Marx-Engels Correspondence 1881

Marx to Friedrich Adolph Sorge
In Hoboken


Published: Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

[London,] 15 December, 1881

The English have recently begun to occupy themselves more with Capital, etc. Thus in the last October (or November, I am not quite sure) number of the Contemporary there is an article on socialism by John Rae. Very inadequate, full of mistakes, but “fair” as one of my English friends told me the day before yesterday. And why fair? Because John Rae does not suppose that for the forty years I am spreading my pernicious theories, I was being instigated by “bad” motives. “Seine Grossmuth muss ich loben.” The fairness of making yourself at least sufficiently acquainted with the subject of your criticism seems a thing quite unknown to the penmen of British philistinism.

Before this, in the beginning of June, there was published by a certain Hyndman (who had before intruded himself into my house) a little book: England for All. It pretends to be written as an exposé of the programme of the “Democratic Federation” – a recently formed association of different English and Scotch radical societies, half bourgeois, half proletaires. The chapters on Labour and Capital are only literal extracts from, or circumlocutions of, the Capital, but the fellow does neither quote the book, nor its author, but to shield himself from exposure remarks at the end of his preface: “For the ideas and much of the matter contained in Chapters II and III, I am indebted to the work of a great thinker and original writer, etc., etc.” Vis-à-vis myself, the fellow wrote stupid letters of excuse, for instance, that “the English don't like to be taught by foreigners,” that “my name was so much detested, etc.” With all that, his little book – so far as it pilfers the Capital – makes good propaganda, although the man is a “weak” vessel, and very far from having even the patience – the first condition of learning anything – of studying a matter thoroughly. All those amiable middle-class writers – if not specialists – have an itching to make money or name or political capital immediately out of any new thoughts they may have got at by any favourable windfall. Many evenings this fellow has pilfered from me, in order to take me out and to learn in the easiest way.

Lastly there was published on the first December last (I shall send you a copy of it) in the monthly review, Modern Thought, an article: “Leaders of Modern Thought"; No. XXIII – Karl Marx. By Ernest Belfort Bax.

Now this is the first English publication of the kind which is pervaded by a real enthusiasm for the new ideas themselves and boldly stands up against Brit. Philistinism. That does not prevent that the biographical notices the author gives of me are mostly wrong, etc. In the exposition of my economic principles and in his translations (i.e., quotations of the Capital) much is wrong and confused, but with all that the appearance of this article, announced in large letters by placards on the walls of West End London, has produced a great sensation. What was most important for me, I received the said number of Modern Thought already on the 30th of November, so that my dear wife had the last days of her life still cheered up. You know the passionate interest she took in all such affairs.