Letter to Karl Marx, March 18, 1852
|Written||18 March 1852|
To Marx in London
[Manchester,] 18 March 1852[edit source]
I return herewith Pixie’s [Ernst Dronke’s] letter. I am pour le moment entièrement dépourvu [at the moment completely penniless] and would not be able to raise the £2 — at least this month; moreover, his letter is dated the 5th and there is absolutely no knowing whether the money would still reach him. And then it’s always a ticklish business sending money to Ewerbeck; the fellow is capable of making superannuated claims for God only knows what old postal expenses, and of pocketing the whole amount or the best part of it. For all these reasons I am unable just now to help the little sprite, doubtful though I am that he will be able to extract more than five sous at one go from Monsieur Ewerbeck. Meanwhile, the piccolo has left Geneva for Paris and thus will no doubt also come to London, if at the cost of some ‘toil and trouble’; and then we shall know just how much his dunning letters mean.
If the little man does come, you will have some difficulty in restraining his pugnacious temperament, surely much exacerbated by prolonged ‘toil and trouble’; in this country fisticuffs and brawls cost too much money for him to be permitted to indulge in them. It would be best if you entrusted him to Pieper so that the latter could instruct him in political economy. What you told me about Massol is very interesting, and if he stays over there I should very much like to meet him.
I am delighted by what you tell me about Jones — just now I have damnably little time, otherwise I would send him more articles. But Charles [Roesgen] is not yet back from Germany and then, after toiling all day in the office, it would really be too much to write a regular weekly article for him and/or Weydemeyer on top of the article for the Tribune and the weekly report for my old man. Moreover, I must at long last get to grips with the Slav business. In my previous dilettante fashion, I achieved nothing for a whole year and, having at least made a start and got too far to abandon the thing, I must now regularly devote some time to it. For the past fortnight I have been swotting hard at Russian and have now got the grammar pretty well licked; in another 2-3 months I shall have acquired the necessary vocabulary, and then I shall be able to tackle something else. I must be done with the Slavonic languages this year and au fond they are not so very difficult. Apart from the linguistic interest I derive from the thing, there is the further consideration that, come the next big political drama, at least one of us should be familiar with the languages, history, literature and the minutiae of the social institutions of those particular nations with which we shall immediately find ourselves in conflict. In effect, Bakunin only came to anything because no one knew Russian. And a great deal is going to be made of the old pan-Slavic dodge of transmogrifying the old Slav system of communal property into communism and depicting the Russian peasants as born communists.
Now that old O'Connor has definitely gone mad, Jones is perfectly right to crowd on all sail. This is his chance and if, in addition, Citizen Hip-hip-hurrah [Harney] gives up, his cause is won. From all that I see, the Chartists are in such a state of complete dissolution and disintegration, and at the same time are so lacking in able people, that either they must disband altogether and break up into cliques, i.e. in effect become a mere appendage of the financials, or else be reconstructed on a new basis by some competent fellow. Jones is moving in quite the right direction and we may well say that, without our doctrine, he would not have taken the right path and would never have discovered how, on the one hand, one can not only maintain the only possible basis for the reconstruction of the Chartist party — the instinctive class hatred of the workers for the industrial bourgeoisie — but also enlarge and develop it, so laying the foundations for enlightening propaganda, and how, on the other, one can still be progressive and resist the workers’ reactionary appetites and their prejudices. Master Harney, by the way, is in for a surprise if he continues as he is; the group of enthusiasts which supports him will very soon kick him out, and not even the portraits of Kosciuszko and other ‘patriots’ that adorn his bumf will save him.
Quoad Napoleonem, did the man not tell L. Blanc when he went to France: ‘Quand je serai président, je mettrai en pratique vos idées?’ [when I am president I shall put your ideas into practice] And now we see how a financial predicament may drive even a true socialist like L. N. to financial measures of an impeccably bourgeois kind, such as the conversion of bonds. Your shopkeeper and small industrialist is prepared to overlook twenty socialist capers in return for this one saving of 18 millions, and The Daily News admires the measure. Anything more stupid or more abject than the Débats’ comments on this topic would be hard to imagine. The same old story: postal reform = socialism! Conversion of bonds = socialism! free trade = socialism! My only fear is that Mynheer Napoleon who, for all that he proceeds very diffidently when it comes to his genuinely socialist undertakings and goes no further in the matter of mortgages than the bourgeois Prussian credit institutions, may, in the end, be compelled, by force of circumstances, to transform all his socialist inclinations into simple bourgeois reforms, and then nothing can deliver us but the inevitable financial predicament. The Daily News is right, conversion of bonds is a mesure éminemment pacifique [eminently peaceful measure] as well as being a most ominous indication that L. N. is tending to fall into the ways of bourgeois common sense. But when, I ask you, has it ever been possible to rule France with common sense, and what a hotchpotch of circumstances would be required to bring together a L. N. and common sense! At all events the climate on the Continent does not seem very revolutionary to me, although the little sprite will bring quite different news.
I do not think that Derby will obtain a majority although this place, where unanimity reigns when it comes to the Corn Laws, is a poor point d'observation. However, I should like him to obtain one, for then things must come about as you say. He is, by the way, a fool for not dissolving Parliament at once. The longer he procrastinates, the greater the risk of the election coinciding with a commercial crisis, and then he'll get fanatical Tories in Parliament who are too rabid even for him, and determined, rapacious Manchester men under threat of bankruptcy, these latter probably in the majority and hence the determining element.
Our concern here seems likely to collapse within the year. In which case, while the liquidation is under way, I shall at first enjoy far more liberty and be less tied down by the regular routine of the office. Later, my old man writes, he might be able to find me a better position — I suspect that he will fall in with my old plan to remove to Liverpool and buy cotton for him there. That would be splendid and, if it comes off and you have completed your preliminary work on economics, you and your whole family must come up for 6 months — we would live by the sea at New Brighton, and you would, besides, save money. At all events, I shall get myself a rise — there’s no doubt about that.
Today, unfortunately, I shall not have a quiet moment in which to do the Tribune article, but an American steamer sails next Wednesday, so you shall have it by Monday or Tuesday, and then I'll do another one for Friday’s steamer.
This is the first time the seal on your letter has been intact and undamaged.