Letter to Laura Lafargue, November 23, 1884

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Author(s) Friedrich Engels
Written 23 November 1884

First published, in the language of the original (English), in: F. Engels, P. et L. Lafargue, Correspondance, t. I, Paris, 195

Source: Marx Engels on Literature and Art, Progress Publishers, 1976;

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 47

To Laura Lafargue in Paris

London, November 23, 1884[edit source]

My dear Laura,

Glad you arrived safe and well and Paul liked his cake — but Nim can’t get over his insisting to eat cheese along with it. Nim has suffered much from tooth-ache — a sound tooth, but loose. Yesterday she took an old pair of small tongs which she brought from Maitland Park and wrenched it out with it, rewarding her courage with a drop of brandy, and is now quite lively again.

Friday last the Social Democratic Federation had a benefit. Tussy and Edward played in a piece — I did not go, as I do not as yet see my way to sitting three hours consecutively in a stiff chair. Nim says they played very well — the piece was more or less, she says, their own history. Mother Wright read — very well — Bax played the piano — rather long — Morris who was here the other night and quite delighted to find the Old Norse Edda on my table — he is an Icelandic enthusiast — Morris read a piece of his poetry[1] (a “refonte” of the eddaic Helreid Brynhildar[2] (the description of Brynhild burning herself with Sigurd’s corpse), etc., etc., it went off very well — their art seems to be rather better than their literature and their poetry better than their prose.

Paul’s reply to Block is excellent, not only in style but in subject-matter. People have different ways of learning things, and if he learns political economy by fighting, it’s all right so that he does learn it. He was quite right in bearing out the question of the equal price of corn which costs different amounts of labour — that is too complicated and is solved only in Book III, Kapital. But what he may return to, when he has an opportunity, is the stupid calumny of Block, page 131, note: that Mohr insiste surtout sur le capital employé dans le commerce, tant sous la forme argent (espèces) que sous la forme marchandises.[3] This is a direct lie or a proof that he does not know what he is writing about. Mohr mentions interest-bearing capital and merchants’ capital only as historical facts, but expressly excludes them from all economical discussion in Book I, where capital is only considered in its simplest form as industrial capital.

A slip of the pen of Paul’s p. 285: la grandeur de la plus-value est en rapport direct avec la longueur -de la journée de travail, mais en rapport inverse avec le taux du salaire. [4]

Du reste, you know that my only objection to Paul’s replying to Block was the fear that it might ‘block’ his ultimate reply to Leroy-Beaulieu.[5]—If he has eingeseift[6] Molinari to that extent, that he allows Paul to reply anything to anybody, all the better.

The report of the meeting in favour of the Germans in the Sozialdemokrat as well as the extracts from Lyon-Socialiste given there will have a capital effect in Germany and everywhere. Nothing can strike the philistine and also the workmen of other countries more than this cordiality and working hand in hand of the proletarians of the two ‘erbfeindliche Nationen'[7]. It ought to be mis en avant[8] as much and as often as possible.

As to poor Brousse, the man without a programme, being in doubt about the programme on which our people have been elected, the proclamation of Müller in Darmstadt which I was glad Guesde worked up in the Cri du Peuple will have answered him. Better still is the Hanoverian programme in this week’s Sozialdemokrat No. 47.

I wish Guesde would make use of that. These two proclamations, and the fact that they were issued in new districts — Darmstadt and Hanover, where our people might be expected to coax votes, have given me quite as much pleasure as the elections themselves. They show how thoroughly the revolutionary spirit has been evoked by Bismarck’s persecutions. I was almost expecting that the new districts might send ‘moderate’ men, but no fear of that now. Also Sabor the Jewish schoolmaster from Frankfort belongs to the Bebel wing of the party. Bernstein’s letter to Paul about Lassalle finds its explanation in this, that in Paris, as in London and New York, the old Lassalle set is still strongly represented among the Germans. They have mostly emigrated, Germany is too hot for them and won’t listen to them. But as they are comparatively harmless abroad, and form a useful international cement, besides finding funds for the Germans at home, on les ménage un peu.[9]

Loria takes good care not to send me his expectorations.[10] As a true ‘Kathedersociaüstischer Streber[11] he robs us right and left. By the bye, what Paul intends doing if he should reply to him, donne de côté.[12] Loria knows that as well as ourselves, why capitalists go as well into one branch of industry as another. But the real question is as I stated it, and one which is not so easy, in fact, it broke down classical economy which could not solve it. The déroute[13], as Mohr’s manuscript calls it, of the Ricardian school on this very question opened the door to vulgar economy.

My walks with you have done me a deal of good — I extend them every day, and my muscles are hardening again.

Kind regards to Paul. Love from Nim.

Yours affectionately,

F. E.

Poor old Mother Hess!

‘Wir waben, wir waben.'[14]

Hope she is suited at last.

Now before concluding I want to ask you a favour. Paul has from me: 1 ) Darwin’s Origin of Species, 2) Thierry, Histoire du tiers état, 3) Paquet, Institutions provinciales et communales de la France, 4) Buonarotti, Conspiracy of Babeuf. Now, Jenny had from me: 1) Die ‘Edda’’, poetische und prosaische, and 2) Beowulf, both in Simrock’s New High German translation. The latter two books and Darwin I am in especial want of. Could you get them together if they can be found (Thierry and Paquet I also have use for and Buonarroti is not to be had now) and send them in a parcel to me? The agents of the Continental Parcels Express (agence Continentale), are

E. d’Odiardi, 18 rue Bergère and

P. Bigeault, 23 rue Dunkerque, opposite the station du Nord.

The carriage not to be paid, as the delivery will be all the safer; and mind, I am not in such a hurry that you should rush off post haste to Argenteuil to look the books up.

Clemenceau seems to be going down morally while going up politically— this appears unavoidable in French bourgeois politics. His visit to Gladstone and the rubbish he talked there is one symptom, the other is his silence in the chamber with regard to the Socialistenhetze[15] and the atrocious judgments of Lyon, Montluçon, etc.

As to Paul’s wish to have an Irish paper, there is none that can be recommended. Besides if the Egalité writes up every murder, be it ever so stupid, as une exécution, Havas’ telegrams are quite sufficient. For other things the Daily News Irish correspondence will be found sufficient.

If Paul sees that the Egalité is regularly forwarded to the Sozialdemokrat at Zurich, that paper will be duly sent in return, but I shall write to Bernstein to send it to your address, so that you get it, and not those that do not understand it.

Kind regards to Paul.

Yours very affectionately,

F. E.

  1. W. Morris, The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Nibelungs
  2. Brynhild's raid into the hell
  3. especially insists on commercial capital, both in its money form (coinage) and in its commodity form
  4. The amount of surplus value is in a direct ratio to the length of the working day and in an inverse ratio to the size of wages
  5. P. Lafargue, 'La théorie de la plus-value de Karl Marx et la critique de M. Paul Leroy-Beaulieu'.
  6. cheated
  7. 'traditionally hostile nations'
  8. emphasised
  9. they are spared a little
  10. A. Loria, 'La théorie de la valeur de Karl Marx', Journal des Economistes, No. 10, October 1884.-
  11. 'armchair-socialist careerist'
  12. stand aside
  13. disintegration
  14. 'We weave, we weave' (South German dialect); Engels quotes from Heine's Die schlesischen Weber.
  15. persecution of socialists