Letter to Hermann Schlüter, May 15, 1885

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 15 May 1885


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First published abridged in Die Neue Zeit, Bd. l,Nr. 11, Stuttgart, 1918 and in full in: Marx and Engels, Works, First Russian Edition, Vol. XXVII, Moscow, 1935

Source: Science and Society Volume II, Number 3, 1938;
Translated and Edited: by Leonard E. Mins.
Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 47

To Hermann Schlüter in Hottingen-Zurich

London, May 15, 1885.[edit source]

Dear Schlüter:

As for the poems:

The Marseillaise of the Peasant War was: Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott, and conscious of victory as the text and melody of this song are, it cannot nor need it be taken in this today. Other songs of the time are to be found in collections of folksongs, Des Knaben Wunderhorn[1], and the like. More may perhaps be found there. But the Landsknecht[2] largely pre-empted our folk poetry even at that time.

Of foreign songs I know only the pretty Danish song of Herr Tidmann, which I translated in the Berlin Sozialdemokrat in 1865.

There were all sorts of Chartist songs, but they aren’t to be had any more. One began:

Britannia’s sons, though slaves you be,
God your creator made you free;
To all he life and freedom gave,
But never, never made a slave.

I don’t know any others.

All that has vanished, nor was this poetry worth much. In 1848 there were two songs sung to the same melody:

1) Schleswig-Holstein,

2) The Hecker Song:

Hecker, hoch dein Name schalle
An dem ganzen deutschen Rhein.
Deine Grossmut, ja dein Auge
Flossen schon Vertrauen ein.
Hecker, der als deutscher Mann
Vor der Freiheit sterben kann.[3]

I think that’s enough. Then the variant:

Hecker, Struve, Blenker, Zitz und Blum
Bringt die deitsche Ferschte um![4]

In general, the poetry of past revolutions (the Marseillaise always excepted) rarely has a revolutionary effect for later times because it must also reproduce the mass prejudices of the period in order to affect the masses. Hence the religious nonsense even among the Chartists.

Now as to Marx’s shorter pieces, this is a matter upon which others beside myself have to decide, while I for my own part must make quite sure that nothing is done that might interfere with the proposed edition of the Complete Works. The things appertaining to the International, the Inaugural Address, Civil War, Hague Report,[5] etc., like the Manifesto. I do not regard as forming part of these, though I should like to reserve the right to provide a few words of introduction. As regards the articles from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, you must first find out which were written by Marx. For instance, only one, an outstanding article on the June insurrection was by Marx[6], while the account of the struggle, etc., was entirely mine.[7] Likewise the anti-Bakunin and anti-Pan-Slavism articles.[8] The things Marx and I wrote at that time are on the whole almost indistinguishable owing to our systematic division of labour.

As I have said, I shall certainly not place unnecessary obstacles in your way, but I should be glad all the same if you could let me have a rather more detailed idea of your plan before I say anything definite about it. At all events, it would hardly do to publish stuff from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung and on the International side by side, i. e. in one volume; there was an interval of some 15 or 20 years in between.— The Cologne Trial[9] would run to a goodly volume on its own, and I would write you an introduction to it.[10] But please note that in that case I must know when it is really needed and, what with the luckless Dühring,[11] you have after all enough to print just now. You will have received the two sheets, 4 and 5.

Apropos, my intention is that the chapter ‘Theoretical’ from the section Socialism should be printed according to the revised text of Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. When it has got to that stage I shall send you what is necessary. This is merely to notify you in advance.

For the rest, warm regards from

Yours,

F. Engels

  1. compiled by L. A. von Arnim and C. Brentano
  2. mercenary soldier
  3. Hecker, may thy name resound Up and down the German Rhine,
    Thy generous heart nay, e'en thy look
    Inspired confidence in mind.
    Hecker, a German man and free
    Who'd give his life for liberty.

  4. Hecker, Struve, Blenker, Zitz and Blum Slay the German princes

  5. K. Marx, Report of the General Council to the Fifth Annual Congress
  6. K. Marx, 'The June Revolution'
  7. F. Engels, 'Details about the 23rd of June'; 'The 23rd of June'; 'The 24th of June'; 'The 25th of June'; 'The June Revolution (The Course of the Paris Uprising)'.
  8. F. Engels, 'Democratic Pan-Slavism'.
  9. K. Marx, Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne
  10. F. Engels, 'On the History of the Communist League'.
  11. F. Engels, Anti-Dühring