Letter to Karl Marx, September 12, 1870

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 12 September 1870

First published abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Bd. IV, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in Published in English in full for the MEGA, Abt. III, Bd. 4, Berlin, 1931

Extract published in Marx and Engels Correspondence; International Publishers (1968);

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 44

To Marx in London

September 12, 1870[edit source]

Dear Moor,

Our friends over there—both in France and Germany—do indeed surpass each other in political adroitness. Those jackasses in Brunswick! They were afraid you would resent it if they tampered with the guidelines you had given them, so they printed them as they stood. The only awkward thing in reality is the passage about shifting the centre of gravity. To have printed that was an unprecedented piece of tactlessness. However, it is to be hoped that the Parisians have more urgent concerns now than to devote themselves to the study of this manifesto, particularly since they do not understand German. Their German in the proclamation is beautiful. And in his paper[1] Wilhelm is full of praise for this chauvinistic mishmash. Longuet is another fine one. Just because William I has presented them with a republic, a revolution should break out without delay in Germany. So why did they not make a revolution after the one in Spain?

The passage on Alsace-Lorraine from the manifesto[2] is printed in today’s Zukunft, but as something emanating from the Brunswickers. Send me 2 or more copies of the new Address as soon as it is ready.

If anything at all could be done in Paris, a rising of the workers before peace is concluded should be prevented. Bismarck will soon be in a position to make peace, either by taking Paris or because the European situation obliges him to put an end to the war. However the peace may turn out, it must be concluded before the workers can do anything at all. If they were victorious now--in the service of national defence--they would have to inherit the legacy of Bonaparte and of the present lousy Republic, and would be needlessly crushed by the German armies and thrown back another twenty years. They themselves can lose nothing by waiting. The possible changes of frontier are in any case only provisional and will be reversed again. To fight for the bourgeoisie against the Prussians would be madness. Whatever the government may be which concludes peace, the fact that it has done so will eventually make its existence impossible, and in internal conflicts there will not be much to fear from the army, returned home after imprisonment. After the peace all the chances will be more favourable to the workers than they ever were before. But will they not let themselves be carried away again under the pressure of the external attack, and proclaim the Social Republic on the eve of the storming of Paris? It would be appalling if as their last act of war the German armies had to fight out a battle with the Parisian workers at the barricades. It would throw us back fifty years and delay everything so much that everybody and everything would get into a false position--and the national hatred and the domination by phrases which would then arise among the French workers!

It is a damnably bad thing that in the present situation there are so few people in Paris who are ready to dare to see things as they really are. Where is one man there who even dares to think that France's active power of resistance is broken where this war is concerned, and that with it the prospects of repelling the invasion by a revolution fall to the ground too! Just because people do not want to hear the real truth I am afraid that things may still come to this. For the apathy of the workers before the fall of the Empire will no doubt have changed by now.

Could you let me know the title of the book by Schäffle[3]? He really is a worthy opponent for you! The fellow was in the Customs Parliament and is a very undistinguished vulgar economist, rather along the lines of Faucher, but a Swabian. You will just love his book.

Since it looks as if something has to be annexed in any case, it is high time for us to think of a way for French and German workers to agree to regard it all as nul et non avenu[4] and to reverse it when occasion presents itself. It was my view that this would have been prudent at the outbreak of war; now, however, that the lot of ceding territory falls to the French, it is essential, otherwise they will all raise a terrible hullaballoo.

Tell Tussy that my wife[5] is very grateful to her for her letter, and she will shortly receive an answer. With best regards to you all,


F. E.

  1. Der Volksstaat
  2. K. Marx, 'Second Address of the General Council of the International Working Men's Association on the Franco-Prussian War'.
  3. A. E. F. Schäffle, Kapitalismus und Socialismus mit besonderer Rücksicht auf Geschäftsund Vermögensformen.
  4. null and void
  5. Lydia Burns