Letter to Ludwig Kugelmann, October 11, 1867

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On the preceding day Marx had written to Engels: ‘Kugelmann’s enclosed letter will show you that the moment for action has come. You can write him about my book much better than I can.’ – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.

Dear Kugelmann

D’abord[1] best thanks for your two letters. It gives me great pleasure to hear from you as often as your time permits you to write. Only you must not count upon strict reciprocity, because, as it is, my time scarcely suffices for the multifarious correspondence I must keep up on all sides.

Before I speak about my book, something immediate, or an immediate something. I am afraid that Borkheim,[2] malgre lui,[3] is on the point of doing me a very bad turn – he is having his speech at Geneva printed in four languages, French, German, English and Russian.[4] He has in addition decorated it with a baroque and tasteless introduction, overladen with quotations.

Between ourselves – and in the interests of the Party – I must tell you the whole truth. Borkheim is a capable man, and even an homme d'ésprit.[5] But when he takes up the pen – oh dear! All tact and taste leave him. And the necessary preliminary knowledge, too. He is like the savages, who think they beautify their faces by tattooing them in screaming colours. Banality and screaming buffoonery always trip him up. Almost every phrase of his instinctively puts on cap and bells. If he were not so thoroughly vain, I could have prevented the publication and made it clear to him how lucky he was that they did not understand him at Geneva, but only a few good points in his speech. On the other hand, I owe him my thanks for the part he took in the Vogt[6] affair and he is my personal friend. In his speech, etc, there are some phrases in which he repeats my opinions in a form suitable to the Kladderadatsch.[7] It will be a very fine game for my enemies (Vogt has already hinted in the Neue Züricher Zeitung that I am the secret author of the speech), instead of attacking my book, to make me responsible for Herr Borkheim, his stupidities and personalities. Should something of that sort happen, you must manage through Warnebold,[8] etc, to get into the papers open to you short articles revealing these tactics and, without insulting Borkheim in any way, say outright that only deliberate malice or the most complete lack of any critical faculty could identify such disparate views. The baroque and confused manner in which our opinions are reflected in Borkheim’s head (not when he speaks, but when he writes) naturally offers the common press gang a most welcome pretext for taking the offensive and may even give them the opportunity of indirectly injuring my book.

Should the press, however, be silent on the matter, which I can scarcely hope, since Borkheim has sent his offspring with all due care to all the newspapers, do not in any way disturb that solemn silence.

Were Borkheim not a personal friend, I would publicly disavow him. You understand my false position and, at the same time, my annoyance. One submits to the public a book worked out with painstaking care (and never perhaps has a work of that kind been written in more difficult circumstances) in order to raise the Party as high as possible and to disarm even the vulgar by the manner of presentation, and, at the same time, a Party member in motley coat and cap and bells thrusts himself to your side on the market and provokes rotten apples and eggs which may hit oneself and the Party!

I am very satisfait[9] with your manoeuvres against Vogt at Geneva.[10] I am glad that you like my book.

As to your questions:

Ernest Jones[11] had to speak to Irishmen in Ireland as a Party man; that is, since large-scale landownership there is identical with England’s property in Ireland, he had to speak against large-scale landownership. You should never look for principles in the hustings speeches of English politicians, but only for what is expedient for the immediate purpose.

Peonage is the advance of money against future labour. These advances then follow the usual course of usury. The worker not only remains a debtor all his life, that is, the forced labourer of the creditor, but the relation is handed down in the family to later generations, which in fact belong to the creditor.

The completion of my second volume depends chiefly upon the success of the first. This is necessary if I am to find a publisher in England and without that my miserable material position will remain so difficult and disturbing, that I shall find neither the time nor the peace for rapid completion. These are of course matters which I do not want Herr Meissner[12] to know. It therefore depends now on the skill and the activity of my Party friends in Germany whether the second volume takes a long or short time to appear. Genuine criticism – whether from friend or foe – can only be expected in the course of time, for such a comprehensive and to some extent difficult work requires time to read through and digest. But immediate success is the result, not of genuine criticism, but, to put it bluntly, of creating a stir, of beating the drum, which also forces the enemy to speak. To start off it is not very important what is said. Above all no time should be lost.

I have sent your last letter to Engels, so that he can let you have the necessary hints. He can write better about my book than I can myself.

My warmest greetings to your dear wife. In a few days I shall send her a prescription for reading the book.


Keep me au fait with everything that happens in Germany in regard to Volume 1.

As Paul Stumpf[13] (Mainz) has written me a letter in which he calls Borkheim’s speech ‘my’ speech, and as at the moment I have no time to write to Stumpf, will you please write and explain to him, recommending silence when Borkheim’s pamphlet appears. Between ourselves, Stumpf also becomes a nuisance when he takes up the pen.

  1. First of all – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.
  2. Sigismund Borkheim (1825-1885) – German merchant and publicist who took an active part in the 1848 Revolution. Fled to Switzerland and later settled in London, where in the 1860s he became a close friend of Marx and Engels – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.
  3. In spite of himself – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.
  4. A reference to Borkheim’s pamphlet, My Pearl Before the Geneva Congress. At the International Peace and Liberty Conference in Geneva (9-12 September) organised by petty-bourgeois pacifists and supporters of free trade, which was attended also by Kugelmann, Borkheim attempted to deliver a speech calling for war on tsarist Russia. The noisy peace advocates prevented him from finishing his speech which he decided to publish as a pamphlet – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.
  5. Man of wit – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.
  6. Karl Vogt (1817-1895) – German natural scientist, vulgar materialist and petty-bourgeois democrat. After the Revolution of 1848-49 he lived in Switzerland, an active member of the ‘League of Peace and Liberty’. In his book, Herr Vogt, Marx proved that during the Italian war Vogt acted as agent of Napoleon III (in 1870 it was proved by documentary evidence that he was in the pay of Napoleon) – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.
  7. The German equivalent of Punch – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.
  8. Warnebold – Active member of the National Union in Hanover – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.
  9. Satisfied – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.
  10. At the Geneva Conference organised by the League for Peace and Liberty in September 1867, Kugelmann made a speech against Marx’s old enemy, Vogt – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.
  11. Ernest Jones (1819-1869) – Chartist, lawyer and poet. Editor of the People’s Paper and Notes to the People, to both of which Marx contributed. At times stood close to Marx and Engels.
  12. Otto Karl Meissner (1819-1902) – Hamburg publisher who brought out Marx’s Capital and a number of other works by Marx and Engels – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.
  13. Paul Stumpf (1827-1913) – Member of the Communist League and of the First International. Friend of Marx and Engels – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.