Letter to Karl Marx, November 15, 1847

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To Marx in Brussels

Paris, 14-15 November 1847[edit source]

Dear Marx,

Yesterday, having sent friend Reinhardt several times to see Frank about your book [The Poverty of Philosophy], I learned, suddenly and at last, that that cur, Frank, had begun by sending several of the free copies to Frenchmen, in every case demanding 15 sous expenses, and in every case getting the copies back again.[1] Thereupon he calmly hung on, not only to those he had got back, but also to such as had not yet been sent out, and it was not until a few days ago that he sent them to the addressees without demanding 15 sous. The conspiration de silence was thus of Mr Frank’s making! I at once hurried along to L. Blanc, whom a few days previously I had again failed to find in because he was en garde (le petit bonhomme en bonnet à poil! [on guard (the little manikin in a busby)]; this time I did find him in and the copy had still not arrived! I have at last got my own copy back, which may be of help in case of need. Today, Sunday, nothing can be done. I have arranged to meet Reinhardt tomorrow, whereupon he will go with me to see Frank, which should have happened earlier but did not happen through negligence on Reinhardt’s part. He must introduce me to Frank, since I have no other means of establishing my bona fides with the fellow. I shall get him to give me the copy for L. Blanc and take it along with me. But what an ass Flocon is! L. Blanc told me yesterday that Flocon had objected to your libre-échange [free-trade] article[2] which was a trifle muddled!!! The muddle-headed creature! I naturally objected, oh, said the little man it’s not I who thought that, quite the contrary, I liked the article very much, and indeed I don’t know what Mr Flocon ... but anyway (with a somewhat equivocal grimace intended for Flocon), that’s what he told me. All in all the editorial board of the Réforme is quite the most wretchedly constituted. The article on the English crisis and all economic topics en général are churned out by a poor, worthy penny-a-liner whose schooling appears to have been confined to the financial articles of a correspondence bureau, and who sees everything through the eyes of a third-rate Parisian clerk in a fourth-rate bank, and judges it with the infallibility peculiar to such an ‘empiric’ as the English say. Flocon understands nothing of the matter and seems to me to grow more ignorant day by day. At best he’s a man of good will. Indeed, L. Blanc also makes no secret of his contempt for him.

Monday[edit source]

I did not find the accursed Reinhardt at home. I shall go there again this evening. Come what may, I must get the whole business cleared up by tomorrow, If I don’t write to you again at once, it means that everything’s in order.

Yesterday evening the election of delegates took place.[3] After an extremely muddled session I was elected with a 2/3 [majority]. This time I had engaged in no intrigues whatsoever, there had been little opportunity for any. The opposition was merely a fiction; a working man was proposed for appearances’ sake, but those who proposed him voted for me.

The money is coming in. Write and tell me whether you and Tedesco are going. If that proves impossible, I can hardly go there and ‘congress’ on my own, that wouldn’t make sense. If neither of you can go, the whole business will fall through and will have to be postponed for a few months. Should this be the case, write and tell London, so that all can be advised in good time.

Flocon had further told L. Blanc that if your article was to be accepted it would need altering a little, precisely to make it ‘clearer’. L. Blanc asked me once again to remind Flocon on his behalf about the article; but in the circumstances I think it would be far better to let the matter drop. For Flocon to make the article clearer — that would be the last straw! Such block-headed stubbornness is beyond my comprehension and, as I have mentioned, Blanc plus ou moins apologised to me for his colleague. But what can be done in such a case? I shall let Flocon do what he wants, have little to do with him and deal mainly with L. Blanc, who is the most reasonable of the lot. There’s absolutely nothing one can do with the National, it’s becoming more narrow-minded every day and is increasingly allying itself with Barrot and Thiers, witness the Lille Banquet.[4]

Seiler will have written to tell you that your book’s going very badly here. That’s not true. Frank has told Reinhardt that he is pretty well satisfied with the sales. Despite his preposterous behaviour he has, I believe, disposed of some 40 copies. More about this shortly. Seiler — he called on me recently, met with a very cool reception and did not come again — maintains that he has left sufficient in the way of bedding, furniture, paper, etc., etc., to cover Wolff’s and Heilberg’s needs. See to it, if that is so, that Lupus, at least, isn’t swindled again, this time by Heilberg. But no doubt it’s all so much hot air.

Rothschild has made a profit of 10 million francs on the new loan — 4 per cent net.

I shall not be able to pass through Brussels on my way to London, since money is too short. We shall have to arrange to meet in Ostend — on the evening of the 27th (Saturday), and cross over on Sunday so that we can make a start on Monday. On that day, the 29th, the Polish anniversary, there may be something fraternally democratic going on, in which case we shall have to attend. That would be quite a good thing. You make a French speech in London and then we print it in the Réforme.[5] The Germans absolutely must do something to hold their own with the French. A single speech would be of more help than ten articles or a hundred visits.

You'll have seen in The Northern Star, 2 October, the demand put forward by Harney and the fraternals for a democratic congress. [Manifesto of the Fraternal Democrats To the Democracy of Europe, from 22 September 1847, The Northern Star, 2 October 1847] Do lend it your support, as I shall do among the French. We could try and hold it if possible next year in London, perhaps at the same time as our own. Should it come about, it might have a very salutary effect on the French and humble them somewhat. Should it fail to materialise, the fault will lie with the French and they will at least be compelled to declare themselves. It would be even better if Brussels could be the venue[6]; in London Feargus [O'Connor] might get up to some kind of foolishness.

Otherwise nothing new. Give the enclosed to Bornstedt [seems to refer to Engels’ second article in German Socialism in Verse and Prose; the first one was published in the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung, 21 November 1847] and write soon telling me whether you are going to London.


Write to the painter’s [Körner] address if you still have it. It is better.

Heine sends his regards. Is extremely weak and somewhat languid. Who actually sent your article to L. Blanc? He says the name at the foot of the letter was quite unknown. That could well be the reason why he allowed the matter to hang fire.

[On the back of the letter]

Monsieur Charles Marx,
42, rue d'Orléans, Faubourg d'lxelles, Bruxelles

  1. Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy was published simultaneously by Vogler ill Brussels and by Frank in Paris. As is seen from Marx’s letter to Engels of 15 October 1868, both Vogler and Frank were mere ‘commissioners’ (agents de vente), all printing expenses being paid by the author.
  2. Here Engels refers to the speech on free trade Marx intended to deliver at the International Congress of Economists in Brussels held between 16 and 18 September 1847 (*). Not being allowed to speak, Marx published it in the Atelier Démocratique on 29 September. Part of the speech was also published by Joseph Weydemeyer in 1848 under the title ‘The Protectionists, the Free Traders and the Working Class’ and excerpts from it were quoted by Engels in his article ‘The Free Trade Congress at Brussels’ in The Northern Star, No. 520, 9 October 1847. As is seen from this letter the version sent to La Réforme was not printed, and it is not extant.
    The International Congress of Economists was held in Brussels on 16-18 September 1847 to discuss free trade. Marx, Engels and Wilhelm Wolff also attended the congress, intending to make use of it to criticise bourgeois economics (the free trade doctrine, in particular) and to defend working-class interests. When Weerth made a speech along these lines the congress organisers closed the discussion on 18 September without allowing Marx to speak. Excerpts from Weerth’s speech were published in a few German, British and French newspapers. It was published in full in the Belgian Atelier Démocratique on 29 September 1847.
  3. The reference is to the election of delegates from the Paris district to the Second Congress of the Communist League which was to meet in London on 29 November 1847.
  4. The Lille Banquet took place on 7 November 1847 during the campaign for an election reform in France which revealed the extremely anti-democratic stand of the liberal opposition to the July monarchy and of the moderate republicans of the National party (see Engels’ ‘Split in the Camp. The Réforme and the National. March of Democracy’).
  5. An international meeting organised by the Fraternal Democrats (*) took place in London on 29 November 1847 to mark the anniversary of the Polish insurrection of 1830. Marx and Engels, who had come to London for the Second Congress of the Communist League, made speeches about Poland. The report on the meeting and accounts of the speeches made by Marx and Engels appeared in the Deutsche Londoner Zeitung, No. 140, 3 December 1847, The Northern Star, No. 528, 4 December 1847, and the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung, No. 98, 9 December 1847. Engels wrote a special item on this subject for La Réforme, which published it on 5 December 1847 (see The Anniversary of the Polish Revolution of 1830).
    (*) Fraternal Democrats — an international democratic society founded in London on 22 September 1845. It embraced representatives of Left Chartists, German workers and craftsmen — members of the League of the Just — and revolutionary emigrants of other nationalities. During their stay in England in the summer of 1845, Marx and Engels helped in preparing for the meeting at which the society was formed, but did not attend it as they had by then left London. Later they kept in constant touch with the Fraternal Democrats trying to influence the proletarian core of the society, which joined the Communist League in 1847, and through it the Chartist movement. The society ceased its activities in 1859.
  6. Proposals to convene an international democratic congress were made both by the Fraternal Democrats and the Brussels Democratic Association. During his stay in London at the end of November 1847, Marx had talks on the subject with the Chartist leaders and representatives of the proletarian and democratic emigrants. Engels had similar talks with French socialists and democrats. In the beginning of 1848 it was agreed to convene the congress in Brussels. It was scheduled for 25 August 1848, the eighteenth anniversary of the Belgian revolution. However, these plans did not materialise because in February 1848 a revolution began in Europe.