Letters of Marx and Engels from Science and Society

Karl Marx To John Swinton

Written: November 4, 1880;
Source: Science and Society Volume II, No. 2, Spring 1938;
Translated and Edited: by Leonard E. Mins;
HTML Mark-up: Andy Blunden and Sally Ryan.

41, Maitland Park Road, London, N. W.
November 4, 1880.

My Dear Sir:

I have sent you today a copy of the French edition of Capital. I have at the same time to thank you for your friendly article in the Sun.

Apart Mr. Gladstone’s sensational failures abroad — political interest centers here at present in the Irish “Land Question.” And why? Mainly because it is the harbinger of the English “Land Question.

Not only that the great landlords of England are also the largest landholders of Ireland, but having once broken down in what is ironically called the “sister” island, the English landed system will no longer be tenable at home. There are arraigned against it the British farmers, wincing under high rents, and — thanks to the American competition — low prices; the British agricultural laborers, at last impatient of their traditional position of ill-used beasts of burden, and that British party which styles itself “Radical.” The latter consists of two sets of men; first the ideologues of the party, eager to overthrow the political power of the aristocracy by mining its material basis, the semi-feudal landed property. But behind these principle-spouters, and hunting them on, looks another set of men — sharp, close-fisted, calculating capitalists, fully aware that the abolition of the old land laws, in the way proposed by the ideologues, cannot but convert land into a commercial article that must ultimately concentrate in the hands of capital.

On the other side, considered as a natural entity, John Bull has ugly misgivings lest the aristocratic English landed garrison in Ireland once gone — England’s political sway over Ireland will go, too!

Liebknecht has to enter prison for six months. The Anti-Socialists’ Law having failed to overthrow or even to weaken the German Social Democratic organization, Bismarck clings the more desperately to his panacea, and fancies that it must work, if only applied on a larger scale. Hence he has extended the state of siege to Hamburg, Altona, and three other Northern towns. Under these circumstances, the German friends have written me a letter of which one passage reads thus:

“The Socialist Law, though it could not break and never will break our organization, does impose pecuniary sacrifices almost impossible to bear. To support the families ruined by the police, to keep alive the few papers left to us, to keep up the necessary communications by secret messengers, to fight the battle on the whole line-all this requires money. We are nearly exhausted and forced to appeal to our friends and sympathizers in other countries.”

So far this extract.

Now we here at London, Paris, etc., will do our best. At the same time, I believe that a man of your influence might organize a subscription in the United States. Even if the monetary result were not important, denunciations of Bismarck’s new coup d'etat in public meetings held by you, reported in the American press, reproduced on the other side of the Atlantic, would sorely hit the Pomeranian hobereau and be welcomed by all the socialists of Europe. More information you might get from Mr. Sorge (Hoboken). Any money forthcoming to be sent over to Mr. Otto Freytag, Landtagsabgeordneter, Amtmannshof, Leipzig. His address ought, of course, not to be made public; otherwise the German police would simply-confiscate.

A propos. My youngest daughter — who was not with us at Ramsgate — just tells me that she has cut my portrait from the copy of the Capital I sent you, on the pretext that it was a mere caricature. Well, I shall make up for it by a photogram to be taken on the first fine day.

Mrs. Marx and the whole family send you their best wishes.

Yours most sincerely,
Karl Marx