Letter to Karl Marx, April 9, 1858

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 9 April 1858

Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 40, p. 304;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913.

To Marx in London

Manchester, 9 April 1858[edit source]

Dear Moor,

The study of your abstract of the first half-instalment [Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy] has greatly exercised me; it is a very abstract abstract indeed — inevitably so, in view of its brevity, — and I often had to search hard for the dialectical transitions, particularly since all abstract reasoning is now completely foreign to me. The arrangement of the whole into 6 books could hardly be better and seems to me an excellent idea, although the dialectical transition from landed property to wage labour is not yet quite clear to me. The development of the monetary business, too, is really excellent, though again there are individual bits I can’t quite make out, at least until I have looked up the historical background. However, I think that I shall get a better idea of the drift when I've had the last part of capital in general, and shall then write to you at greater length about it. The abstract, dialectical tone of your synopsis will, of course, disappear in the development.

Yesterday I sent you two more Guardians. Now that the price has been reduced to 1d, the chaps are evidently cutting down on all expenses such as foreign correspondents, etc. Their attempt to produce a first-class provincial paper failed completely. Hence the dearth of foreign news and the rarity of contributions from Paris.

The thing about Fould in yesterday’s Guardian isn’t bad. But what’s even better is the Cotton Supply Association’s report. How splendid that, 10 years after its introduction, Free Trade should be repudiated outright by the free traders themselves. For all that this Cotton Supply Association amounts to is an institution set up by these self-same free traders with the object of boosting the cultivation of cotton everywhere in the world where soil and climate are not entirely unsuitable — and this, in direct opposition to Free Trade principles, by means of rewards, advances, gifts of seed, loans of machinery, etc., etc. If the State does something of this sort, it’s all wrong, but if the Manchester Cotton Spinners, who are much further removed from the niggers, Bedouins, etc., in Africa than their own monarch, do the selfsame thing, then it’s all right. This report is as pretty a satire on laissez-faire clap-trap generally as one could hope to find. Very pretty, too, the admission that the import of English goods manufactured from American cotton has disrupted cotton cultivation in almost all other countries and that this last will now have to be restored by artificial means! These wretched English regard their monopoly in cotton spinning and weaving as something fine and natural to which no one could object; whereas the cotton-growing monopoly of the United States, engendered by the selfsame world market, must be smashed, even if this means anti-free trade measures. The thing ought to be called *Association for enabling the single spinners to buy cotton in the dearest market, the collective spinners paying the producer the difference between the market value and his cost of production *. Of course, this is to go on only until subsidised cotton growing can stand on its own legs; but after all that is exactly what Monsieur List is also seeking to do with his protective tariffs! The thing might supply you with material for an article, since the Yankees have a direct interest in it and the Tribune, too, is anti-free trade.

My prognostications that fluctuations in produce would be entirely dependent on the east and west winds and that, with middling Orléans cotton above 6d, there could be no question of trade being either normal or brisk, have proved remarkably accurate. As regards cotton, the fulfilment of my first prognostication will be apparent from the enclosed table which is a continuation of the one I sent you earlier on the price of Middling Orleans, and brings it up to date. Sugar, coffee and tea have gone the same way, save that the existence of considerable stocks inhibited the temporary steep rise which the shortage of stocks made possible in the case of cotton. As for the second prognostication, there’s still quite a lot of short time, strikes, and stoppages due to unprofitable production and, since the crop will provide 3,000 M bales whereas full production would now demand a minimum of 3,500 M (same ratio for other cotton producing countries), any attempt at revival by the cotton industry up to the end of this year will be hampered — quite aside from political convulsions — by the rising price of raw material, as indeed already happened at the end of February and the beginning of March (see table). Prices in general — even though there may be an initial fall — will rise, but at the same time there will be a check to production proportionate to the rise. This, always supposing that there is no row on the Continent, though the latter is a virtual certainty.

In one week, 19-26 February, only 62 bales of cotton of all qualities arrived in Liverpool! Normally they are counted in thousands.

What’s this about the 300 million francs which are admitted to have vanished? All I remember having read is that, instead of a surplus of 40 million, Magne has a deficit — but I don’t know the details. It really is priceless. Now the ‘prince impérial’ is also to be given his own household and a donation — cash must be devillish scarce!

I hope your bilious trouble is better. Obviously all this excitation caused by the crisis is to blame. In the evenings I am sometimes plagued by toothache as a result of the weather; but nothing worse.

Kind regards to your wife and children.

F. E.