Marx Engels Collected Works Volume 38
The letters of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels will be published in volumes 38-50 of this edition. These volumes will contain their letters to each other and to their collaborators, friends, relatives, and others. The Appendices will include letters written by others at the request of Marx and Engels, as well as letters addressed to them, and documents giving some idea of the contents of undiscovered letters written by them and providing additional biographical information.
This special group of volumes begins with Engels’ earliest surviving letter to Marx, from early October 1844. Their letters, to other people, prior to their historic meeting in Paris in August 1844, before which there was no direct connection between their intellectual development and work, are included in volumes 1-3 of the present edition, together with their separately published works of those years. From the autumn of 1844, the works of Marx and Engels increasingly arise from their close cooperation. Their letters reflect the elaboration of their ideas and their influence on the working class’s struggle for emancipation.
Not included in these volumes are letters, appeals and statements addressed to various organisations, editors of newspapers and journals, public employees, etc. These are published in volumes 4-28 of this edition.
The letters of Marx and Engels are extremely rich in ideas and human interest. In them Marx and Engels wrote of their creative plans, of the immense research they undertook in different fields of knowledge, and touched upon a wide range of philosophical, economic, sociological and other problems. They compared the results of their work, shared their impressions of the books they read, discussed the various doctrines and theories of contemporary thinkers, and commented upon the achievements of other scholars — for instance, the progress made in the natural sciences and in engineering — as well as on events and phenomena they witnessed or read about.
The letters show the constant attention Marx and Engels paid to economic and social phenomena, to politics in general, and to the development of the revolutionary movement in particular. Their analysis. of current events, class conflicts, diplomatic battles and warfare, political parties and trends, statesmen and politicians, is an important contribution to the Marxist interpretation of the period’s history; though it should be borne in mind that very often their judgment of events and people was stated much more sharply, as well as impulsively and emotionally, in their letters than in their works written for publication.
The proletarian class struggle is one of the principal and constant subjects of their correspondence. As the theoreticians of the working class, as well as direct participants in and leaders of proletarian organisations, they were interested most of all in the workers’ movement, the conditions and stages of its development, the aims of its programme, its tactics and its organisation. The letters are eloquent testimony of their struggle for the creation of a revolutionary party of the working class, and for the elaboration of a programme and a strategy for the international proletarian movement, giving due consideration both to the general laws of development of the proletarian class struggle and its specific features at different periods of history and in different countries. Many letters contain sharp criticism of the ideological and political antagonists of the working class, and of the various manifestations of opportunism, reformism, sectarianism and dogmatism in the workers’ movement. A profoundly scientific, materialist approach to the problems of the proletariat’s struggle, a principled defence of revolutionary positions, consistent internationalism, ardent support for those fighting for the oppressed and the exploited, and an irreconcilability towards their enemies, run through the entire correspondence of Marx and Engels.
‘If one were to attempt to define in a single word the focus, so to speak, of the whole correspondence,’ wrote Lenin, ‘the central point at which the whole body of ideas expressed and discussed converges — that word would be dialectics. The application of materialist dialectics to the reshaping of all political economy from its foundations up, its application to history, natural science, philosophy and to the policy and tactics of the working class — that was what interested Marx and Engels most of all, that was where they contributed what was most essential and new, and that was what constituted the masterly advance they made in the history of revolutionary thought’ (Collected Works, Vol. 19, p. 554).
This correspondence is a vital source for the study of both the theoretical and practical activity of Marx and Engels, demonstrating how naturally they combined these two aspects of their revolutionary work. Their letters reflect the development of the three component parts of Marxism — dialectical and historical materialism, political economy and the theory of scientific communism — as well as their study of a whole series of allied disciplines, ‘n particular of world history, law, linguistics, the history of literature, aesthetics, the natural sciences, and military service. In addition, our knowledge of the programme and tactical documents of the Communist League, of the First International and other proletarian organisations founded by Marx and Engels, is augmented by the rich material contained in their letters which illustrate their role as the organisers and leaders of the working-class revolutionary struggle.
Their letters also add in essential ways to many of their published works, drafts and manuscripts of unfinished works, for very often they give original full versions of important theoretical and tactical propositions, showing how one or another idea was conceived, and how it was first presented, and subsequently developed. Some of the letters are regular treatises, and some are especially valuable in containing ideas never set down in Marx’s and Engels’ published works. Many of the letters reveal scientific and literary plans which for one reason or another were never realised, while some are the only evidence that has come down to us that such literary plans existed at all, and from them we can form a general idea of what Marx and Engels intended to write about in such works.
The letters are especially important for the study of those periods in the lives of Marx and Engels when they were unable to write regularly for the press, in which case their correspondence often provides the best or the only source for studying their life and activity. Unfortunately, for some of these years, relatively few letters have been preserved, and they can naturally only supply additional information on the views and activities of Marx and Engels to that which can be derived from their published works.
There can be no better source than their letters from which to study the biographies of Marx and Engels. Readers can follow not just the story of how their works were written and published, or the stages of their theoretical and sociopolitical activity, but can observe them among their families and friends. They can gain an idea of the circumstances of their life, their everyday occupations, their personal feelings, and so forth. Their letters also show clearly the grim trials which confronted the proletarian revolutionaries in their struggle against the existing state system: police persecutions, legal proceedings, deportation, enforced emigration, publishers refusing to print their works, abuse and slander spread by their enemies, family and personal bereavement. And on top of all that — in the case of Marx — his poverty, leading to the tragic losses in his family, and his own frequent ill health.
And yet, their letters are full of optimism. The staunchness with which they bore up under all their troubles is amazing. They drew this strength from their unswerving loyalty to their revolutionary calling, to the noble idea of serving the cause of the working people’s emancipation. It is significant that Marx, who had already experienced several tragic deaths in his family, wrote to Sigfrid Meyer on 30 April 1867: ‘I laugh at the so-called “practical” men with their wisdom. If one chose to be an ox, one could of course turn one’s back on the sufferings of mankind and look after one’s own skin.'
No vicissitudes of life could break their will or spirit, weaken their dedication to the cause of the working class, undermine their faith in the ultimate triumph of the ideas of communism, or shake their historical optimism, their courage and naturally cheerful disposition. Shortly after Marx’s death a German bourgeois journalist called him a ‘poor wretch’ and it is in this connection that Engels wrote indignantly in June 1883: ‘If these jackasses ever happened to read my correspondence with the Moor, they would simply gape. Heine’s poetry is child’s play compared with our bold, jolly prose. The Moor could be furious, but mope — jamais! [never]'
The letters testify to the unity of Marx’s and Engels’ theoretical views and their extraordinary ideological and human closeness. For all the uniqueness of their personalities, there was always complete unanimity between them on the main issues, thanks to the remarkable similarity of their philosophical and political views. Very often we can observe how they arrived at a common point of view through discussion, and then how both expressed that viewpoint in print or in letters to other persons. There are many examples of such creative cooperation.
Their great friendship meant that they kept in constant touch with each other; it is therefore not surprising that they wrote almost daily when they happened to be separated, as they were in the 1850s and the 1860s for example. Their letters speak of their profound mutual respect and affection, and their complete and sincere confidence in one another.
Volume 38 contains Marx’s and Engels’ letters from October 1844 to December 1851, covering three stages in the development of Marxism. The first group of letters deals with the formative period and the development of Marxism as the scientific world outlook of the working class, and also shows the first practical steps taken by Marx and Engels to combine the theory of communism with the workers’ movement and organise a proletarian party. Their efforts were crowned in 1847 by the establishment of the international communist organisation of the proletariat — the Communist League — and the publication of its programme — the Manifesto of the Communist Party (February 1848). Their subsequent letters relate to the period of the bourgeois-democratic revolutions in Europe in 1848-49, which were the first historical test of Marxism, of its theoretical and tactical principles. The third group includes letters written from the end of 1849 to 1851 when priority had to be given to the work of theoretically generalising the experience of the revolutions, of further developing the strategy and tactics of the proletarian revolutionaries, of uniting them in conditions of increasing reaction, and. of reorganising the Communist League.
Marx’s and Engels’ surviving letters from October 1844 to February 1848 show that their efforts were primarily focused on elaborating the theoretical tools that would provide a scientific basis for the workers’ movement. Their awareness of the urgency of this task is evident from the. very first letters written by Engels from Barmen where he returned in the autumn of 1844 after his meeting with Marx in Paris. Reporting to his friend about the rapid spread of communist and socialist propaganda in Germany, Engels said: ‘Failing a few publications in which the principles are logically and historically developed out of past ways of thinking and past history, and as their necessary continuation, the whole thing will remain rather hazy and most people will be groping in the dark’ (this volume, p. 3).
At the time, the workers’ movement was largely influenced by utopian socialism. Its ideological confusion was aggravated by the circulation of muddled and immature doctrines, in particular those of the Young Hegelians who in 1843-45 preached ideas of subjective idealism and anarchic individualism. That is why in his letters Engels repeatedly urged Marx to hurry up and finish The Holy Family, aimed against Bruno Bauer and the other Young Hegelians, and also the book he was planning to write on political economy. In January 1845, Engels wrote: ‘Minds are ripe and we must strike while the iron is hot.... We German theoreticians ... cannot yet so much as develop our theory, not even having been able as yet to publish the critique of the nonsense. But now it is high time’ (pp. 17-18).
The letters published in this volume enable us to follow the writing of such important works as The Holy Family, The Condition of the Working-Class in England (present edition, Vol. 4) and The German Ideology (Vol. 5), and provide information about projects never materialised, among them Marx’s intention to write a ‘Critique of Politics and Political Economy’ in two volumes, Marx’s and Engels’ plans to publish a criticism of the views of the German bourgeois economist Friedrich List, and their plan to start a Library of the Best Foreign Socialist Writers’ (in German) supplied with critical comments (see this volume, pp. 10-11, 13-14, 15-18, 25-28). The letters also throw light on the journalistic work done by Marx and Engels, their contributions to various papers, the reasons that prompted them to do Journalistic work, and the character of a number of the articles written by them.
A whole series of circumstances, relevant not just to the writing but also to the attempt to publish The German Ideology, are clarified in the correspondence between Marx and Engels and their letters to other persons, one being the letter written by Marx on 14-16 May 1846 to Joseph Weydemeyer, published for the first time in 1968 (pp. 41-44). In The German Ideology Marx and Engels counterposed their materialist understanding of history as an integral conception to the idealist views of Max Stirner and other Young Hegelians, and to the inconsistent materialism of Ludwig Feuerbach. It is apparent from their letters that Marx and Engels originally intended to publish this work in a collection of articles, together with those written by their associates and to criticise the various bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideological trends. What they wanted was to start a regular quarterly journal for these publications (pp. 41, 533), but these plans failed, as did their other attempts to have these manuscripts printed. However, Marx and Engels were not discouraged for they had achieved their ‘main purpose — self-clarification’, as Marx wrote in 1859 in the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.
As they developed their dialectical-materialist outlook and intensified their efforts to rally the advanced workers and intellectuals on the basis of the new revolutionary teaching, Marx and Engels felt more and more acutely the necessity to overcome the influence of sectarian utopian teachings, among them the egalitarian communism of Weitling and the petty-bourgeois sentimental ‘true socialism’, which hindered the formation of working-class consciousness. Of especial danger to the workers’ movement was the spread of the reformist views of Proudhon who sowed in the workers’ minds the illusion that it was possible to transform capitalism to serve the ideals of petty artisans and peasants.
A number of letters, particularly from Engels in Paris in 1846 to the Brussels Communist Correspondence Committee, show the struggle he had to fight against the influential Weitlingians among the German artisans and workmen living in Paris, and also against the supporters of Proudhon’s reformist projects, and Karl Grün who interpreted these projects in the spirit of ‘true socialism’. In his letter of 23 October 1846, Engels described the lengthy discussion he had at a workers’ meeting in the course of which he succeeded in changing the minds of most of those present, convincing them of the unsoundness of Proudhon’s and Grün’s views, and clearly defining the aims of the communists as follows: ‘1. to ensure that the interests of the proletariat prevail, as opposed to those of the bourgeoisie; 2. to do so by abolishing private property and replacing same with community of goods; 3. to recognise no means of attaining these aims other than democratic revolution by force’ (p. 82).
The struggle against Proudhon’s ideas had a direct bearing on the writing of one of the first works of mature Marxism — The Poverty of Philosophy — in which Marx set out the historico-materialist conception earlier developed in The German Ideology.
This was the first work he published as an economist. His letter of 28 December 1846 to the Russian liberal writer P. V. Annenkov can be regarded as a condensed draft of the book in which the main theses are briefly set out. Marx showed the invalidity of Proudhon’s philosophical and sociological views, the utopianism of his reformist projects, his inability to analyse the nature of capitalist relations and social processes as a whole, or to understand the significance of the class struggle of the proletariat. In Proudhon’s ideas Marx clearly saw a reflection of the sentiments and world outlook of that class of small private producers who were being ruined by the development of capitalism, and who wanted to eliminate its ‘bad sides’ while keeping the fundamentals intact. ‘Mr. Proudhon is, from top to toe, a philosopher, an economist of the petty bourgeoisie,’ Marx wrote (this volume, p. 105).
Proudhon idealistically regarded history as a result of the actions of outstanding men capable of filching ‘from God his inmost thoughts’ (p. 103), and to counterbalance this view Marx recapitulated the basic principles of historical materialism on the general laws of social development. He pointed to the determining role played in this development by the productive forces, to the dialectical interaction between them and the relations of production (characteristically, here they are called not ‘forms of intercourse’ as in The German Ideology but more precisely economic relations’, ‘social relations'), and to the ultimate dependence of all the other social institutions and superstructure] phenomena, including the sphere of ideas, on the mode of production. The discrepancy between the developing productive’ forces and the outdated relations of production makes it an objective necessity to revolutionise, that is, to change the old mode of production for a new and more progressive one, which would also bring about a change in the entire social superstructure. Marx showed how obsolescent relations of production do not merely hinder the progress of society but are actually capable of pushing it back and denying it the ‘fruits of civilisation’ (p. 97). The true makers of history — the masses who produce the material wealth — influence its course primarily by participating in the development of the productive forces, Marx pointed out. But they cannot do so arbitrarily since they are not free to choose their productive forces, thus ‘every succeeding generation finds productive forces acquired by the preceding generation (p. 96).
By stressing the need to regard the various forms of production in a given epoch as historical and transitory, Marx established the principle of the historical character of science. He showed that this principle is essential in the study of social phenomena from a truly scientific, dialectical-materialist angle.
The letters of 1846-47 illustrate the efforts of Marx and Engels to organise a proletarian party, to establish and consolidate ties with the representatives of the workers’ and socialist movements in different countries, and to set up communist correspondence committees in Belgium, Germany, England and France. The tasks of these committees, formulated in a series of documents (see present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 54-56, 58-60), were also stated in a letter (5 May 1846) to Proudhon, whom Marx still hoped to draw into the work of revolutionary propaganda, ‘...The chief aim of our correspondence ... will be to put the German socialists in touch with the French and English socialists; to keep foreigners constantly informed of the socialist movements that occur in Germany and to inform the Germans in Germany of the progress of socialism in France and England. In this way differences of opinion can be brought to light and an exchange of ideas and impartial criticism can take place. It will be a step made by the social movement in its literary manifestation to rid itself of the barriers of nationality’ (p. 39).
As Marx and Engels planned it, the communist correspondence committees were to elicit differences of opinion, criticise immature, utopian and sectarian views, work out an ideological and theoretical platform acceptable to the genuinely revolutionary part of the movement, and thus prepare the ground for the organisation of an international proletarian party.
The centre of the network Marx and Engels were organising was to be the Brussels Communist Correspondence Committee, headed by them. Its work is fully described in Engels’ letters from Paris to Marx dated 19 August (p. 53) and about 23 October 1846 (pp. 86-88), and in Harney’s letter to Engels of 30 March 1846 (published in the Appendices).
The activities of Marx and Engels as theoreticians, journalists and organisers of propaganda helped to develop the views of the members of the League of the Just, a secret organisation of German workers and artisans which emerged in the middle of the 1830s and was also joined by workers of other nationalities. Marx and Engels had established contact with the London leaders of the League — Karl Schapper, Joseph Moll and Heinrich Bauer — already in 1843-45, and in the years that followed they maintained this contact although they criticised the theoretical immaturity and instability of the stand taken by the leaders, and the sectarian, conspiratorial character of the League’s organisational structure (pp. 69, 91-92, 83). It was only when they were certain that the London leadership had begun to assimilate the ideas of scientific communism, and showed its readiness to act in this spirit, that Marx and Engels, in January 1847, agreed to on the League, take part in its reorganisation, and draw up a new programme on the basis of the principles they had proclaimed.
From their letters written in 1847 we see how Marx and Engels directed the work of the Communist League, founded by them, trying to strengthen its influence among the masses and encouraging its members to engage in systematic propaganda and organisational work among the proletariat. They themselves did this kind of work in the Brussels German Workers’ Society, founded by them in August 1847, which we know from Engels’ letter to Marx dated 28-30 September 1847 (p. 130); moreover, they looked upon the Communist League as the nucleus of the future mass proletarian party which was to unite all the militant forces of the working class.
Marx and Engels, being emphatically against sectarian isolation from the general revolutionary movement, guided the Communist League towards the establishment of an alliance with the democrats both on the national and the international scale for joint struggle against the anti-popular regimes. The independence of the ideological and political stand taken by the international proletarian organisation and its right openly to criticise the mistakes and inconsistency of its allies was to be strictly maintained. It took Engels in particular no little effort to secure the cooperation of the French democrats and socialists who grouped round the newspaper La Réforme. Engels reported in detail to Marx on his negotiations with the editors Ferdinand Flocon and Louis Blanc in his letters of 25-26 October, 14-15 November 1847, and 14 and 21 January 1848. While commenting most critically on the reformist tendencies in the works of Louis Blanc and the arrogant attitude of ‘this little literary lord’, Engels considered it imperative to subject his views to public criticism (pp. 155-57).
An international Democratic Association was founded in Brussels in the autumn of 1847 with the active participation of Marx and Engels. Together with several other members of the Communist League they played a leading role in it (see Engels’ letter to Marx, 28-30 September, and Marx’s letter to Georg Herwegh, 26 October 1847). Marx and Engels maintained regular contact with the leaders of the Left wing of the Chartists, George Julian Harney and Ernest Jones, as well as with the Fraternal Democrats, the international democratic society founded in London (see Engels’ letter to Marx dated 14-15 November 1847, and others).
For the wide dissemination of communist ideas the League needed its own newspaper, a point which was repeatedly raised in their letters (pp. 80, 91-92, 120, etc.). In 1846-47 Marx made several attempts to start a theoretical journal as a joint-stock company. In a recently discovered letter to Werner von Veltheim dated 29 September 1847, he said that one of the main tasks of the proposed journal was regularly to criticise the ‘political, religious and social parties and aspirations’ from materialist positions, consequently that ‘political economy would play a leading role’ (p. 131) in such a journal. The project, however, did not materialise.
Marx and Engels also wanted to use the emigrant newspaper, the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung, for communist propaganda (see Marx’s letter to Herwegh of 8 August 1847, and others), and by assuming control of the editorial affairs they did succeed in turning the paper into an unofficial organ of the Communist League, a herald of the programme and tactical principles of scientific communism.
Of great interest are Engels’ letters written at the end of 1847 dealing with his work on the draft programme of the Communist League which was to be confirmed by its second congress. On 23-24 November he wrote to Marx that he was not satisfied with the form of a catechism, or a confession of faith, traditional for many workers’ organisations at the time, in which the document was originally written, and proposed calling it a Communist Manifesto (p. 149). Lenin said that this letter, giving in general outline the plan of the future programme document, ‘clearly proves that Marx and Engels are justly named side by side as the founders of modern socialism’ (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 19, p. 558).
Written as a programme of the Communist League, the Manifesto of the Communist Party, in which the principles of the Marxist revolutionary teaching were systematised for the first time, crowned the theoretical and practical activities of Marx and Engels prior to the revolution of 1848-49. Its publication in February 1848 marked the beginning of a new stage in the development of the international workers’ movement.
Those letters written by Marx and Engels in 1848-49 which have come down to us augment our knowledge of them as revolutionary tribunes and journalists, ideologists and leaders of the proletarian wing of the general democratic revolutionary movement, and as the strategists and tacticians of the revolution.
At the outbreak of the revolution, the Belgian authorities, frightened by the reaction to the February events in Paris, ordered Marx to leave the country at once, and then, on the night of 3 March, arrested both him and his wife. They were released only when the twenty-four hours within which they had to leave the country had passed. The Marxes with their three children had to leave Brussels quickly. In his letters to Marx dated 8-9 and 18 March 1848, Engels told him of the indignation aroused by this act of violence among the democratic public of Belgium, of the protests which appeared in the press and the inquiries made in parliament.
This was not the first time that official authorities had so rudely interfered in Marx’s life. Having chosen the road of political struggle, both he and Engels had already suffered the persecutions of reactionary governments, the arbitrariness of censors, and the stratagems of police agents and spies. On the insistence of the Prussian Embassy, the Guizot Government had deported Marx from Paris in February 1845, compelling him to seek asylum in Belgium. ‘But I fear that in the end you'll be molested in Belgium too,’ Engels wrote him (p. 22), and, true enough, his fears were confirmed three years later by the actions of the Belgian police. Engels himself, living in Paris in 1846-47 where he was engaged in revolutionary propaganda work among the German workers, also expected to be arrested and deported at any time, as we see from his letters, and this indeed occurred at the end of January 1848. There were more persecutions in store for the two friends: summons to the public prosecutor’s office, court proceedings, threats of arrest, deportations, and so forth.
The developing events were keenly watched by Marx in Paris, where he arrived on 4 March 1848, and by Engels in Brussels. It was obvious to them that the revolution which had already begun would acutely aggravate the contradictions between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Marx wrote to Engels from Paris on 16 March 1848: ‘The bourgeoisie here are again becoming atrociously uppish and reactionary, mais elle verra [but they'll see]’ (p. 162). And Engels, after moving to Paris, wrote to Emil Blank on 28 March 1848 that here ‘the big bourgeoisie and the workers are in direct confrontation with each other’ (p. 167).
As they observed the beginning of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Germany and planned how the proletarian revolutionaries were to act in it, they resolutely opposed any attempts to speed up events artificially or to export revolution to Germany. In this connection they strongly criticised Georg Herwegh and Adalbert von Bornstedt for their adventurist scheme of having an armed corps made up of German emigrants invade the territory of Germany and proclaim a republic there, in preference to the plan of having the progressive German workers — mainly those who belonged to the Communist League — return home singly in order to take part in the revolutionary battles. The uncompromising attitude taken by Marx and Engels to the plans of the petty-bourgeois democrats is clearly expressed in Marx’s letter to Engels of 16 March and Engels’ letter to Marx of 18 March 1848, and elsewhere (pp. 162, 165, 166).
The letters they exchanged upon their return to Germany in April 1848 deal with the situation there, the alignment of class forces, and the state of the local organisations of the Communist League. The revolution had stirred up the political activity of the German workers, but the spontaneous and immature character of their movement was in evidence everywhere. The policy of compromise adopted by the liberal bourgeoisie and the waverings of the petty-bourgeois democrats served the purpose of the feudal-monarchist counter-revolution which, having recovered from the defeats it had suffered, was re-emerging more and more openly. Defining the position of the liberal leaders of Prussia’s bourgeoisie who stood at the head of the government, Engels wrote at the end of May 1848: ‘In Berlin Camphausen is taking it easy, while reaction, the rule of officials and aristocrats grows daily more insolent, irritates the people, the people revolt and Camphausen’s spinelessness and cowardice lead us straight towards fresh revolutions. That is Germany as it now is!’ (p. 176).
In this situation, Marx and Engels clearly saw that their main and immediate task was to direct the actions of the German working class into the mainstream of the general democratic movement, guarding it at the same time against ideological subordination to the petty-bourgeois democrats, and fighting for its pursuance of a consistent revolutionary course. The organ of the Left proletarian wing of the democrats became the daily Neue Rheinische Zeitung published in Cologne by Marx, Engels and their comrades from the Communist League.
The few surviving letters of that period reflect the enormous work done by Marx and Engels to secure the publication of the paper, to organise the network of correspondents, and ensure its circulation. The editors had their share of cares and troubles: there was the bourgeois shareholders’ disapproval of the paper’s revolutionary policy, the obstacles put in its way b the Prussian authorities, and money difficulties. In order to keep the paper going, Marx used up his private means, telling Engels in a letter he wrote in November 1848: ‘But whatever the circumstances, this fort had to be held and the political position not surrendered’ (p. 179).
Marx’s letters to Engels written in October-November 1848 when the latter, threatened with arrest, was compelled to emigrate temporarily to Switzerland, his letter to Eduard von Müller-Tellering of 5 December, and to Wilhelm Stieber written on or about 29 December 1848, show the grim conditions of police hounding and legal prosecutions in which he and his collaborators had to defend their ‘fort’. The paper, however, did not once go back on its principles. It waged a consistent struggle against the advancing counter-revolution, rallied the proletarian circles and all the democratic forces of the country, and determined the tactics of the proletarian revolutionaries in the changing situation. The staunchness and militant spirit of the paper made it widely popular in Germany and in other countries (see Marx’s letter to Engels of 29 November 1848, also Engels’ letter to Marx of 7-8 January 1849, and others).
Engels’ letters to Marx from Berne dated 28 December 1848 and 7-8 January 1849, during his enforced stay in Switzerland are full of energy, fighting spirit, loyalty to his friends and a wonderful sense of humour.
At the beginning of May 1849, the rearguard battles of the German revolution were fought in Saxony, Rhenish Prussia, Baden and the Palatinate. After the defeat of the insurrections in the Rhine Province, the Prussian authorities did what they had long been preparing to do: they deported Marx from Prussia and took action against the other editors of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Its farewell issue, printed in red ink, came out on 19 May. After a brief stay in South-Western Germany, Marx left for Paris in anticipation of new revolutionary events in France. From his letter to Engels dated 7 June 1849, it is evident that he was trying to establish contact with the French revolutionary circles (p. 199). Engels, who was in Kaiserslautern at the time, joined Willich’s volunteer corps, which formed a part of the Palatinate-Baden insurgent army. From the correspondence of Marx and Engels in July and August 1849, and also from Engels’ letters to Jenny Marx, Joseph Weydemeyer and Jakob Schabelitz, it can be seen what an active part Engels took in the fighting against the advancing Prussian and other counter-revolutionary troops. He wrote to Jenny Marx on 25 July 1849: ‘I was in four engagements, two of them fairly important, particularly the one at Rastatt’ (p. 203).
From the first it was obvious to both Marx and Engels that the petty-bourgeois leaders of the Baden-Palatinate movement were not capable of directing the revolutionary struggle, and it was therefore doomed to failure. But, being in the thick of events, Engels ‘had the opportunity of seeing a great deal and learning a great deal’, and was later able to expose the ‘Illusions of the run-of-the mill, vociferous republicans’ and the ‘despondency lurking beneath the bravado of the leaders’ (p. 215). With Willich’s detachment, which covered the retreat of the insurgent army, Engels crossed the German-Swiss border and settled temporarily in Switzerland, for if he returned home he was liable to be shot for taking part in the insurrection. In a letter at the end of July 1849 Marx advised him ‘to write a history of or a pamphlet on the Baden-Palatinate revolution’ (p. 207), a suggestion which coincided with Engels’ own intention to publish his ‘reminiscences of the farcical Palatinate-Baden revolution’ (p. 215). He made his intention good in 1850 by publishing a series of essays under the general title The Campaign for the German Imperial Constitution (present edition, Vol. 10).
After the unsuccessful action of the democratic Montagne party on 13 July 1849, the French authorities subjected the proletarian and democratic activists, including foreigners, to even harsher persecution. A new threat hung over Marx. In July, the commissioner of police signed the order for his deportation to Morbihan, a swampy and unhealthy place in Brittany, and the order was carried out on 23 August. Qualifying this act as a ‘veiled attempt’ on his life, Marx decided to leave France altogether. On 26 August 1849 he arrived in London — a new and, as it turned out, the last place of his exile. After spending a few months in Switzerland, Engels also came to England at the end of 1849. A new phase in their life and work began for both of them.
Their letters (autumn 1849 till the end of 1851), forming a considerable part of this volume, cover the period which came after the ebbing of the revolutionary tide. By that time, reaction had already triumphed or else reactionary regimes were about to be established in countries recently swept by the revolution. During this period, Marx and Engels set themselves the task of theoretically generalising the experience of the 1848-49 revolution, of further developing the revolutionary theory of the proletariat, and of preserving and training the cadres of the proletarian revolution.
Already at the end of July 1849 Marx wrote to Engels that he ‘embarked on negotiations with a view to starting a politico-economic (monthly) periodical in Berlin which would have to be largely written by us two’ (p. 207). From the letters that followed we can see how hard he tried to realise his project and how great an importance he attributed to this journal which would allow them successfully to continue with their theoretical and propaganda work, help them to rally the members of the Communist League whom the defeat of the revolution had scattered, and enable them to reorganise and revive the League’s activity. This journal which Marx and Engels finally succeeded in starting was the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-ökonomische Revue, appearing from January to November 1850. In its columns were published important works of Marxism like Marx’s The Class Struggles in France, and Engels’ The Campaign for the German Imperial Constitution and The Peasant War in Germany, as well as a series of jointly written international reviews, articles dealing with various questions of theory and tactics of the revolutionary party in the new conditions, and criticisms of anti-proletarian ideological trends (see Vol. 10 of this edition).
The increasing police arbitrariness in Germany, where the journal was printed (in Hamburg) and mainly circulated, and an acute shortage of funds, thwarted plans to make it a bi-weekly, and then a weekly issue (see Marx’s letter to Freiligrath of 11 January 1850), and in fact forced Marx and Engels to discontinue publication after the 5th-6th double issue.
From the letters of late 1850 and 185 1, we learn of the enormous work done by Marx from his first days in England, and then also by Engels, to re-establish the international connections they had lost and to rally the revolutionary proletarian elements around the Communist League re-organised by them. This work was partly done with the assistance of the Social-Democratic Committee of Support for German Political Refugees, headed by Marx and Engels. They organised the collection of funds for the refugees and their families, helped them to find employment, and did everything within their power to support the people who had fought in the revolutionary battles and now found themselves in exile. We learn this from Marx’s and Engels’ letters to Joseph Weydemeyer of 9 and 25 April 1850 respectively; from Engels’ letter to Theodor Schuster of 13 May, Marx’s to Karl Blind of 17 July 1850, and a number of others. In these hard times, in spite of their own difficulties, Marx and Engels were always ready to come to the aid of their comrades. At the same time, these letters also show how firm and uncompromising they were in matters of principle when they had to put up a fight against a divergence from the revolutionary line, or to give a rebuff to any attempt to force immature doctrines and sectarian tactics on the proletarian organisation.
It was this firmness of character that they demonstrated most impressively in the course of the acute ideological struggle between their supporters and the unstable sectarian elements in the Communist League grouped around August Willich and Karl Schapper. Marx’s and Engels’ theoretical differences with this group had long been coming to a head. From Peter Röser’s later and approximate rendering of Marx’s letters to members of the Communist League in Cologne (pp. 551-52), an idea can be formed of the disputes which Marx had with Willich in the winter of 1849-50 in the London German Workers’ Educational Society. Marx sharply criticised Willich’s belief that a communist system could be set up at one go. As for the system itself, Willich pictured it as a barrack-like organisation of society. Marx wrote to his Cologne correspondents that Willich, convinced that communism ‘would be introduced in the next revolution, if only by the might of the guillotine’, intended to realise it on his own and against the will of everyone in Germany'(p. 551). Marx explained, to prove the utter unsoundness of these voluntarist views, that a revolutionary communist transformation of society was a relatively lengthy process, proceeding in several stages. In his argument with Willich he developed some of the important tenets of scientific communism, stressing that the transition to communism had to be made gradually — through a bourgeois-democratic revolution to a proletarian, socialist revolution, and then, after the conquest of power by the working class, through a transitory stage to the new society which, in its development, must also pass through at least two stages. The definite types of society’s political organisation, designated in Peter Röser’s rendering as social’, ‘socio-communist’, and a ‘purely communist republic’ (p. 554), correspond to this transition period and the two stages of the new society’s development. Here, Marx gave his first, rough outline of his teaching on socialism and communism as two phases of communist society, developed in 1875 in his Critique of the Gotha Programme.
In the autumn of 1850, the disputes with Willich and his supporters developed into a sharp conflict on questions of tactics. By this time, Marx and Engels had come to the conclusion that in view of the economic rise and the consolidation of the reactionary regimes there could be no revolution in the immediate future. Therefore, the tactical orientation of the Communist League had to be urgently reconsidered. The situation dictated that proletarian revolutionaries should be assembled and trained for future battles — a task that took patience and perseverance. The faction, however, ignoring the objective historical conditions and insisting upon immediate revolutionary action, furiously attacked the line taken by Marx and Engels. The meeting of the Central Authority of the Communist League on 15 September 1850 ended in a split. The battle with the separatists, headed by Willich and Schapper, continued in the months that followed.
Marx’s and Engels’ letters demonstrate their implacable hostility to Willich’s and Schapper’s dogmatism and sectarianism masked by ‘leftist’ ultra-revolutionary phrases, and to the separatists’ desire to push the workers’ movement down the disastrous road of political adventurism and putsches. They poured caustic ridicule on Willich’s wild projects to make use of the mobilisation of the Landwehr in the Rhine Province, arising from the conflict between Prussia and Austria in the autumn of 1850, for an immediate revolutionary offensive in Western Germany (pp. 284, 287, 560-61). The actions of the Willich-Schapper separatist organisation brought it close to the petty-bourgeois emigrants who nursed similar pseudo-revolutionary schemes and whose appendage it was rapidly becoming. In their letters, Marx and Engels showed that factionalism and sectarianism inevitably led to a decline into an anti-proletarian position and an ideological subordination to the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie (see Marx’s letter to Hermann Becker of 28 February 1851, and others).
What worried Marx and Engels especially was the fact that the adventurist actions of the Willich-Schapper faction and of the other emigrant groups made it all the easier for the police to stage all sorts of provocations, incite rumours of imaginary ,communist conspiracies’, and under this pretext to prosecute people prominent in the workers’ movement (see Marx’s letter to Engels of 28 May 1851). The arrests of members of the Communist League which began in Germany in May 1851, and the intention of the German authorities to stage a public anti-communist trial, compelled Marx and Engels to make a statement in the press in defence of the detainees (see Marx’s letter to Engels of 1 December 1851).
The relations between the proletarian revolutionaries headed by Marx and Engels on the one hand, and the representatives of various emigrant trends of the petty-bourgeois democrats operating in England and the USA on the other, were all the more strained the more evident it became to Marx and Engels that the clamorous campaigns for setting up all kinds of ‘revolutionary committees’ and provisional governments, for ‘revolutionary loans’ and so forth, would do more harm than good to the democratic and especially the workers’ movement. The rhetorical and ostentatiously revolutionary campaigning of the petty-bourgeois emigrants distracted the workers from their own problems and misled some of them into following the petty-bourgeois leadership. What is more, insinuations and slander against the proletarian revolutionaries were spread from these emigrant circles. There is good reason, therefore, why in their 1851 correspondence Marx and ,Engels always spoke with such harsh criticism of the empty phrase-mongering, petty intrigues and squabbles indulged in by the leaders of the different German emigrant groups — Arnold Ruge, Gottfried Kinkel, Karl Heinzen, Gustav Struve, and others.
In his two letters (August and December 1851) to the Frankfurt journalist Hermann Ebner, Marx draws strikingly satirical portraits of the leaders of the German petty-bourgeois emigrant groups (pp. 426-33, 499-503). Later, he used these character sketches when, with Engels, he wrote The Great Men of the Exile in 1852 (present edition, Vol. 11, pp. 258, 281-84, 290-93, etc.).
Marx and Engels strongly criticised all manifestations of class and nationalistic narrow-mindedness, an erroneous understanding of revolutionary tasks, and also the miscalculations and mistakes of the emigrant circles, among them the French, the Hungarian and the Italian. Thus, in his letters to Weydemeyer of 11 September and to Engels of 13 September 1851, Marx criticised Mazzini, the Italian bourgeois democrat, for ignoring the interests of the exploited Italian peasantry in his plans for the national unification of Italy and its liberation from Austrian domination, and for failing to see in the peasantry one of the principal motive forces of the national liberation movement. Marx emphasised that only the participation of all the working people in this movement could give it real scope and strength, and guarantee its victory. In the above-mentioned letter to Weydemeyer, Marx said that ‘the first step towards gaining Italy’s independence was the complete emancipation of the peasants and the transformation of their métayage system into bourgeois free-holdings’ (p. 455).
Marx and Engels tried to make the best use of the lull that followed the revolution for enriching their revolutionary teaching, and they urged their closest associates and pupils to concentrate on theoretical knowledge. In this period Marx devoted himself mainly to political economy and again pondered on the plan he had conceived in the 1840s of writing a major work on economics. As he worked on this plan it took on a more and more concrete shape and acquired depth and scope; with great meticulousness Marx selected and prepared the necessary material for a critical review of his predecessors’ and contemporary scholars’ concepts in the field of political economy. In his letter to Engels of 7 January 1851, he criticised for the first time Ricardo’s theory of land rent, voiced certain theses of his own theory of rent, and on 3 February set forth his ideas on the theory of money circulation (pp. 258-63, 273-78).
Taking an all-embracing approach to the examination of economic problems, Marx began to study a number of other sciences, among them, technology and agricultural chemistry, the history of economics, and the economies of different countries, particularly of England, then the classical country of capitalism. Both he and Engels concluded from their analysis of the current economic situation that the post-revolutionary industrial upswing was a temporary phenomena, and that a new economic crisis was inevitable (see Engels’ letters to Marx of 1 and 23 September and 15 October 1851, and Marx’s letter to Engels of 13 October 1851).
It was Marx’s intention, arising from his economic studies, to publish a criticism of Proudhon’s new book Idée générale de la Révolution au XIX’ Sičcle, and he gave Engels his opinion of it in his letters of 8 and 14 August 185 1, assessing it as a work aimed directly against the revolutionary proletarian world outlook. He said that the book as a whole was in the first place ‘a polemic against communism’ (p. 423), and asked Engels to write him his opinion of it. Marx thought highly of the thorough critical analysis (published in Vol. 11 of the present edition) which Engels sent him about two months later, and wrote to his friend on 24 November 1851: ‘I have been through your critique again here. It’s a pity qu'il n'y a pas moyen [that there’s no means] of getting it printed. If my own twaddle were added to it, we could bring it out under both our names...’ (p. 492).
At this time Engels had undertaken a study of the military sciences, realising that in the coming class battles the military aspect was bound to play a major role. On 19 June 1851 he wrote to Weydemeyer: ‘Since arriving in Manchester I have been swotting up military affairs... I was prompted to do this by the immense importance which must attach to the partie militaire [military aspect] in the next movement, combined with a longstanding inclination on my part, my articles on the Hungarian campaign in the days of the newspaper and finally my glorious exploits in Baden...’ (p. 370).
Marx encouraged his friend’s studies in every way, and supplied him with materials and information. In his letter of 23 September 1851, for instance, he gave a detailed rendering of the article ‘Umrisse des kommenden Krieges’ by Gustav Techow, a petty-bourgeois democrat, which had been published in the American press. Analysing in his reply the probable relation of armed revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces in Europe in the event of new revolutionary developments, Engels came up with an important idea about the specific formation of revolutionary armies and their behaviour in battle (pp. 469-71).
Engels’ work on his Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany (included in Vol. 11) can be followed from his correspondence with Marx during this period, providing another example of their creative cooperation. At the beginning of August 1851 Marx received an offer from the editor of the New-York Daily Tribune, Charles Dana, to become a correspondent of that paper, but as he was fully occupied with political economy at the time, he asked Engels to write a series of articles about the German revolution of 1848-49 (p. 425). His friend agreed at once, and had three articles ready before the end of the year (the rest were written in 1852). In the course of this work Engels kept in constant touch with Marx who also read the articles before mailing them to the USA.
In his turn, Marx unquestionably conceived the idea for The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte as a result of Engels’ letter of 3 December 1851. In it Engels gave his opinion of the Bonapartist coup d'état of 2 December 1851, calling it a sorry parody of the coup d'état of 9 November 1799 (the 18th Brumaire according to the republican calender) accomplished by Napoleon Bonaparte; he compared the Second Republic and its leaders to France during the French Revolution and the leaders of the Jacobins, remembering what Hegel said about the recurrence of historical phenomena. The comparisons made by Engels were so apt that Marx decided to use them in his book (see this volume, p. 505, and present edition, Vol. 11, p. 103).
The materials of this volume show how much their friendship meant to both of them in their theoretical work, party struggle, and private life. It helped Marx to bear up under the incredible hardships which confronted him in London, where he found himself without anything like a regular income and at times with no means of subsistence at all. These constant money worries undermined his health, took up all his strength and much of his time, and distracted him from his important theoretical work. The difficult conditions in which the family had to live are eloquently described in his wife’s letters to Joseph Weydemeyer of 20 May and 20 June 1850 (pp. 555-60). It was then, at this most critical moment for Marx, that Engels, proving a true friend capable of self-sacrifice, went back to work in the firm of Ermen & Engels, his money orders from Manchester more than once rescuing the Marx family from catastrophe.
Marx’s and Engels’ letters to Joseph Weydemeyer, Wilhelm Wolff, Roland Daniels, Ernst Dronke, Adolph Cluss and other members of the Communist League, participants in the revolutionary struggle, show how much both treasured their ties of friendship and mutual assistance, and how concerned they were to further the theoretical and political education of their comrades.
Of great historical interest are the letters written by Marx to Heinrich Heine, Ferdinand Freiligrath, Georg Herwegh (until his break with the latter because of his adventurist schemes at the beginning of 1848). These letters speak of the friendly relations which the founders of Marxism had with outstanding German authors, and of the prestige they enjoyed in the circles of progressive German writers.
This is the first full publication in English of Marx’s and Engels’ letters. It includes not only letters previously published in editions brought out in Russian, German, and other languages, but also those discovered after the corresponding volumes of these editions had appeared. The letters are printed in chronological order. The form of existing editions has been followed: the date and place of writing are given at the beginning of the letter, irrespective of how they were in the original; when missing in the original, they are given in square editorial brackets. Obvious slips in the text are corrected without comment. The authors’ contractions of personal names, geographical names and single words are given in full, except in cases where the contractions were made for the sake of conspiracy or cannot be deciphered. Defects in the manuscripts, where the text is missing or illegible, are indicated by three dots put in square brackets. If the context allows a presumable reconstruction to be made of the missing or illegible words, these words are also in square brackets. Anything crossed out by the authors is reproduced in the footnotes only where the disparity in meaning is considerable. If a letter is a rough copy, a postscript to someone else’s letter, or an extract quoted in another document, this is marked either in the text itself or in the Notes.
Foreign words and expressions in the letters are given in italics. If they were underlined by the authors they are given in spaced italics. Words written in English in the original are given in small caps [bold]. Longer passages written in English in the original are placed in asterisks.
Information about undiscovered letters mentioned in the text will be found in the Notes. If a fact or event is referred to in several letters, the same note number is used every time.
Volume 38 contains 239 letters written by Marx and Engels. Of these, 172 are given in English translation for the first time; 67 letters have been published in English before, 37 of them only partially. The earlier English publications are mentioned in the Notes. Of the 17 documents included in the Appendices, only two have been published in English before — George Julian Harney’s letter to Engels of 30 March 1846 and Jenny Marx’s letter to Joseph Weydemeyer of 17 March 1848.
The results of the scientific work done when preparing for print the first volumes of Section III of Marx/Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA,), a new complete edition of the Works of Marx and Engels in the original languages, containing their correspondence during the given years, were used in the work on the text and reference material of this volume. The dates of some of the letters were ascertained on the basis of the materials contained in these volumes and also the results of additional research.
The volume was compiled, the text prepared and the preface and notes written by Vladimir Sazonov and edited by Lev Golman (Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CC CPSU). The name index and the index of periodicals were prepared by Valentina Pekina, the index of quoted and mentioned literature by Yuri Vasin, and the subject index by Marlen Arzumanov (Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CC CPSU).
The translations were made by Peter and Betty Ross and edited by E. J. Hobsbawm, Nicholas Jacobs (Lawrence & Wishart), Richard Dixon, Natalia Karmanova and Margarita Lopukhina (Progress Publishers), and Larisa Miskievich, scientific editor (Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the CC CPSU).
The volume was prepared for the press by the editors Margarita Lopukhina, Mzia Pitskhelauri and Anna Vladimirova.