Letter to Friedrich Engels, June 23, 1868

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To Engels in Manchester

London, 23 June 1868[edit source]

Dear Fred,

Best thanks for the £10.

Tussychen and Jennychen are both unfortunately very unwell — sore throats and vomiting. If things do not get better today, I shall have to call a doctor. Our Allen suddenly became paralysed a week ago, so he cannot leave his house.

Vésinier is wrangling here in the French Branch against Dupont and Jung, both of whom he brands ‘as Bonapartists’. During my absence he attended a meeting of the Central Council (which he has no right to do) and has written a fantastic report in the Cigale (Brussels paper). The venue of the Congress was just being discussed.

Lafargue cannot possibly sign, since he is a Frenchman, and in addition, my son-in-law. Sign it A. Williams or something of the sort. It would be best if Sam Moore signed.


K. M.

Yesterday by accident I came across a fine passage in A. Smith. After he had explained that labour the prime cost, etc., and nearly said the right things though with constant contradictions; after he had ditto declared:

‘The profits of stock, it may perhaps be thought, are only a different name for the wages of a particular sort of labour, the labour of inspection and direction. They are, however, altogether different, are regulated by quite different principles, and bear no proportion to the quantity, the hardship, or the ingenuity of this supposed labour of inspection and direction’,

after that he suddenly does an about turn and wants to develop wages, profit, rent, as the ‘component parts of natural price’ (with him = value). Among other things, there is the following fine passage:

‘When the price of any commodity is neither more not less than what is sufficient to pay the rent of the land, the wages of the labour, and the profits of the stock employed in raising, preparing and bringing it to market, according to their natural rates, the commodity is then sold for what may be called its natural price. The commodity is then sold precisely for what it is worth or for what it really costs the person who brings it to market, for though in common language the prime cost of any commoditydoes not comprehend the profit of the person who is to sell it again, yet, if he sells it at a price which does not allow him the ordinary rate of profit in his neighbourhood, he is evidently a loser by the trade, since, by employing his stock in some other way, he might have made that profit.’ [The existence of profit in the ‘neighbourhood’ as an explanation for the same!] ‘His profit, besides, is his revenue the proper fund of his subsistence. As, while he is preparing and bringing the goods to market, he advances to his workmen their wages, or their subsistence, so he advances to himself, in the same manner, his own subsistence, which is generally suitable to the profit which he may reasonably expect from the sale of his goods. Unless they yield him this profit, therefore, they do not repay him what they may very properly be said to have cost him’.

This second manner of pressing the profit into the prime cost — because already consumed — is really fine.

The same man, in whom the organs of pissing and generation also coincide mentally, stated previously:

‘As soon as stock has accumulated in the hands of particular persons the value which the workmen add to the materials resolves itself into two parts of which the one pays their wages, the other the profits of their employer upon the whole stock of materials and wages which he advanced.'