Letter to Karl Kautsky, May 23, 1884

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 23 May 1884


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

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 47

To Kautsky in Zurich

[London,] 23 May 1884

Dear Kautsky,

I trust you will have received the ms. of chapters 1-8[1]; it went off to you yesterday by registered mail. As I have already suggested, I think the best thing to do, if you want to use some of it for the Neue Zeit, would be to take the chapter on the family with the exception of monogamy. It anticipates the latter to the extent necessary to produce a fairly well rounded whole.

As to the ban, I have already written and told you that everything by me is banned on principle; ‘Prussian Schnapps’ was a personal insult to Bismarck and, now that Richter has used it to concoct a policy of his own for schnapps, the schnapps and wrapping-paper man will henceforward give me no rope at all. Anyhow all your arguments fall to the ground with the successful endorsement of the Anti-Socialist Law and with the banning of the Süddeutsche Post that immediately ensued. And the government can afford to be harsh when letting fly with its bans; proof of this is provided by the liberal press which is literally clamouring for vigorous action against us. You, as an Austrian, cannot possibly follow the reasoning that goes on in the minds of people like Bismarck, Puttkamer & Co.; for that you would have to be familiar with the Prussian police regime before 1848; to restore this to full bloom by means of the Anti-Socialist Law is the prime motive of these Junker bureaucrats. Everything else — at home — is secondary.

I have not yet heard anything further about the Dührings that are stored here.

I have Rodbertus’ Kapital. Seems to be nothing in it. A repository of the most meagre material, endlessly repeated.

The things from the archives are being carefully looked after at my house and I shall be punctilious about returning them. As soon as I have polished off the final chapter and put various other things — books, etc.— in the house in order, I shall tackle the 2nd volume of Capital—in the daytime; in the evenings I shall first of all revise your Poverty of Philosophy and do the notes and preface for it.[2] This apportionment is not only useful but absolutely essential, since one does not study Marx’s handwriting by lamplight for any length of time unless one is intent on going blind. Moreover my critique of Rodbertus will be confined in the main simply to the accusation of plagiarism and all the rest — his social Salvationist Utopias, rent, mortgage relief for the landed aristocracy, etc., only mentioned in passing. So you will have sufficient material to administer a sound thrashing to this little Pomeranian exploiter of cottagers, who might have become a second-rate economist had he not been a Pomeranian. Now that the milksops, who cling to us on the one hand and to the armchair socialists on the other with the intention of protecting both their flanks, have, à la Freiarsch Thüringer,[3] played off the ‘great[4] Rodbertus’ against Marx, and now that Adolph Wagner and other Bismarckians have actually elevated the same to the rank of prophet of careerist socialism, we have absolutely no cause to spare this prodigy invented by Rodbertus himself and loudly extolled by Meyer (who knows nothing about economics and, in the former, possessed his own secret oracle). The man achieved absolutely nothing in the field of economics; he had much talent, but always remained a dilettante and, above all, an ignorant Pomeranian and arrogant Prussian. The most he ever achieved was to present a number of neat and correct points of view, but he was never able to turn them to good account. How can a decent chap actually come to be regarded as the apostle of the careerists of Bismarckian socialism? It is history’s revenge upon this artificially inflated ‘prodigy’.

Your news from Germany about internal matters is always very welcome.

But now I must write to Ede.

Your

F.E.

  1. of Engels' The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State
  2. F. Engels, 'Marx and Rodbertus'
  3. Freiwald Thüringer (Max Quarck)
  4. In the original: 'graußen' (South-German dialect).