Letter to Victor Adler, March 16, 1895

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To Victor Adler in Vienna

London, March 16, 1895[edit source]

Dear Victor,

Herewith by return the information you request. Sombart’s article is very good,[1] except that his view of the law of value is impaired by some disappointment over the solution to the rate of profit question. He clearly expected a miracle, instead of which he merely found what was rational and that is anything but miraculous. Hence his reduction of the significance of the law of value to the domination of the productive force of labour as the determining economic power. This is all much too generalised and imprecise.—Little Conrad Schmidt’s article in the Sozial politisches Centralblatt is very good[2]. Eduard Bernstein’s articles were very muddleheaded[3]; the man is still neurasthenic and, what is more, scandalously overworked. Having too many other things on hand, he left the article on one side and then was suddenly dunned for it by K. Kautsky.

As you want to have a grind in prison at Capital [Volumes] II and III, I will give you a few hints to make it easier.

Volume II, Section I. Read Chapter I thoroughly, then you can take Chapters 2 and 3 more lightly; Chapter 4 more exactly again as it is a summary; 5 and 6 are easy and 6, especially, deals with secondary matters.

Section II. Chapters 7-9 important. Specially important 10 and 11. Equally so 12, 13, 14. On the other hand 15, 16, 17 need only be skimmed through at first.

Section III is a most excellent account of the entire circuit of commodities and money in capitalist society – the first since the days of the Physiocrats. Excellent in content but fearfully heavy in form because (1) it is put together from two versions which proceed according to two different methods and (2) because version No. 1 was carried to its conclusion by main force during a state of illness in which the brain was suffering from chronic sleeplessness. I should keep this right to the end, after working through Volume III for the first time. For your work too, it is not immediately indispensable.

Then the third volume. Important here are: In Section 1, Chapters 1 to 4; less important for the general connection, on the other hand, are Chapters 5, 6, 7, on which much time need not be spent at first.

Section II. Very important. Chaps. 8, 9, 10. Skim through 11 and 12.

Section III. Very important: the whole of 13-15.

Section IV. Likewise very important, but also easy to read: 16-20.

Section V. Very important, Chapters 21-27. Less so Chapter 28. Chapter 29 important. As a whole Chapters 30-32 are not important for your purposes; 33 and 34 are important as soon as paper-money is dealt with; 35 on international rates of exchange important, 36 very interesting for you and easy to read.

Section VI. Ground rent. 37 and 38 important. Less so, but still to be taken with them, 39 and 40. 41-43 can be more neglected (Differential rent II. Particular cases). 44-47 important again and mostly easy to read too.

Section VII. Very fine, but unfortunately a fragment and with very marked traces of sleeplessness as well.

Thus, if you go through the main things thoroughly and the less important ones superficially to begin with, following these indications (best first to re-read the main things in Volume II) you will get an idea of the whole and can later also work through the neglected portions more easily.

Your news about the paper[4] pleased us very much. The main thing is political efficacity; financial efficacity is bound to follow, and will be achieved far more easily and quickly once the former is assured. It is with pleasure I detect your hand in the notes on electoral reform on the front page —there you have the FULCRUM for the efficacity you need.

As a result of the old trouble which comes to plague me periodically, especially in springtime, I am again somewhat lame but less so than usual, the attack being milder and, in about a fortnight I should, I think, be rid of it without any need for sea air as in 1893 and 1894.

The movement over here may be summed up as follows: Amongst the masses, progress is steady if instinctive, and the tendency is adhered to; the moment it comes to giving conscious expression to that instinct and to that impulsive tendency, however, their sectarian leaders set about it in so stupid and narrow-minded a way as to make one feel like hitting out left, right and centre. But I suppose it’s just the typical Anglo-Saxon way of going about things.

Many regards,



  1. W. Sombart, ‘Zur Kritik des ökonomischen Systeme von Karl Marx,’ In: Archiv für soziale Gesetzgebung und Statistik, Bd. 7, Heft 4
  2. C. Schmidt, ‘Der dritte Band des Kapital’. In: Sozialpolitisches Centralblatt, 25 Februar 1895
  3. E. Bernstein, ‘Der dritte Band des Kapital’. In: Neue Zeit, 1 Bd., Nr. 11-149 16, 17 und 20, 13 Jg. 1894/95
  4. Arbeiter-Zeitung