Letter to Friedrich Engels, October 8, 1858

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written 8 October 1858


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 40, p. 345;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913.

To Engels in Manchester

London, Friday, [8 October] 1858[edit source]

Dear Frederick,

You will today be receiving two packages at once since not all the stuff could go into one letter. It consists of:

1. Cuttings from Reynolds’s relating to Jones. You will see for yourself where Reynolds is conveying facts, and opinions based on facts, and where he is venting his spleen. Reynolds is a far greater rogue than Jones, but he is rich and a good speculator. The mere fact that he has turned an out and out Chartist shows that this position must still be a ‘profitable’ one. I have read the speech Jones made in Manchester. Since you did not see his earlier speeches in Greenwich, etc., you couldn’t have detected that he is making another turn and seeking again to bring the ‘alliance’ more into accord with his former attitude.

2. Pyat’s new lettre which contains one or 2 facts that are interesting, otherwise in his former manner. The marks in the margin have been scribbled by my baby [Eleanor] and do not, therefore, have any bearing on the contents.

3. Mazzini’s new manifesto. Still the same old jackass. Save that now he is gracious enough not to consider le salariat [wage labour] any longer as the absolute and final form. There’s nothing funnier than the way he contradicts himself, on the one hand saying that in Italy the revolutionary party is organised according to his views and, on the other, proving after ‘his own’ fashion not only that it has the nation behind it, but also that there is every outward prospect of success — and finally fails to explain why, despite Dio e Popolo and Mazzini into the bargain, all is calm in Italy.

4. A little cutting from the Cincinnati Hochwächter containing a letter from ‘General’ Willich.

Considering the optimistic turn taken by world trade at this moment (although the vast accumulations of money in the banks of London, Paris and New York show that things cannot by any means be all right yet), it is some consolation at least that the revolution has begun in Russia, for I regard the convocation of notables to Petersburg as such a beginning. Similarly in Prussia things are worse than they were in 1847, and the ridiculous delusions as to the middle class propensities of the Prince of Prussia will be exploded in an outburst of rage. It will do the French no harm to see that, even without them, the world ‘mov’t’ (Pennsylvania-fashion). At the same time exceptional movements are on foot amongst the Slavs, notably in Bohemia, which, though counter-revolutionary, yet provide ferment for the movement.. The Russian war of 1854-55, wretched though it was and little though its consequences damaged the Russians (but rather the Turks), nevertheless clearly precipitated the present turn of events in Russia. The only circumstance which turned the Germans into mere satellites of France so far as their revolutionary movement was concerned, was the attitude of Russia. This absurdity will cease with an internal movement in Moscovy. As soon as the thing assumes clearer shape there, we shall have proof of the full extent to which the worthy Regierungsrat Haxthausen has allowed himself to be hoodwinked by the ‘authorities’ and by the peasants those authorities have trained.

There is no denying that bourgeois society has for the second time experienced its 16th century, a 16th century which, I hope, will sound its death knell just as the first ushered it into the world. The proper task of bourgeois society is the creation of the world market, at least in outline, and of the production based on that market. Since the world is round, the colonisation of California and Australia and the opening up of China and Japan would seem to have completed this process. For us, the difficult question is this: on the Continent revolution is imminent and will, moreover, instantly assume a socialist character. Will it not necessarily be crushed in this little corner of the earth, since the movement of bourgeois society is still, in the ascendant over a far greater area?

So far as China in particular is concerned, I have, by carefully analysing the movement of trade since 1836, established first that by 1847 the surge in English and American exports between 1844 and 1846 had proved a complete fraud and that, in the 10 years that followed, the average remained pretty stationary whereas imports from China into England and America rose enormously; secondly, that the only result of the opening up of the 5 ports and the annexation of Hong Kong was a shift of trade from Canton to Shanghai. The other ‘emporiums’ do not count. The main reason for the failure of this market would seem to be the opium trade — to which, indeed, every increase in the export trade to China has invariably been confined; however, another factor is the country’s internal economic organisation, its minute agriculture, etc., to demolish which will take an enormously long time. England’s present treaty with China which, in my view, was worked out by Palmerston jointly with the cabinet in Petersburg and was given to Lord Elgin to take with him on his journey, is a mockery from beginning to end.

Can you give me your sources for the progress of the Russians in Central Asia? I shall use the article for The Free Press, at any rate.

My mother has suddenly and unexpectedly withdrawn into what, to me, is an inexplicable silence. I am inclined to think that third persons have put a spoke in the wheel. But the matter will resolve itself.

Regards to Lupus.

Your
K. M.