Letter to Friedrich Engels, March 19, 1870

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 19 March 1870

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

Extract published in Marx and Engels on Ireland, Progress Publishers, 1971;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 43
Keywords : Letter, Paris, London, Positivism

To Engels in Manchester

This letter was written on a form stamped: 'General Council of the International Working Men's Association, 256, High Holborn, London, W.C;the letter carries an oval stamp 'International Working Men's Central Council London'.

London, March 19, 1870[edit source]

Dear Fred,

Enclosed is a Marseillaise, which should, however, be returned with the preceding one. I haven’t read it myself yet. The article was written jointly by Jennychen and myself because she didn’t have sufficient time. That is also why she hasn’t answered your letter and sends Mrs. Lizzy her thanks for the shamrock provisionally through me.

From the enclosed letter from Pigott to Jenny you’ll see that Mrs. O’Donovan, to whom Jenny sent a private letter together with 1 Marseillaise[1], took her for a gentleman, even though she signed it Jenny Marx. I answered Pigott today on behalf of Jennychen and took the opportunity to explain to him in short my views on the Irish question.

Your HINT about Bruce’s falsification has already been used in the letter Jenny sent yesterday to the Marseillaise.[2] We have Knox’ et Pollock’s Report[3] (but did not consult it) and ditto ‘THINGS NOT GENERALLY KNOWN’. On the other hand, you would oblige me if you would send by return: 1. Lassalle’s publication against Schulze-Delitzsch, and 2. the book by ‘Clement’, the crazy Frisian.[4]

The sensation caused by Jennychen’s second letter (which contained the condensed translation of O’Donovan’s letter) in Paris and London has robbed the loathsome and importunate (but very fluent with gab and pen) Talandier of his sleep. He had denounced the Irish as Catholic idiots in the Marseillaise. Now he espouses their cause no less fullmouthed in a review of what has been said in the Times, Daily Telegraph and Daily News about O’Donovan’s letter. Since Jennychen’s second letter was unsigned (by accident) he apparently flattered himself with the idea that he would be considered the secret sender. This has been frustrated by Jennychen’s third letter. This fellow is du reste a teacher of French at the military school of Sandhurst.

Last Tuesday[5] I was back again, for the first time, at a meeting of the GENERAL COUNCIL. With me—Felix Holt, THE RASCAL.[6] He had a very good time since, for a change, there was really something interesting going on. As you know, the prolétaires ‘positivistes’ in Paris had sent a deputy[7] to the Basle Congress. There was a discussion as to whether he should be admitted, since he represented a philosophical society and not a workers’ society (although he a n d his consorts all belong ‘personally’ to the WORKING GLASS). Finally, he was admitted as a delegate of personal MEMBERS of the ‘Internationale’. These fellows have now constituted themselves in Paris as a branche of the Internationale—an event about which the London and Paris Comtists have made a great FUSS. They thought that they had driven in THE THIN WEDGE. T h e GENERAL COUNCIL, being informed by the ‘prolétaires positivistes’ of their affiliation, reminded t h em politely that the COUNCIL could only permit their admission after examining their programme. So they sent a programme—real Comtist-orthodox—which was discussed last Tuesday. In the chair was Mottershead[8], a very intelligent (though anti-Irish) old Chartist, and a personal enemy of, and expert on, Comtism.[9] After a longish debate: Since they are workers they may be admitted as a simple branch. Not, however, as ‘branche positiviste’, since the principles of Comtism directly contradict our Rules. And anyway, it was their own affair how they reconciled their philosophical private views with those of our Rules.

About the screeds from Solingen soon.




  1. Apparently carrying the second article by Jenny Marx from the Irish question series.
  2. The fourth article by Jenny Marx from the Irish question series.
  3. [A. A. Knox and G. D. Pollock,] Report of the Commissioners on the Treatment of the Treason-Felony Convicts in the English Convict P
  4. F. Lassalle, Herr Bastiat-Schultze von Delitzsch, der ökonomische Julian, oder: Capital und Arbeit; K. J. Clement, Schleswig, das urheimische Land des nicht dänischen Volks der Angeln und Frisen und Englands Mutterland, wie es war und ward.
  5. 15 March
  6. Dakyns
  7. Gabriel Mollin
  8. See Letter to Friedrich Engels, November 26, 1869
  9. A programme of the Paris society of proletarians-positivists was read at the General Council meeting of 15 March 1870. It stressed that the society members ‘aim at social regeneration without God or King and hope to bring it about by the propagation of the positivist doctrine’. When discussing their admittance to the International, Marx stated that ‘their rules were too exclusive and contrary to the General Rules of the Association’. Marx and Mottershead spoke out ‘against admitting them as positivists’. On Milner’s suggestion, a decision was reached to instruct Dupont as Corresponding Secretary for France to try and make the proletarians-positivists aware of the discrepancies in their programme.
    Comtism (positivism), a trend in bourgeois philosophy and sociology founded by Auguste Comte which opposes both speculative idealism and materialism; it recognises the practical results achieved by science but rejects its philosophical materialist conclusions from the position of agnosticism. Comtism reduces all scientific cognition, including that in history and sociology (the latter term has been coined by Comte) to empirical knowledge. Social development is considered from a biological angle. According to Comte, capitalism is the highest stage of social development, and attempts at its revolutionary change are supposed to be futile. Comte believed that the road to social harmony lies through 'new religion', a cult of an abstract higher being.