Letter to Karl Marx, August 19, 1846

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 19 August 1846


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 38 p 52.
First published: in slightly abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA, 1929;.

To Marx in Brussels

Paris, 19 August 1846 Cercle Valois, Palais Royal[edit source]

Dear Marx,

Arrived here at last Saturday evening after a fatiguing journey and much tedium.[1] Immediately ran into Ewerbeck. The lad is very cheerful, completely tractable, more receptive than ever; in short I hope that — given a little patience — he and I will come to see pretty well eye to eye in all things. There are no longer any complaints about party strife — for the simple reason that he himself has been compelled to elbow out some of the Weitlingians here. Little has as yet transpired about what actually took place between him and Grün to create a breach between them; all we know is that Grün, by adopting now a fawning, now an arrogant, manner, was able to retain his more or less respectful affection. Ewerbeck has no illusions whatever about Hess, il n'a pas la moindre sympathie pour cet homme-là. [he has not the slightest sympathy for that man] In any case he has long, nourished a private hate against him, going back to the time they lodged together. I duly reprimanded him about the Westphalians.[2] That oaf Weydemeyer had written Bernays a Westphalianly lachrymose letter in which those noble fellows Meyer and Rempel were portrayed as martyrs in a good cause, gladly sacrificing their all, but whom we had rejected with contempt, etc.; and those two gullible Teutons, Ewerbeck and Bernays, sit down together, bemoan our hardness of heart and contentiousness and take the lieutenant at his word. Such superstition can scarcely be credited.

Grün has swindled the workers out of some 300 fr. on the pretext of having a pamphlet of 1½ sheets printed in Switzerland. [K. Grün, Die Preussischen Landtags-Abschiede] Now the money’s coming in, but the workers aren’t getting a penny of it. Now they're beginning to dun him for it. Ewerbeck realises how foolish it was of him to introduce this fellow Grün among the artisans. He is now afraid to accuse Grün publicly before them because he believes him capable of giving everything away to the police. But what a gullible fellow this Ewerbeck is! The wily Grün had himself told Ewerbeck all about his shabby tricks — but presenting them, of course, as undiluted heroic acts des Dévouements [of sacrifice], and Ewerbeck swallows every word he says. Of the fellow’s earlier knaveries he knew only as much as the delinquent himself had thought fit to tell him. Ewerbeck, by the way, has warned Proudhon against Grün. Grün is back here, living away over in Ménilmontant, and scribbling the most dreadful articles for the Trier’sche. Mäurer has translated the relevant passages from Grün’s book [Die soziale Bewegung in Frankreich und Belgien] for Cabet; you can imagine Cabet’s rage. He has lost all credit even with the National.

I went to see Cabet. The old boy was extremely cordial, I listened to all his stuff, told him about God and the devil, etc. I shall go there more often. But we must not bother him with the correspondence.[3] Firstly, he has enough to do and secondly, he’s too mistrustful. Il y verrait un piège [he would see it as a trap] for making improper use of his name.

I have been leafing quickly through Feuerbach’s Das Wesen der Religion in Epigonen. Apart from a few happy insights, the thing’s entirely in the old style. At the beginning, where he confines himself purely to natural religion, he is compelled to remain on rather more empirical ground, but later on it’s all at sixes and sevens. Once again full of ‘essence’, ‘Man’, etc. I'll read it properly and very soon send you excerpts from the principal passages if they are interesting, so that you'll still be able to use it for the Feuerbach[4]. Meanwhile two passages only. [Das Wesen der Religion is quoted below according to the collection Die Epigonen, Leipzig, 1846. The end of the second quotation is paraphrased] The whole — some 60 pages — opens with the following definition of nature as opposed to the human essence:

‘The essence that is different from and independent of the human essence or God (!!), whose portrayal is the “Essence of Christianity” (1), the essence without human essence (2), human attributes (3), human individuality (4), is in truth nothing other than — nature’ (p. 117).

This is truly a masterpiece of tautology blared forth in tones of thunder. Not only that, but in this proposition he identifies the religious, imaginary phantom of nature wholly and entirely with real nature. Comme toujours. Again, a little further on:

‘Religion is the acceptance and acknowledgment of that which I am (!) ... To elevate dependence on nature to consciousness, to picture it to oneself, to accept, acknowledge it, means to elevate oneself to religion’ (p. 118).

Not long ago the minister, Dumon, was caught in his shirt-tails with the wife of a president. The Corsaire-Satan relates: ‘A lady who had petitioned Guizot said, “It is a pity that so excellent a man as Guizot est toujours si sévère et boutonné jusqu'au cou.” [is always so strict and buttoned up to the neck. Here and below is a close rendering of items in the Corsaire-Satan of 16-17 August 1846] Says the wife of an employé of travaux publics,One cannot say as much of Mr Dumon, he is usually thought to be a little too much unbuttoned for a minister”.'

Some hours later during which time I paid a fruitless visit to the Café Cardinal to oblige little Weill — little Weill is somewhat riled because he isn’t getting his fees of 1,000 or so francs from the Démocratie pacifique which appears to be embroiled in a kind of great crisis and stopping of cash payments, and little Weill is too much of a Jew to allow himself to be fobbed off with banknotes on the first phalanstery of the future. By the way, the Fourierist gents become daily more tedious. The Phalange is nothing but nonsense. The information contained in Fourier’s posthumous work is confined entirely to the mouvement aromal and the mating of the planets which would appear to. take place plus ou moins from behind. The mating of Saturn and Uranus engenders dung-beetles — which in any case the Fourierists themselves are — but the chief dung-beetle is the Irishman, Mr Hugh Doherty, who in fact isn’t even a dung-beetle but only a dung-grub, a dung-larva — the poor creature is floundering about for the tenth time (10me article) in the question religieuse [H. Doherty, ‘La question religieuse’, La Phalange, T. IV, 1846] and still can’t discover how he can decently make his exit.

I haven’t yet seen Bernays. But according to Ewerbeck he isn’t getting along too badly and his worst complaint is boredom. The man is said to have grown very robust and healthy, his main activity, gardening, having apparently vanquished care so far as his human frame is concerned. He also, dit-on, holds the goats by the horns when his — ?wife? — , who can only be thought of between two question marks, is milking them. The poor devil naturally feels ill at ease in these surroundings; save for Ewerbeck who goes there weekly, he doesn’t see a soul, potters about dressed in a peasant’s blouse, never leaves Sarcelles, which is the most wretched village on this earth and doesn’t even have a pub, in short, he’s bored to death. We must see if we can get him back to Paris; within a month he would be his old self again. Since Börnstein, in his capacity as informer, must not know of my presence here, we have first written to Bernays[5] suggesting a rendezvous in Montmorency or somewhere else in the neighbourhood; afterwards we shall haul him off to Paris and spend a few francs on thoroughly cheering him up. That will make a different man of him. By the way, don’t let him suspect that I've written to you about him in this vein; in his high-flown. romantic mood, the good lad might feel it to be a moral injury.

The best of it is that in the house at Sarcelles there are 2 women, 2 men, several children, one of them dubious, and despite all this on n'y tire pas un coup. They don’t even practise pederasty. C'est un roman allemand.

Mrs Hess is on the look-out for a husband. She doesn’t give a fig for Hess. If there should happen to be something suitable, apply to Madame Gsell, Faubourg St. Antoine. There’s no hurry since the competition isn’t keen. Answer soon.

Your
E.

Address: 11, rue de l'arbre sec.

It goes without saying that anything I tell you now or later about Ewerbeck, Bernays and other acquaintances is strictly confidential.

I am not sending this post paid as I am short of money and can’t expect any before 1 October. But on that day I shall send a bill of exchange to cover my share of postal expenses.

  1. Engels arrived in Paris on 15 August 1846 entrusted by the Brussels Communist Correspondence Committee with communist propaganda among the workers, primarily among the members of the Paris communities of the League of the Just (*), and with founding a correspondence committee. After failing to draw Weitling into the activities of the Brussels Communist Correspondence Committee, Marx and Engels broke with him in the spring of 1846, and particular importance was attached to the struggle against the sectarian views of his followers, who advocated crude egalitarian communism, and against ‘true socialism’, a petty-bourgeois socialist trend which spread between 1844 and 1846 among German intellectuals and artisans, including emigrants in France. ‘True socialism’ was a mixture of the idealistic aspects of Feuerbachianism with French utopian socialism in ail emasculated form. As a result, socialist teaching was turned into abstract sentimental moralising divorced from real needs.
    (*) The League of the Just — the first political organisation of German workers and artisans — was formed between 1836 and 1838 as a result of a split in the Outlaws’ League, which consisted of artisans led by petty-bourgeois democrats. The League of the Just, whose supreme body — the People’s Chamber — was in Paris, and from the autumn of 1846 in London, was connected with French secret conspiratorial societies and had groups in Germany, Switzerland and England. Besides Germans it included workers of other nationalities. The views of the League’s members showed the influence of various utopian socialist ideas, primarily those of Wilhelm Weitling.
  2. A reference to the negotiations which Weydemeyer helped to conduct with Meyer and Rempel on the publication of a quarterly. Marx and Engels wanted to publish in it their manuscripts which later appeared under the title of The German Ideology (*). During the negotiations the Westphalian publishers continually twisted and turned, and finally refused to finance the publication.
    Joseph Weydemeyer was an artillery lieutenant dismissed from the Prussian army for political reasons.
    (*) A reference to the two volumes of a quarterly journal the publication of which was negotiated in 1845 and 1846 with a number of Westphalian socialists, the publishers Julius Meyer and Rudolph Rempel among others. Marx and Engels intended to publish in it their criticism of The German Ideology which they started to write in the autumn of 1845. It was also planned to publish a number of polemical works by their fellow-thinkers, in the first place those containing criticism of German philosophical literature and the works of the ‘true socialists’.
    In November 1845 Hess reached an agreement with Meyer and Rempel on financing the publication of two volumes of the quarterly. Further negotiations were conducted by Weydemeyer, who visited Brussels in February 1846 and returned to Germany in April on the instruction of the Brussels Communist Correspondence Committee. In a letter to the Committee of 30 April 1846 from Schildesche (Westphalia) he wrote that no headway was being made and that he proposed that Meyer should form a joint-stock company in Limburg (Holland), as in Germany manuscripts of less than 20 printed sheets were subject to preliminary censorship. He also recommended that Marx should sign a contract with the Brussels publisher and bookseller C. G. Vogler for the distribution of the quarterly and other publications. The contract was not concluded because Vogler could not assume even part of the expenses.
    Weydemeyer continued his efforts, but succeeded only in getting from Meyer a guarantee for the publication of one volume. But as early as July 1846 Meyer and Rempel refused their promised assistance on the pretext of financial difficulties, the actual reason being differences in principle between Marx and Engels on the one hand and the champions of ‘true socialism’ on the other, whose views both publishers shared.
    Marx and Engels did not abandon their hopes of publishing the works ready for the quarterly, if only by instalments, but their attempts failed. The extant manuscript of The German Ideology was first published in full in the Soviet Union in 1932.
  3. A reference to the Communist Correspondence Committee formed by Marx and Engels at the beginning of 1846 in Brussels. Its aim was to prepare the ground for the creation of an international proletarian party. The Committee had no strictly defined composition. Besides the Belgian communist Philippe Gigot, Joseph Weydemeyer, Wilhelm Wolff, Edgar von Westphalen and others were equal members at various times. As a rule, the Committee discussed problems of communist propaganda, corresponded with the leaders of existing proletarian organisations (the League of the Just, Chartist organisations), tried to draw Proudhon, Cabet and other socialists into its work, and issued lithographed circulars. On the initiative of Marx and Engels, correspondence committees and groups connected with the Brussels Committee were set up in Silesia, Westphalia and the Rhine Province, Paris and London. These committees played an important role in the development of international proletarian contacts and the organisation of the Communist League in 1847.
  4. Engels refers here to the critical work against L. Feuerbach which Marx was still writing in the second half of 1846 and which was to be included in the first volume of the planned two-volume edition of polemical works directed also against Bauer, Stirner, Ruge and Grün. Marx did not finish this work and later it became Chapter 1 of The German Ideology written jointly by him and Engels.
  5. The letter of Engels and Ewerbeck to Bernays has not been found.