Letter to Friedrich Engels, May 23, 1868

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 23 May 1868

Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 43, p. 38;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913.

To Engels in Manchester

London, 23 May 1868[edit source]

Dear Fred,

It appears to me that you are on the wrong track with your fear of presenting such simple formulas as M — C — M, etc. to the English review philistines. On the contrary. If you were forced, as I am, to read the economic articles of Messrs Lalor, Herbert Spencer, Macleod, etc., in The Westminster Review, etc., you would see that all of them are fed up with the economic trivialities — and know their readers are fed up, too — so they try to give their scribblings some flavour through pseudo-philosophical or pseudo-scientific slang. The pseudo-character in no way makes the writing (content = 0) easy to understand. On the contrary. The trick lies in so mystifying the reader and causing him to rack his brain, that he may finally be relieved to discover that these hard words are only fancy dress for loci communes. [platitudes] Add to this that the readers of the Fortnightly and The Westminster Review flatter themselves that they are the longest heads of England (let alone the rest of the world, naturally). Even apart from that, if you had seen what Mr James Hutchinson Stirling dares to present to the public as The Secret of Hegel, not only in books but also in reviews, — Hegel himself would not understand it — you would realise — Mr J. H. Stirling is regarded as a great thinker — that you are really being too timid. People demand something new, new in form and content.

Since you want to start with Chapter II (you must not, however, forget to draw the reader’s attention somewhere to the fact that in Chapter I he will find a new treatment of that value and money stuff) the following should, in my opinion, be used for the beginning, naturally in the form agreeable to you.

In his investigations into currency Th. Tooke underlines that money in its function as capital flows back to its starting point (reflux of money to its point of issue), but in its function simply as currency does not flow back. This distinction, noted by Sir James Steuart, among others, long before Tooke, serves the latter simply for a polemic against what the preachers of the currency principle claim to be the influence the issue of credit money (banknotes, etc.) exercises upon commodity prices. Our author, however, makes this peculiar form of circulation of money which functions as capital (‘serve in the function of capital’, A. Smith) the starting point for his investigation into the nature of capital itself, and in the first place for an answer to the question: How is money, this independent form of value, converted into capital? (‘Conversion into Capital’ the official expression.)

All sorts of businessmen, says Turgot ‘have in common that they buy to sell ... their purchases are an advance which returns to them’. Buying to sell, this is in fact the transaction in which money functions as capital, and which conditions its reflux to its point of issues in distinction to selling to buy, where it need only function as currency. The differing sequence of the acts of selling and buying imposes upon money two different circulation movements. What is hidden behind this is the different behaviour of the value itself expressed in money form. To illustrate this, the author gives the following formulas, etc., etc., for the two different circulation movements.

I believe that you will make the matter easier for yourself and the reader by quoting the formulas.

I shall reply later to the other points of your letter. Of the carbuncles there remains only one, also soon finished. Last Wednesday I gave a lecture (about 5/4 of an hour) on wages (especially the form of the same) to about 100 German picked workers. I was very unwell that day, and I was advised to telegraph that I could not come. However, this was impossible, since some of the people had come from very distant parts of London. So I went there. The business went off very well, and after the lecture I felt better than before.

I have made concessions to my family doctor Lafargue in that I have not yet visited the Museum again. But I have perhaps, during the past weeks, meditated too much at home.

I shall, if possible, come to Manchester with Tussychen at the end of next week (say Saturday). But you will have to send me the money for the fares and some shillings which I shall leave for my wife.

Tussychen, of course, has reminded me of the trip about every day.

Enclosed new Liebknecht stuff.


K. M.