Letter to Karl Marx, May 28, 1876

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 28 May 1876

Source: Marx and Engels Correspondence, International Publishers (1968);
First Published: Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe;
Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 45

To Marx in London

Ramsgate, May 28, 1876[edit source]

It is all very well for you to talk. You can lie warm in bed and study ground rent in general and Russian agrarian conditions in particular with nothing to disturb you — but I am to sit on the hard bench, swill cold wine, suddenly interrupt everything again and get after the blood of the boring Dühring. However, there is doubtless nothing else for it, even if I involve myself in a controversy of which it is impossible to see the end; after all, I shall have no peace otherwise, and then friend Most's panegyric on Dühring's Course of Philosophy has shown me exactly where and how to direct the attack. This book will have to be included because on many decisive points it better exposes the weak sides and weak foundations of the arguments put forward in the Economy. I am ordering it at once. There is no actual philosophy in it whatever — formal logic, dialectics, metaphysics, etc. — it is supposed rather to represent a general theory of science in which nature, history, society, state, law, etc., are treated in alleged inner interconnection. So again there is a whole section in which the society of the future, the so-called "free" society, is described in its less economic aspects, and among other things the scheme of education for the primary and secondary schools is already laid down. Here, therefore, one gets the banality in an even simpler form than in the economic book and taking both works together can expose the fellow from this side at the same time.

For the noble gentleman's conception of history — that there was nothing but rubbish until Dühring arrived — this book also has the advantage that here one can quote his own crass words. Anyhow, I have him on the hip now. My plan is ready — J'ai mon plan. First of all I shall deal with the trash in a purely objective and apparently serious way, and then the treatment will become sharper according to the degree in which the proofs of the nonsense on the one hand and of the platitudes on the other begin to pile up, until at last we get to a regular hailstorm. In this fashion Most and Co. are deprived of their excuse about "unkindness" and Dühring gets his deserts all the same. These gentlemen must be shown that there is more than one way by which one can settle accounts with people of this kind.

I hope Wilhelm [Liebknecht] will publish Most's article in the Neue Welt, for which it was obviously written. As usual Most cannot copy and so makes Dühring responsible for the most comic imbecilities in the way of natural science, e.g., the breaking off of the rings (according to Kant's theory) — from the fixed stars!

With Wilhelm it is not merely the lack of manuscripts — that could be got over by other articles on questions of the day, etc., as was done in Hepner's and Blos's time. It is his passion for supplementing the deficiencies of our theory, for having an answer to every philistine's objection and a picture of the society of the future because after all the philistine asks questions about it; and, in addition, for being as independent of us theoretically as possible (in which, owing to his total lack of all theory, he has always succeeded far better than he himself knows). But by all this he puts me into a position in which I cannot but say to myself that Dühring is at any rate an educated man compared with the theoretical bunglers of the Volksstaat, and his works are at any rate better than those of these subjectively and objectively obscure gentlemen....

My re-reading of ancient history and my studies in natural science have been of great service to me for Dühring and make the thing much easier for me in many ways. Especially with natural science I find that the ground has become considerably more familiar to me and that, though I have to exercise great caution, I can nevertheless move on it with a certain amount of freedom and security. I am also beginning to see the end of this job too. The thing is beginning to take shape in my head, and bummelling here at the seaside where I can let the details go round in my mind has helped this on a good deal. In this enormous field it is absolutely necessary to interrupt one's regular grind from time to time and to digest what one has gulped down.

Herr Helmholz has never stopped chasing round the ‘thing-in-itself’ since 1853 and has still not got clear about it. The man is not ashamed of calmly allowing the nonsense he had printed before Darwin to be still reprinted over again. ...

Lizzie and I send our best regards to all of you. Friday we shall return to London. I am very glad Pumps has developed her style so well. I notice it of course too, but not so much.