Marx Engels Correspondence 1884

Friedrich Engels to Karl Kautsky
In Zurich

Source: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975). Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

16 February 1884

... It would be a good thing if somebody took the trouble to explain state socialism, which is now so prevalent, by the example of Java where its practice is in full bloom. All the material for that can be found in Java, or How to Manage a Colony, by JWB Money, Barrister at Law, London, 1861, two volumes. Here it will be seen how on the basis of the old community communism the Dutch organised production under state control and secured for the people what they considered a quite comfortable existence. The result: the people are kept at the stage of primitive stupidity and 70 million marks (by now presumably more) are annually collected by the Dutch national treasury. This case is highly interesting and the practical conclusions can easily be drawn. Incidentally this demonstrates that today primitive communism (so long as it has not been stirred up by some element of modern communism) furnishes the finest and broadest basis of exploitation and despotism there, as well as in India and Russia, and that in the conditions of modern society it turns out to be a crying anachronism (which has either to be removed or almost made to retrograde) as much as were the independent mark communities of the original cantons.

There exists an important book on the conditions of primitive society, as important as Darwin is in biology, and of course it is again Marx who discovered it: Morgan, Ancient Society, 1877. Marx spoke about it but my head was full of other things at that time and he never returned to it. This must have suited him for he himself wanted to publicise the book among the Germans, as I see from the quite extensive extracts he made. Morgan has quite independently discovered the Marxian materialist conception of history within the limits prescribed by his subject and he concludes with directly communist propositions in relation to present-day society. The Roman and Greek gens is for the first time fully explained on the basis of that of savages, particularly American Indians, thus creating a firm foundation for the history of primitive times. If I had the time I would work up the material, with Marx’s notes, for a feature article in the Sozialdemokrat or the Neue Zeit, but that is out of the question. All that humbug by Tylor, Lubbock & Co [1] about endogamy, exogamy and whatever else that rubbish is called has now been definitely squashed. These gentlemen suppress the book here as much as they can. It was printed in America. I ordered it five weeks ago but can’t get it, although a London firm appears on the title page as co-publisher.

Best regards



1. John Lubbock (1834-1913) – English biologist, Darwinist, ethnographer and archaeologist, financial and political figure, Liberal, author of a number of works on history of ancient society. Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917) – prominent English ethnographer, founder of evolutionary school in history of culture and ethnology – Progress Publishers.