Marx-Engels Correspondence 1859
Source: MECW Volume 40, p. 394;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in: Marx and Engels, Works, Moscow, 1929.
I am writing to you again this evening because time presses. I am morally convinced that, in view of what I've written to Lassalle, Duncker will accept the pamphlet. Admittedly, little Jew Braun hasn’t written to me since my manuscript [Contribution to Critique of Political Economy] arrived, and that was over four weeks ago. For one thing, he was busy with the publication of his own immortal, ‘inflammatory’ work. (still, the little Jew, even his Heraclitus although atrociously written, is better than anything the democrats could boast of), and then he will probably have to do the final proof-reading of my scrawl. For another thing, he may be a trifle stunned by the terrible knock on the head dealt him indirectly by my analysis of money. For his Heraclitus contains the following note which I shall now quote verbatim despite its interminable length (you've got to read it, though):
‘If we remarked above that in the said fragment Heraclitus has specified the true nature and function of money in political economy’ (Heraclitus in fact says: ‘pnros teantameibesdai panta kai pur apantwg woper crjsou crhmata, kai crhpatwn crusos’ [all things are exchanged for fire and fire for all things, as wares are exchanged for gold and gold for wares]), ‘this, we need hardly point out, is not to make a political economist of him, and hence it is far from our intention to suggest that he had grasped any of the wider implications of that fragment. But although this science neither existed nor could have existed at that time and therefore was not the object of Heraclitus’ thought, it is correct to say that, precisely because he never goes by reflex categories but only by the speculative concept, Heraclitus has, in that fragment, discerned the nature of money in all its profundity and this more truly than many a modern economist. And it may not be altogether without interest or, indeed, so irrelevant as might at first appear, to observe how what is simply a consequence of that thought automatically gives rise to the modern discoveries in this field’ (Nota bene. Lassalle doesn’t know the first thing about these discoveries.)
‘When Heraclitus suggests that money as a medium of exchange is the antithesis of all real products entering exchange and owes its real existence solely to the same’ (I underline where Lassalle has underlined), ‘this is not to say that money as such is itself a product invested with a material value of its own, one commodity among other commodities, as Say’s school’ (a nice Continental delusion that there is such a thing as Say’s school) ‘persists in regarding coin up to this very day; rather it is but the ideal representative of circulating real products, a symbol of value for the latter, which merely stands for them. And that is only in part a conclusion drawn from the fragment, in part only the concept implicit in it for Heraclitus himself.
‘But if all money is merely the ideal unit or expression of value of all real circulating products and owes its real existence solely to these, which are at one and the same time its antithesis, it follows from the very consequence’ (nice style! It follows from ‘the very consequence') ‘of this concept that a country’s sum of values or its wealth may be increased only by an increase in real products, but never by an increase in money since money, of course, far from being even merely a factor of wealth and value’ (now we have wealth and value; before it was sum of values or wealth), ‘never expresses, as an abstract unit, more than the value which is situated in the products’ (and a nice district, too), ‘and is real only therein. Hence the error of the balance of trade system.’ (This is worthy of Ruge.) ‘It further follows that All money is always equal in value to all circulating products, since it merely reduces the latter to an ideal unit of value, hence merely gives expression to their value; hence that, by an increase or decrease in the amount of money available, the value of this total sum of money will never be affected and will always remain equal only to that of all circulating products; that strictly speaking it is never possible to talk of the value of all money as compared with the value of all circulating products, because such a comparison supposes that the value of money and the value of products are two values in their own right, whereas only one value exists, which is realised in concrete form in the material product, and expressed as an abstract unit of value in money; or rather, value itself is nothing but a unit abstracted from real things, in which it does not exist as such, and finding its special expression in money; not only, then, does the value of all money remain equal to the value of all products but, properly speaking, all money is only the value of all circulating products.’ (This ultra-hold type is the author’s.) ‘Hence it follows that, with an increase in the quantity of coin, since the value of the total remains the same, that of each individual coin can only fall, just as it will rise again with a decrease in the quantity of coin. It further follows that, since money is merely the unreal theoretical abstraction of value and represents the antithesis of real products and materials, money as such does not need to have any intrinsic reality, i.e. need not consist of any truly valuable material, but may equally be paper money, and it is precisely then that it corresponds most closely to its concept. All these and many other conclusions, which have only been reached, and along entirely different lines, since Ricardo’s studies and have by no means found universal acceptance, follow from the mere consequence of that speculative concept discerned by Heraclitus.'
I, of course, paid not the slightest heed to this Talmudic wisdom but roundly slated Ricardo for his theory of money which, by the way, did not originate with him but with Hume and Montesquieu. So Lassalle may feel this to be a personal insult. There was actually no harm in it, for in my anti-Proudhon piece [Poverty of Philosophy] I myself adopted Ricardo’s theory. But I'd had a perfectly ridiculous letter from little Jew Braun in which he said that he had ‘the early publication of my manuscript at heart, although he himself was engaged in writing a major work on political economy for which he had allocated two years’. But if I were to ‘deprive him of too much that was new, he might abandon the whole thing’. Well, to this I replied that there was no fear of rivalry since this ‘new’ science could accommodate himself and me and a dozen more besides. My disquisition on money will now show him, either that I know nothing of the subject — although if I'm wrong, so is the whole history of the monetary theory — or else that he is an ass, since, with a few empty abstract expressions such as ‘abstract unit’, he presumes to lay down the law about empirical matters which, if one wishes to hold forth about them, call for study, and prolonged study into the bargain. For this reason he may, in the innermost recesses of his heart, be nourishing something of a grudge against me just now. But — and this is what I have been leading up to — firstly, Lassalle has really too great a stake ‘in the cause’ and, secondly, he is too much of an ‘Ephraim Artful’ not to keep in with us coûte que coûte which is all the more necessary to him because of his quarrel with the Düsseldorf people. Moreover, living in Berlin has made him see that, for an energetic fellow like himself, the bourgeois party holds out no prospects whatever.
So with clever management the man will be ours, body and soul, no matter how much he indulges in ‘inflammatory’ antics or makes Heraclitus pay for being the most succinct of philosophers by providing him with the most prolix of commentaries. For the same reason I am sure that en cas de besoin he will force Duncker to take your pamphlet. I have, by the by, so framed my letter that he can show the whole of it to Duncker. It was, in fact, written for Duncker rather than Lassalle, though for all his artfulness Ephraim is unlikely to notice the fact.
Hence I consider it certain that Duncker will take the pamphlet, so the main thing now is for you to set to work on it at once, for this is like a newspaper article. There’s no time to be lost. For the same reason — immediacy of impact — I believe you shouldn’t exceed 4 or 5 sheets (if as much is needed). So you may regard yourself as totally absolved from the Tribune work (unless some martial occurrence steals a march on your pamphlet, which is improbable), until you've finished the thing. The most sensible thing to do would be to plead sudden illness and stay away from the office, so as to write the thing all at one go.
Amicus Engels Senior, amicus Ermen (Gotofredus!), sed magis amicum to fronein [Engels Senior is dear to me, Ermen (Gottfried) is dear to me, but knowledge is dearer still].
‘feu, feu, fronein ws deinon, enqa mh telh
[Alas, ‘tis terrible to be wise when it brings the wise man no reward']
as your old man might say to you, like Tiresias did to King Oedipus, to which, however, you would reply that he
‘en tois kerdesi
monom dedorke, thn tecnhn defu tuflos’.
[in usury but sharp-eyed, yet in his sooth-saying blind]