Brentano vs Marx, Engels 1891


In addition to the introductory self-apologia, Mr. Brentano's little pamphlet contains two appendices. The first contains extracts from The Theory of the Exchanges, intended to prove that this book was one of the main sources from which Marx concocted his Capital I shall not go into detail about this repeated waste of sepia. I only have to deal with the old charge from the Concordia. His whole life long Marx could not and would not please Mr. Brentano. Mr. Brentano thus certainly has a whole bottomless sack of complaints against Marx, and I would be an idiot to let myself in for this. There would be no end to pleasing him.

But it is naïve that here, at the end of the quotations, "the reproduction of the teal budget speech" is demanded from Marx. So that is what Mr. Brentano understands by correct quotation. However, if the whole actual speech is always to be reproduced, then no speech has ever been quoted without "forgery".

In the second appendix Mr. Brentano has a go at me. In the fourth edition of Capital, volume one, I drew attention to The Morning Star in connection with the allegedly false quotation. Mr. Brentano utilises this to once again obscure completely, with spurts of sepia, the original point at issue, the passage in the Inaugural Address, and instead of this to hit out at the passage in Capital already quoted by Mr. S. Taylor. In order to prove that my source of reference was false, and that Marx could only have taken the "forged quotation" from The Theory of the Exchanges, Mr. Brentano prints in parallel columns the reports of The Times and The Morning Star and the quotation according to Capital This second appendix is printed here as document No. 14.

Mr. Brentano has The Morning Star begin its report with the words "I MUST SAY FOR ONE" etc. He thus claims that the preceding sentences on the growth of taxable income from 1842 to 1852, and from 1853 to 1861 are missing in The Morning Star; from which it naturally follows that Marx did not use The Morning Star but The Theory of the Exchanges.

"The readers" of his pamphlet "with whom he is concerned, cannot check up on him!" But other people can, and they discover that this passage is certainly to be found in The Morning Star. We reprint it here, next to the passage from Capital in English and German for the edification of Mr. Brentano and his readers.

"The Morning Star", April 17, 1863 "Capital", Vol. I, 1st ed., p. 639; 2nd ed., p. 678; 3rd., p. 671; 4th ed., p. 617, Note 103

"In ten years, from 1842 to 1852 the "From 1842 to 1852 the taxable taxable income of the country increased income of the country increased by by 6 per cent, as nearly as I can make 6 per cent... out -- a very considerable increase in ten years. But in eight years from 1853 to 1861 the income of the country ... In the 8 years from 1858 to 1861 ... again increased from the basis taken in it had increased from the basis taken in 1853 by 20 per cent. The fact is so 1853, 20 per cent! The fact is so astonishing as to be almost incred- astonishing as to be almost incredible."

In German translation:

The absence of this sentence in his quotation from The Morning Star is Mr. Brentano's main trump card in his claim that Marx quoted from The Theory of the Exchanges and not from The Morning Star. He confronts the claim that the quotation was taken from The Morning Star with the incriminating gap in the parallel column. And now the sentence is nevertheless to be found in The Morning Star, in fact exactly as in Marx, and the incriminating gap is Mr. Brentano's own invention. If that is not "suppression" and "forgery", into the bargain, then these words lack any sense.

But if Mr. Brentano "forges" at the beginning of the quotation, and if he now very carefully refrains from saying that Marx "lyingly added" a sentence in the middle of the same quotation, this in no way prevents him from insisting repeatedly that Marx suppressed the end of the quotation.

In Capital the quotation breaks off with the passage:

"Whether the extremes of poverty are less, I do not presume to say."

Now in the reports in The Times and The Morning Star the sentence does not end here; separated only by a comma, there follow the words:

"but the average condition of the British labourer, we have the happiness to know to be extraordinary" (in The Times: has improved during the last 20 years in a degree which we know to be extraordinary) "and which we may almost pronounce to be unexampled in the history of any country and of any age".

Thus Marx breaks off here in mid-sentence, "has Gladstone stop in mid-sentence", "making this sentence quite meaningless". And already in his rejoinder (Documents, No.7) Mr. Brentano calls this an "absolutely senseless version".

Gladstone's sentence: "Whether the extremes of poverty are less, I do not presume to say" is a quite definite statement, complete in itself. If it makes sense, it makes sense when taken in isolation. If it makes no sense, no addition however long, tacked on behind a "yet", can give it sense. If the sentence in Marx's quotation is "completely senseless", then this is not due to Marx who quoted it, but to Mr. Gladstone who uttered it.

To probe more deeply this important case, let us now turn to the only source which, according to Mr. Brentano, it is the "custom" to quote, let us turn to Hansard, pure of all original sin. According to Mr. Brentano's own translation, it says:

"I will not presume to determine whether the wide interval which separates the extremes of wealth and poverty is less or more wide than it has been in former times" -- full stop.

And only after this full stop does the new sentence begin:

"But if we look to the average condition of the British labourer", etc.

Thus if Marx likewise sets a full stop here, he does just as the virtuous Hansard does; and if Mr. Brentano makes this full stop a new crime on the part of Marx, and claims that Marx has Gladstone stop in the mid-sentence, then he has relied upon the "necessarily bungling newspaper reports", and he can only blame himself for the consequences. Thus the argument collapses that Marx has made the sentence completely senseless through his full stop; this comes not from him but from Mr. Gladstone, and let Mr. Brentano now correspond with him about the sense or nonsense of the sentence; we have nothing more to do with the matter.

For Mr. Brentano is anyway in correspondence with Mr. Gladstone. What he has written to the latter we do not learn, of course, and we only learn very little of what Mr. Gladstone has written to him. In any case, Mr. Brentano has published from Gladstone's letters two meagre little sentences (Documents, No.16) and in my reply (Documents, No. 17) I showed that "this arbitrary mosaic of sentences torn from their context" proves nothing at all in Mr. Brentano's favour whilst the fact that he indulges in this sort of ragged publication, instead of publishing the whole correspondence, speaks volumes against him.

But let us assume for a moment that these two little sentences only permitted the interpretation most favourable to Mr. Brentano. What then?

"You are completely correct, and Marx completely incorrect." "I undertook no changes of any sort." These are the alleged words -- for Mr. Gladstone does not usually write in German, as far as I know -- of the former minister.

Does this mean: I did not utter the "notorious" sentence, and that Marx "lyingly added" it? Certainly not. The eight London morning papers of April 17, 1863 would unanimously give the lie to such a claim. They prove beyond all doubt that this sentence was spoken. If Mr. Gladstone made no changes in the Hansard report -- although I am twelve years younger than him, I would not like to rely so implicitly on my memory in such trivialities which occurred 27 years ago -- then the omission of the sentence in Hansard says nothing in Mr. Brentano's favour, and a great deal against Hansard.

Aside from this one point about the "lyingly added" sentence, Mr. Gladstone's opinion is completely inconsequential here. For as soon as we disregard this point, we find ourselves exclusively in the field of inconsequential opinions, in which after years of strife each sticks to his guns. If Mr. Gladstone, should he happen to be quoted, prefers the quotation methods of Mr. Brentano, an admiring supporter, to those of Marx, a sharply critical opponent, then this is quite obvious, and his indisputable right. For us, however, and for the question as to whether Marx quoted in good or in bad faith, his opinion is not even worth as much as that of any old uninvolved third person. For here Mr. Gladstone is no longer a witness but an interested party.