Marx-Engels Correspondence 1865
Written: London, 20 May, 1865;
Published: Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.
I am now working like a horse, as I must use the time in which it is possible to work and the carbuncles are still there, though now they only disturb me locally and not in the brainpan.
Between whiles, as one cannot always be writing, I am doing some Differential Calculus dx/dy. I have no patience to read anything else. Any other reading always drives me back to my writing-desk.
This evening a special session of the International. A good old fellow, an old Owenist, Weston (carpenter) has put forward the two following propositions, which he is continually defending in the Beehive: (1) That a general rise in the rate of wages would be of no use to the workers; (2) That therefore, etc., the trade unions have a harmful effect.
If these two propositions, in which he alone in our society believes, were accepted, we should be turned into a joke (so wären wir Kladderadatsch) both on account of the trade unions here and of the infection of strikes which now prevails on the Continent.
On this occasion--as non-members may be admitted to this meeting--he will be supported by a born Englishman, who has written a pamphlet to the same effect. I am of course espected to supply the refutation. I ought really therefore to have worked out my reply for this evening, but thought it more important to write on at my bookt and so shall have to depend upon improvisation.
Of course I know beforehand what the two main points are :
(1) That the wages of labour determine the value of commodities; (2) That if the capitalists pay 5 instead of 4 shillings to-day, they will sell their commodities for 5 instead of 4 shillings to-morrow (being enabled to do so by the increased demand).
Inane though this is, only attaching itself to the most superficial external appearance, it is nevertheless not easy to explain to ignorant people all the economic questions which compete with one another here. You can't compress a course of political economy into one hour. But we shall do our best.
[Note: Marx debated against Weston on the night of May 20 and again on the 23rd; on June 24, 1865, he wrote to Engels: "I have read a paper in the Central Council (it would make two printer's sheets, perhaps) on the question brought up by Mr. Weston as to the effect of a general rise of wages, etc. The first part of it was an answer to Weston's nonsense; the second a theoretical explanation, in so far as the occasion was suited to this. Now the people want to have this printed... In the second part the thing contains, in an extremely condensed but relatively popular form, much that is new, taken in advance from my book [Capital], while at the same time it has necessarily to slur over all sorts of things."
The "paper " referred to is Marx's Value, Price and Profit, which he had read on June 20. He did not agree to its publication in 1865, when the fuller exposition in Capital had not yet been given to the world and it was then forgotten until after Engels' death in 1895, when it was found by Marx's daughter, Eleanor Marx Aveling, who edited and published it in its original English form in 1898.]