David Ryazanov 1924

The Posthumous Writings of Marx and Engels.

Source: Communist Review, February 1924;
Transcribed: by Adam Buick.
Comrade Ryasanov, after his return from Germany where he investigated the unpublished writings of Marx and Engels, delivered a lecture on the results of his work in the Socialist Academy in Moscow. From this lecture we print the following extract. – Ed.

The posthumous writings of Marx and Engels were treated with gross carelessness by those to whose care they were entrusted. The Manuscripts were scattered in Berlin, in London, and in the Archives of the German Social Democrats. The huge library left by Marx and Engels to the German Social Democratic Party has almost entirely disappeared. Bernstein and Bebel, who were the trustees of the bequest, considered themselves as the absolute owners and disposed of it at their own discretion.

Mehring was the first who, on behalf of the Party, set himself to the study of these posthumous writings. The great gaps which I found in the collection published by him seemed to render it necessary to go carefully through the manuscripts; the final reasons which induced me to do this, were the incompleteness and inaccuracy of the “German Ideology,” Engels’ reference to the manuscript in the preface to “Ludwig Feuerbach,” the pamphlets by Mehring on Marx, which appeared in 1918, and lastly, the Biography of Engels, published in 1919 by Meyer, in which some pages referring to the “German Ideology,” plainly contained discoveries.

It is for this reason that I postponed the planned publication of further volumes of the collected works of Marx and Engels (In the Russian language, Ed.) and proceeded to Berlin in order to undertake the study of the unpublished material.

My troubles began in Berlin. I had to fairly wrest the material from its possessor, Bernstein. All the documents lent out by him were photographed. The publication of several documents was made dependent on special conditions.

The most valuable and interesting among the documents found, and till now unpublished, is the MSS. of the “German Ideology,” with a criticism of German philosophy after Hegel, and of the “True Socialists.”

By a comparison of the MSS. with the Bernstein edition, it became evident that the latter contains not more than two-fifths of the MSS. As an excuse for this Bernstein stated : “The mice had nibbled away the rest.” As a matter of fact, the MSS. had not been nibbled by mice but by Bernstein when he finally went over to Revisionism. But this manuscript is only a part of the critique of “German Ideology,” and of that part which contains the critique of Stirner. The second part of the MSS. undeciphered by Bernstein, is dedicated to Feuerbach and contains a criticism of Feuerbach’s-conception of “Man.” We are endeavouring to publish this manuscript as soon as possible.

Among the notes we found a criticism of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, and outlines for a chapter of the “Communist Manifesto,” in which there is a criticism of socialist literature.

In this collection of notes we find a special work or Mathematics, a philosophical fragment, a Greek MSS. etc. Other documents contain unused material for “Capital,” Among other things is a leaflet on the Theory of Surplus Value. Marx wished to publish this material in the fourth volume of his chief work. The imperfection and deficiency of the present edition of “Capital,” is so great that, for instance, the third volume can quite rightly be called an Engels’ Variation.

The unpublished material which was found here, amounts to about six volumes.

The next group of MSS. brings us to the personal life of Marx and Engels. They reveal to us the vast learning and the extraordinarily systematic spirit and capacity for work possessed by Marx. Engels was occupied, until the death of Marx, with chemistry, physics and the natural sciences.

The subsequently discovered letters of Marx and Engels finally form a considerable treasure of Marxian literature. The letters so far published have been edited without any respect for the memory of Marx and Engels. This could be illustrated by a long list of omissions. Ninety-five per cent of Marx’s letters are already in our hands. The case has been still worse with Engel’s letters, but I was able to get many of these also from Bernstein and Kautsky.

These letters will reach the public within the next few weeks.