr Lassalle hurled abuse at the capitalists and flattered the backwoods Prussian squirearchy, Mr Marx, on the contrary, shows the historical necessity of capitalist production and severely criticises the landed aristocrat who does nought but consume. Just how little he shares the ideas of his renegade disciple Lassalle on Bismarck’s vocation for ushering in an economic millennium he has not merely shown in his previous protests against ‘royal Prussian Socialism’ but he openly repeats it on pp. 762, 763, where he says that the system prevailing in France and Prussia at present will subject the continent of Europe to the regime of the Russian knout, if it is not checked in good time.

That is my view on how to hoodwink the Swabian Mayer (who did after all print my preface), and small though his beastly rag is, it is, nevertheless, the popular oracle of all the Federalists in Germany and is also read abroad.

With regard to Liebknecht, it is indeed a disgrace that with the numerous petty provincial papers he has at his command, he did not spontanément send in short notices to them — it would not have required of him any of the study which is so contrary to his nature. Mr Schweitzer et Co. understand this better, as you can see from the enclosed Social-Demokrat. (Kugelmann sent it me.) Yesterday I sent Guido Weiss of the Zukunft (this just between ourselves) some juxtaposed texts [Plagiarism], on one side von Hofstetten’s bowdlerised plagiarisms, on the other the original passages from my book. I wrote to him at the same time that this must be printed not in my name but as though emanating from the Zukunft (or, if that is not feasible, then as though from a Zukunft-reader in Berlin). If Weiss takes this (and I think he will), then not merely will the attention of the Berlin workers have been drawn to the book through the quotation of passages which are of direct interest to them, but an extremely useful polemic will have been initiated, and Schweitzer’s plan to ignore the book and exploit its contents will have been dished. Marvellous how these fellows think they can go on with Lassalle’s plan. What could be more naive than the manner in which von Hofstetten and Citizen Geib have joined together at the general meeting of the General Association of German Workers in savaging the section I wrote on the working day.

Salut.

Your
K. Marx

My compliments to Mrs Burns. I have taken an extraordinary liking to Schorlemmer’s compendium.