Brentano vs Marx, Engels 1891


In reality, however, the ostentatious impudence we had to admire in Mr. Brentano, is nothing but a tactical manoeuvre. He has discovered that the attack on the "lyingly added" sentence has failed, and that he must seek a defensive position. He has found it; all that has to be done now is to retreat to this new position.

Already in his first reply to Marx (Documents, No. 5) Mr. Brentano hints at his intention, though bashfully as yet. The fatal Times report compels him to do so. This report, it is true, contains the "notorious", the "lyingly added" passage, but that is actually beside the point. For since it "fully coincides materially" with Hansard, it says "the direct opposite of that notorious passage", although it contains it word for word. Thus it is no longer a question of the wording of the "notorious passage", but of its meaning. It is no longer a question of denying the passage's existence, but of claiming that it means the opposite of what it says.

And Marx having declared in his second reply that lack of time forces him to end, once and for all, his pleasurable exchange of opinions with his anonymous opponent, the latter can venture to deal with even greater confidence with this subject, which is not exactly proper at that. This he does in his rejoinder, reproduced here as No. 7 of the documents.

Here he claims that Marx attempts to obscure the Times report, which materially fully coincides with Hansard, and this is in three ways. Firstly by an incorrect translation of CLASSES WHO ARE IN EASY CIRCUMSTANCES. I leave aside this point as absolutely irrelevant. It is generally known that Marx had a command of the English language quite different from that of Mr. Brentano. But exactly what Mr. Gladstone thought when he used this expression-and whether he thought anything-it is quite impossible to say today, 27 years later, even for himself.

The second point is that Marx "simply suppressed" a certain "relative clause" in the Times report. The passage in question is previously cited at length in section II, p. 7. By suppressing this relative clause, Marx is supposed to have suppressed for his readers the fact that the augmentation of wealth, as shown by the income tax returns, is confined to classes which possess property, since the labouring classes do not fall under the income tax, and thus nothing may be learned from the returns about the increase in prosperity amongst the workers; this does not mean, however, that in reality the labouring classes remain excluded from the extraordinary augmentation of national wealth.

The sentence in the Times report runs, in Mr. Brentano's own translation:

"The augmentation I have described, and the figures of which are based, I think, upon accurate returns, is entirely confined to classes of property."

The relative clause which Marx so maliciously "suppressed" consists of the words: "and the figures of which are based, I think, upon accurate returns". By the persistent, since twice repeated, suppression of these highly important words, so the story goes, Marx wished to conceal from his readers that the said augmentation was an augmentation solely of the income subject to income tax, in other words the income of the "classes which possess property".

Does his moral indignation at the fact that he had run aground with "mendacity" make Mr. Brentano blind? Or does he think that he can make all sorts of allegations, since Marx will no longer reply in any case? The fact is that the incriminated sentence begins, according to Marx, both in the Inaugural Address and in Capitol, with the words: "From 1842 to 1852 THE TAXABLE INCOME of the country increased by 6 per cent... In the eight years from 1853 to 1861, it has ..." etc.

Does Mr. Brentano know another "taxable income" in England apart from that subject to income tax? And has the highly important "relative clause" anything at all to add to this clear declaration that only income subject to income tax is under discussion? Or does he believe, as it almost appears, that people "forge" Gladstone's budget speeches, make "lying additions" or "suppress" something in them if they quote them without, à la Brentano, also providing the reader with an essay on English income tax in which they "falsify" income tax into the bargain, as Marx proved (Documents, No. 6),b and as Mr. Brentano was forced to admit (Documents, No. 7). And when the "lyingly added" sentence simply says that the augmentation just mentioned by Mr. Gladstone was confined to classes of property, does it not say essentially the same, since only classes of property pay income tax? But of course, whilst Mr. Brentano creates a deafening hullabaloo at the front door about this sentence as a Marxian falsification and insolent mendacity, he himself allows it to slip in quietly through the back door.

Mr. Brentano knew very well that Marx quoted Mr. Gladstone as speaking about "taxable income" and no other. For in his first attack (Documents, No.3), he quotes the passage from the Inaugural Address, and even translated TAXABLE as "liable to tax"

If he now "suppresses" this in his rejoinder, and if from now on until his pamphlet of 1890 he protests again and again that Marx concealed, intentionally and maliciously, the fact that Gladstone was speaking here solely of those incomes liable to income tax -- should we now sling his own expressions back at him: "lying", "forgery", "impudent mendacity", "simply nefarious"?

To continue with the text:

"Thirdly and finally, Marx attempted to conceal the agreement between the Times report and the Hansard report by failing to quote those sentences in which, according to The Times too, Gladstone directly and explicitly testified to the elevation of the British working class."

In his second reply to the anonymous Brentano, Marx had to prove that he had not "lyingly added" the "notorious" sentence, and in addition had to reject the insolent claim made by Anonymous: in relation to this point, the only point in question, the Times report and the Hansard report "fully coincided materially", although the former included the sentence in question verbatim, and the latter excluded it verbatim. For this, the only point at issue, it was absolutely irrelevant what Mr. Gladstone had to say about the elevation of the British working class.

On the other hand the Inaugural Address -- and this is the document which Brentano accuses of falsifying a quotation -- states explicitly on p. 4, only a few lines before the "notorious" sentence, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Gladstone), during the millennium of free trade, told the House of Commons:

"The average condition of the British labourer has improved in a degree we know to be extraordinary and unexampled in the history of any country or any age."

And these are precisely the words which, according to Brentano, Marx maliciously suppressed.

In the whole polemic, from his first retort to Marx in 1872 (Documents, No.5) down to his introduction and appendix to Meine Polemik, etc., 1890, Mr. Brentano suppresses, with a sleight of hand which we must on no account describe as "insolent mendacity", the fact that Marx directly quoted in the Inaugural Address these Gladstonian declarations about the unparalleled improvement in the situation of the workers. And in this rejoinder, which, as already mentioned, remained unknown to Marx up to his death, and to me until the publication of the pamphlet Meine Polemik, etc., in 1890, in which the accusation about the lyingly added sentence was only apparently maintained, though in reality dropped, and the lyingly added sentence not only shamefacedly admitted as genuine Gladstonian property, but also as "speaking for us", i.e. for Brentano -- in this rejoinder a retreat is beaten to the new line of defence: Marx has distorted and twisted Gladstone's speech; Marx has Gladstone say that, it goes, the riches of the rich have grown enormously, but that the poor, the working population, have at the most become less poor. But in fact Gladstone said, in plain words, that the condition of the workers had improved to an unexampled degree.

This second line of defence was pierced by the irresistible fact that precisely in the incriminated document, in the Inaugural Address, these same Gladstonian words were quoted explicitly. And Mr. Brentano knew this. "But what does it matter? The readers" of the Concordia "cannot check up on him!"

Incidentally, regarding what Gladstone really said, on this we shall have a few short words to say in a little while.

In conclusion, Mr. Brentano, in the security, first of his anonymity, and second of Marx's declaration that he has no wish to bother with him further, indulges in the following private jollity:

"When Mr. Marx finally ends his article by breaking into abuse, we can assure him that his opponent could desire nothing more than the confession of his weakness which lies herein. Abuse is the weapon of those whose other means of defence have run out."

The reader can check for himself the extent to which Marx "breaks into abuse" in his rejoinder. As far as Mr. Brentano is concerned, we have already presented some choice bouquets from his attestations of politeness. The "lies", "impudent mendacity", "lying quotation", "simply nefarious", etc., heaped upon Marx's head by all means constitute an edifying "confession of weakness", and an unmistakeable sign that Mr. Brentano's "other means of defence have run out".