Reviews of Capital by Frederick Engels 1867

Review of Volume One of Capital for the Elberfelder Zeitung
October 1867

Written: October 22, 1867;
First published: in the Elberfelder Zeitung, No. 302, November 2, 1867

Karl Marx on Capital
(Hamburg, Otto Meissner, Volume 1, 1867)

Fifty sheets of learned treatise to prove to us that the entire capital of our bankers, merchants, manufacturers and large landowners is nothing but the accumulated and unpaid labour of the working class! We recall that in 1849 the Neue Rheinische Zeitung raised the demand for a "Silesian milliard" in the name of the Silesian peasants. A thousand million talers, it was claimed, were illegally withdrawn from the Silesian peasants alone, to flow into the pockets of the large landowners when serfdom and feudal services were abolished, and this amount was demanded back. But the gentlemen of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung of old are like the late Sibyl with her books: the less they are offered, the more they ask. What are a thousand million talers compared with the colossal amount now demanded back in the name of the working class as a whole--for that is, surely, how we must understand it! If the entire accumulated capital of the propertied classes is nothing but "unpaid labour", it would appear to follow directly that this labour is to be paid later, that is, the entire capital in question is to be transferred to labour. That would indeed raise the question who in particular would be entitled to receive it. But joking apart! However radically socialist the present book is in its approach, however blunt and unsparing on all hands its treatment of people who as a rule are regarded as authorities, we must confess that it is a most scholarly work which has a claim to be regarded as most strictly scientific. The press has already frequently mentioned Marx's intention to sum up the results of his many years' studies in a critique of the whole of political economy to date and thereby to provide the scientific basis for socialist aspirations which neither Fourier nor Proudhon nor even Lassalle had been able to do. This work has already long since and frequently been announced in the press. In 1859 a "first part" appeared at Duncker's in Berlin, which, however, dealt only with matters without immediate practical interest and which therefore caused hardly a stir. The following parts did not appear and the new socialist science seemed destined not to survive its birthpangs. How many jokes were not made about this new revelation which was announced so often and yet never once seemed actually about to appear in public! Well and good, here is at last the "first volume"--fifty sheets as we have said--and nobody can maintain that it does not contain enough and more than enough that is new, bold and audacious and that this is not presented in thoroughly scientific form. This time Marx appeals with his unusual propositions not to the masses but to the men of science. It is up to them to defend their economic theories which are here attacked at their foundations, and give proof that capital is indeed accumulated labour but not accumulated unpaid labour. Lassalle was a practical agitator, and it could suffice to oppose him in practical agitation, in the daily press and at meetings. But here we have a systematic scientific theory, and here the daily press cannot help to decide, here only science can speak the last word. It is to be hoped that people like Roscher, Rau, Max Wirth, etc., will seize the opportunity to defend the up till now generally recognised political economy against this new and certainly not contemptible attack. The social-democratic seed has sprouted among the younger generation and the working population of many a place--through this book it will in any case find plenty of new nourishment.