Letter to Karl Kautsky, July 19, 1884

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 19 July 1884

First published, in Russian, in Marx-Engels Archives, Vol. I (VI), Moscow, 1932

Published: Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 47

To Karl Kautsky in Zurich

London, 19 July, 1884[edit source]

Dear Kautsky,

Did not get the letter from you and Ede until this morning, although postmarked Zurich 17/7.

I agree to your proposals, provided the thing now goes ahead. If our workers can read Roman just as easily as German characters,

I would myself, of course, prefer Roman. Format about the same as Entwicklung[1]— Bebel’s Frau was too large. If you believe you can sell 5,000, I am quite agreeable. So just get on with it and let me have the proofs soon. The arrangement with Schabelitz is also quite satisfactory.

So the only reward we get for the consideration we have shown

Dietz is his regarding us all as his enemies!

That the Neue Zeit is to come to an end is no misfortune for the Party. It is becoming more and more apparent that the great majority of the literary Party people in Germany belong to the opportunists and cautious goers who, however disagreeable the Socialist Law may be to them from a pecuniary point of view, feel themselves quite in the right atmosphere under it from the literary point of view; they can express themselves quite openly--we are prevented from giving them one in the eye. Hence the mere task of filling a journal of this kind every month demands very great tolerance, which results in its being gradually overrun with philanthropy, humanitarianism, sentimentality and whatever all the anti-revolutionary vices of the Freiwalds[2], Quarcks, Schippels, Rosuses[3] [note: collaborators in Neue Zeit], etc. are called. People who do not want to learn anything fundamentally and only make literature about literature and incidentally out of literature (nine-tenths of present-day German writing is writing about other writing), naturally achieve more printed pages per annum than those who grind at something and only want to write about other books when: (1) they have mastered these other books and (2) there is something in them worth the trouble. The preponderance of these former gentlemen which has been produced by the Socialist Law in the literature printed in Germany is inevitable while the Law lasts. Against it we have in the literature published abroad a weapon which strikes in a totally different manner.

It would be delightful if you were to come to this country. But I don’t know whether you ought to count with such certainty on the New Yorkers. Over 3 months ago Aveling was taken on as London correspondent[4] and, though he has written regularly, he has not yet had a penny. Here on the spot there’s nothing to be earned. Neither Justice nor To-Day pay, and if there’s anything to be picked up elsewhere in the press, everyone is on to it like a pack of wolves.

The clairvoyance in the Neue Welt is the best thing that could have happened. That sort of ‘erudition’ regularly degenerates into such-like nonsense. The cruder the better — it will be over all the sooner. I did so laugh when I got your postcard. A few more such audacious Geiseriads and the chap will have to pack his bags.

Hyndman’s book,[5] like the man himself, is a pretentious, impertinent jumble in which he, too, continually tries to pick holes in Marx (for not being an Englishman; Hyndman is the most jingoistic John Bull imaginable) and yet is so ignorant of English history that it’s all w r o n g except for what he has learnt from the Germans. But Hyndman is about to come a cropper here; true he has, with his own and Morris’ money, now bought up the entire movement, financially speaking (likewise To-Day which Bax is unable to carry on for want of resources, and which has now been transferred lock, stock and barrel to Hyndman), but his eagerness to play the dictator, his envy of all potential rivals and his persistent self-promotion, have rendered him suspect to even his surest friends, and his position in the DEMOCRATIC FEDERATION is growing shaky. Cet homme n’ira pas loin, il ne sait pas attendre.[6] On top of that, Justice is becoming ever sillier, and I hope that this initial phase of the movement here will very soon be over; it is becoming dreadfully unedifying.

With your bacillum, you have given Geiser an opening which, however, he may with any luck be too stupid to exploit. Both forms, baculus and baculum, are current, hence either gender so far as the derivation is concerned. But bacillus has long since been exclusively adopted in biology.

As I shall probably be going to the seaside for a bit at the end of this or the beginning of next month, I should be grateful if I could have Rodbertus’ Zur Erkenntniss now. I shall return it immediately, along with the Normal-Arbeitstag, etc., but it is necessary for me to have seen the thing because he himself maintained in 1879 that Marx had made use of it without due acknowledgment. No such accusation could ever be brought against Marx save by people without any idea of the hair-raising ignorance it requires so much as to assert anything of the kind. Anyone who has read Ricardo — and even in Adam Smith there are passages enough to this effect — must after all know what is the ‘source’ of surplus value without having to read the greatd Rodbertus first.



  1. F. Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.
  2. Freiwald Thüringer—pen-name of Max Quarck
  3. Robert Schweichel
  4. to the New Yorker Volkszeitung
  5. H.M. Hyndman, The Historical Basis of Socialism in England
  6. This man will not go far; he does not know how to bide his time.