Letter to Karl Marx, January 21, 1848

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 21 January 1848


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Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 38, p. 155;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, 1913.
Keywords : Letter, Chartism, Revolution

To Marx in Brussels

Paris, Friday evening, 21 January 1848[edit source]

Dear Marx,

At last I have run L. Blanc to earth and at the same time found out why I could never get hold of him. Just listen — this little literary lord receives visitors only on Thursdays! and then only in the afternoon! Of this he never informed me, either directly or through his doorkeeper. I found him, of course, surrounded by a crowd of jackasses, amongst whom Ramon de La Sagra, who gave me a pamphlet which I shall send on to you. [R. de La Sagra, Organisation du travail] I have not yet read it. However I was finally able to have a few minutes’ talk with him about our affairs. He reluctantly admitted that he had not yet had time to read your book [The Poverty of Philosophy] ... I have leafed through it and seen that M. Proudhon is attacked with some acerbity. — Well then, will you be able to write the article for the Réforme you promised us? — An article, good gracious no, I'm so hard pressed by my publishers — but I'll tell you what to do: write the article yourself and I'll see that it appears in the Réforme. This was then agreed. After all you'll lose nothing by it. At least I'll present our views more correctly than he would have done. I shall draw a direct, parallel between these and his own — that is the most that can be done: naturally a conclusion detrimental to the Réforme cannot be drawn in the Réforme itself. I shall see to this forthwith.[1]

Why didn’t you tell Bornstedt not to write to the Réforme about your thing? My article was finished when Bornstedt’s appeared in the Réforme along with the Chartist things [an item about Marx’s speech at the meeting of the Brussels Democratic Association on 9 January 1848, published in La Réforme on 19 January, along with Engels’ report The Chartist Movement] whose publication I was awaiting before taking mine in. It was appreciably longer than the brief notice in which, to boot, your name is distorted. ['Man’ instead of ‘Marx'] I told Flocon he must correct the printer’s error; he had not done so yesterday and I haven’t seen today’s Réforme. It is of little moment anyhow. As soon as your speech [On the Question of Free Trade] appears, send me 4-5 copies for the Réforme, L. Blanc, de La Sagra (for the Démocratie pacifique), etc.; I can now make a longer article of it as the notice was so abominably brief.

As for L. Blanc, he deserves to be castigated. Write a review of his Révolution for the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung and prove to him in practice how far above him we are; the form amicable, but the content leaving no doubt as to our superiority. We'll see that it reaches him. The petty sultan must be made to quake a little. The theoretical aspect, alas, is for the time being our only strength, but this carries much weight in the eyes of these champions of science sociale, of the law of sufficient production etc. Comical, these fellows, with their chasing after this unknown law. They wish to find a law by which they will increase production tenfold. Like the wagoner in the fable, they seek a Hercules who will drag the social wagon out of the mire for them. Yet there Hercules is, in their own hands. The law of sufficient production consists in one’s ability to produce suffisamment. If they cannot do so, no magic formula will avail. Inventors who take out a brevet [patent] do more for production suffisante than the whole of L. Blanc with his profound, high-flying aspirations to la science.

I wrote Bernays a very ironical letter in reply to his last, expressing regret that his impartiality should have robbed me of the ultimate consolation — that of being a beautiful soul misunderstood — à la Praslin. [allusion to Bernays, Die Ermordung der Herzogin von Praslin] Raising his eyebrows reproachfully, he returns me the note,[2] observing that this marks the end of our correspondence. Sela [The end].

Otherwise nothing new. Write soon.

Your
E.

[on the back of the letter]

Mr Karl Marx in the German Workers’ Society, Brussels

  1. It is not known whether Engels carried out his intention. The review of Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy did not appear in La Réforme.
  2. Engels’ letter to Bernays has not been found.