Marx-Engels Correspondence 1853

Engels To Marx
In London

Source: MECW Volume 39, p. 325;
First published: in full in MEGA, Berlin, 1929.

[Manchester, before 28 May 1853]

Dear Marx,

So the bomb is at long last about to go off, as you will see from the enclosed scrappy proof and Weydemeyer’s letter. Willich’s manner of extricating himself is strange, at any rate; you will undoubtedly be much amused by these lame circumlocutions and the awkward and embarrassed style. The fellow’s been hard hit. But papa Schramm would seem to have gravely insulted him in Cincinnati; all grist to the mill. One thing we may be sure of is that the only effect of this statement will be to compromise the chivalrous one even more.

So just because the New-Yorker-Criminal Zeitung!!!!! has published attacks upon him, the gallant Willich feels compelled to break his heroic silence.

‘Putting the case at its highest!’ In Willich’s case bodies do not fall downwards but upwards! Good-bye to gravity! The fellow’s quite mad. The same old tale of assassination too! We shall now see the aforesaid Schramm leap promptly into the lists, statement in hand.

To put your mind at rest, I can inform you that the Neu-England-Ztg. today advised me of the dispatch of 420 copies of Revelations to my address, so they may be here tomorrow or, if the parcel didn’t go off by the last steamer, in a week at the most.

The fellows have the effrontery to send me a letter signed semi-anonymously ‘Office of the N.-E.-Z.’ inviting me to contribute. That’s the last straw!

At all events, it’s a good thing that we now possess in the Reform an organ in which, if the worst comes to the worst, we can still make ourselves heard in the polemic against Willich and Co. As a result of the rumpus, Kellner is becoming more and more embroiled.

Weydemeyer’s misprint shouldn’t surprise you. After all, you must know that when Weydemeyer does something, it is always ‘similar’ rather than ‘glorious’.

The little fellow is coming here next Sunday. I am curious to see how he is shaping as a clerk in Bradford. At all events the good Buckup seems to be working him very hard.

Yesterday I read the book on Arabian inscriptions which I told you about. The thing is not without interest, repulsive though it is to find the parson and biblical apologist forever peeping through. His greatest triumph is to show that Gibbon made some mistakes in the field of ancient geography, from which he also concludes that Gibbon’s theology was deplorable. The thing is called The Historical Geography of Arabia, by the Reverend Charles Forster. The best things to emerge from it are:

1. The supposed genealogy of Noah, Abraham, etc., to be found in Genesis is a fairly accurate enumeration of the Bedouin tribes of the time, according to the degree of their dialectal relationships, etc. As we all know, Bedouin tribes continue to this day to call themselves Beni Saled, Beni Yusuf, etc., i.e. sons of so and so. This nomenclature, which owes its origins to the early patriarchal mode of existence, ultimately leads up to this type of genealogy. The enumeration in Genesis is plus ou moins confirmed by ancient geographers, while more recent travellers have shown that most of the old names still exist, though in dialectally altered form. But from this it emerges that the Jews themselves were no more than a small Bedouin tribe like the others, which was brought into conflict with the other Bedouins by local conditions, agriculture, etc.

2. As for the great Arab invasion, you will remember our discussion when we concluded that, like the Mongols, the Bedouins carried out periodic invasions and that the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires were founded by Bedouin tribes on the very same spot as, later, the Caliphate of Baghdad. The founders of the Babylonian Empire, the Chaldeans, still exist under the same name, Beni Chaled, and in the same locality. The rapid construction of large cities, such as Nineveh and Babylon, happened in just the same way as the creation in India only 300 years ago of similar giant cities, Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Muttan, by the Afghan and/or Tartar invasions. In this way the Mohammedan invasion loses much of its distinctive character.

3. In the South-West, where the Arabs settled, they appear to have been a civilised people like the Egyptians, Assyrians, etc., as is evident from their buildings. This also explains many things about the Mohammedan invasion. So far as the religious fraud is concerned, the ancient inscriptions in the South, in which the ancient Arab national tradition of monotheism (as with the American Indians) still predominates, a tradition of which the Hebrew is only a small part would seem to indicate that Mohammed’s religious revolution, like every religious movement, was formally a reaction, a would-be return to what was old and simple.

It is now quite clear to me that the Jews’ so-called Holy Writ is nothing more than a record of ancient Arab religious and tribal traditions, modified by the Jews’ early separation from their tribally related but nomadic neighbours. The circumstance of Palestine’s being surrounded on the Arabian side by nothing but desert, i.e. the land of the Bedouins, explains its separate development. But the ancient Arabian inscriptions and traditions and the Koran, as well as the ease with which all genealogies, etc., can now be unravelled, show that the main content was Arab, or rather, generally Semitic, as in our case the Edda and the German heroic saga.

F. E.