Marx-Engels Correspondence 1890

Engels to Otto Von Boenigk
In Breslau


Transcription/Markup: Brian Baggins;
Online Version: Marx/Engels Internet Archive ( 2000;

Folkestone, near Dover
August 21, 1890

... I can reply only briefly and in general terms to your inquiries [A], for as concerns the first question I should otherwise have to write a treatise.

Ad. 1. To my mind, the so-called “socialist society” is not anything immutable. Like all other social formations, it should be conceived in a state of constant flux and change. Its crucial difference from the present order consists naturally in production organized on the basis of common ownership by the nation of all means of production. To begin this reorganization tomorrow, but performing it gradually, seems to me quite feasible. That our workers are capable of it is borne out by their many producer and consumer cooperatives which, whenever they're not deliberately ruined by the police, are equally well and far more honestly run than the bourgeois stock companies. I cannot see how you can speak of the ignorance of the masses in Germany after the brilliant evidence of political maturity shown by the workers in their victorious struggle against the Anti-Socialist Law. The patronizing and errant lecturing of our so-called intellectuals seems to me a far greater impediment. We are still in need of technicians, agronomists, engineers, chemists, architects, etc., it is true, but if the worst comes to the worst we can always buy them just as well as the capitalists buy them, and if a severe example is made of a few of the traders among them — for traders there are sure to be — they will find it to their own advantage to deal fairly with us. But apart from the specialists, among whom I also include schoolteachers, we can get along perfectly well without the other “intellectuals.” The present influx of literati and students into the party, for example, may be quite damaging if these gentlemen are not properly kept in check.

The Junker latifundia east of the Elbe could be easily leased under the due technical management to the present day-laborers and other retinue, who work the estates jointly. If any disturbances occur, the Junkers, who have brutalized people by flouting all the existing school legislation, will alone be to blame.

The biggest obstacles are the small peasants and the importunate super-clever intellectuals who always think they know everything so much the better, the less they understand it.

Once we have a sufficient number of followers among the masses, the big industries and the large-scale latifundia farming can be quickly socialized, provided we hold the political power. The rest will follow shortly, sooner or later. And we shall have it all our own way in large-scale production.

You speak of an absence of uniform insight. This exists — but on the part of the intellectuals to stem from the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie and who do not suspect how much they still have to learn from the workers...


[A] Boenigk asked Engels whether it was possible and advisable to effect socialist transformations considering the differences in education, level of consciousness, etc., among the various classes of society.