Marx Engels Correspondence 1885

Friedrich Engels to Nikolai Frantsevich Danielson
In St Petersburg

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

13 November 1885

Dear Sir

I received your two letters 6 (18) and 9 (21) August while I was in Jersey and immediately sent you the letter you desired for the Severny Vestnik. [1] Since then I have been prevented by press of work from replying more fully to these letters as well as that of the 25 August (5 September).

I had no doubt that the second volume [2] would afford you the same pleasure as it has done to me. The developments it contains are indeed of such a superior order that the vulgar reader will not take the trouble to fathom them and to follow them out. This is actually the case in Germany where all historical science, including political economy, has fallen so low that it can scarcely fall any lower. Our Katheder-Sozialisten [3] have never been much more, theoretically, than slightly philanthropic Vulgärökonomen, and now they have sunk to the level of simple apologists of Bismarck’s Staatssozialismus. To them, the second volume will always remain a sealed book. It is a fine piece of what Hegel calls die Ironie der Weltgeschichte, [4] that German historical science, by the fact of the elevation of Germany to the position of the first European power, should be again reduced to the same vile state to which it was reduced by the deepest political degradation of Germany, after the Thirty Years’ War. But such is the fact. And thus, German ‘science’ stares at this new volume without being able to understand it; only a wholesome fear of the consequences prevents them from criticising it in public, and so official economic literature observes a cautious silence with regard to it. The third volume will however compel them to speak out.

Of that third volume, I have completed the first transcript from the original into a legible manuscript. Three-fourths of it are almost fit for publication as they are; but the last fourth, or perhaps third, will require a great deal of work: the first section (relation of Mehrwertsrate to Profitrate) [5] and then the subsequent sections on Kredit and partly also on Grundrente; [6] besides certain portions of almost all the other sections. For the last two months I have been compelled to attend to a good deal of other work which had been neglected by my exclusive attention to the second and third volumes. This will continue for some time yet, and then, maybe, the revision of the English translation of Volume 1, which is nearly completed, will occupy me for a month longer, but then I shall start with the third volume and carry it out to the end. Maybe it will be published in two sections, as it will contain about 1000 pages.

I thank you very much for your extracts from the author’s letters [7] from 1879 to 1881. I could not read them without a sorrowful smile. Alas, we are so used to these excuses for the non-completion of the work! Whenever the state of his health made it impossible for him to go on with it, this impossibility preyed heavily upon his mind, and he was only too glad if he could only find out some theoretical excuse why the work should not then be completed. All these arguments he had at the time made use of vis-ā-vis de moi; they seemed to ease his conscience.

After completing the third volume and selecting from the other MSs the portions fit for publication, I shall very likely try to collect such of the author’s correspondence as is scientifically important, and there his letters to you rank amongst the first. When that time comes, I shall therefore avail myself of your kind offer of placing at my disposal copies of these letters.

I am often in the case of forwarding to you pamphlets, etc – republications of the author’s and my own writings, etc, but do not know whether it would be safe to send them direct to you. I should be much obliged if you would tell me what to do.

I hope our mutual friend’s [8] health is improving, notwithstanding the bad prognosis of his doctors. Any news with regard to him will always be welcome.

That crisis of which the author speaks in his letter was indeed an exceptional one. [9] The fact is it continues still, all Europe and America suffer under it to this day. The absence of the financial crash is one cause of it. But the principal cause is undoubtedly the totally changed state of the Weltmarkt. [10] Since 1870, Germany and especially America have become England’s rivals in modern industry, while most other European countries have so far developed their own manufactures as to cease to be dependent on England. The consequence has been the spreading of the process of over-production over a far larger area than when it was mainly confined to England, and has taken – up to now – a chronic instead of an acute character. By thus delaying the thunderstorm which formerly cleared the atmosphere every ten years, this continued chronic depression must prepare a crash of a violence and extent such as we have never known before. And the more so as the agricultural crisis of which the author speaks has also continued up to now, has been extended to almost all European countries, and must continue while the virgin chernozem of the Western American prairies remains unexhausted.

Very faithfully yours
PW Rosher


1. Severny Vestnik (Northern Herald) – a liberal magazine containing articles on literature, science and politics, published in St Petersburg from 1885 to 1898 – Progress Publishers.

2. Of Marx’s Kapital – Progress Publishers.

3. Katheder Socialists – representatives of a trend in bourgeois economics and sociology which arose towards the end of the nineteenth century. They were in the main German professors who under the guise of socialism advocated bourgeois reformism from their university chairs (Katheder in German) – Progress Publishers.

4. Irony of world history – Progress Publishers.

5. Rate of surplus value to rate of profit – Progress Publishers.

6. Rent of land – Progress Publishers.

7. Engels alludes to Marx’s letters to Danielson, 10/04/1879, 12/09/1880, 19/02/1881.

8. Hermann Alexandrovich Lopatin (1845-1918) – Russian revolutionary, Narodnik, member of General Council of First International, one of the translators into Russian of Marx’s Capital, Volume 1, friend of Marx and Engels – Progress Publishers.

9. See Marx’s letter to Danielson of 10 April 1879 – Progress Publishers.

10. World market – Progress Publishers.