Marx-Engels Correspondence 1851

Marx To Engels

Source: MECW Volume 38, p. 408;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, 1913.

[London,] 8 August 1851 28 Dean Street, Soho

Dear Engels,

You'll excuse me for not having written sooner, and at the same time acknowledging receipt of the £5. So great was the pressure from without this week that I didn’t get round to writing. For the time being I've saved myself from being thrown out of the house by signing a bill on the landlord.

I enclose herewith a copy of the Schnellpost in which you'll be able to see how infamously inane are the doings and chatterings of that bunch of old women, Ruge & Co. As soon as you've read the muck, send it back. About the letter from which the boorish Heinzen cites extracts — and which in any case, originates from Fickler — a word of explanation: for some 2-3 weeks the jackasses — the émigrés — have been holding meetings in order to ‘settle their differences’, constitute themselves a round ‘dozen’ and mutually ‘set each other up’ as the great men of the future. Today they held their definitive sitting. I shall be hearing the result and shall inform you of it. But already the seed of dissension has grown so prolific that Mr Sigel has sent me a message through Schabelitz, who is here for the Exhibition, saying he would call on me.

The New York Tribune has invited me and Freiligrath to work as paid collaborators. It’s the most widely disseminated journal in North America. If you could possibly let me have an article in English on conditions in Germany by Friday morning (15 August), that would make a splendid beginning.

As to Schramm, we know that he corresponds regularly with his brother. He wrote and told Bamberger not to give us his address. Fresh reports come in daily of his infamous doings here.

Red Wolff has once again become an ‘Irishman’.

Now for the Idée générale de la Révolution au XIX siécle par P. J. Proudhon. The first time I wrote to you about this book, I had read no more than extracts from it — often misquoted, to boot. Now I can send you the skeleton. First of all, the book contains well-written attacks on Rousseau, Robespierre, the Montagne, etc. The force of the true sequence, to use the words of the immortal Ruge, is generated as follows:

I. Étude. It was reaction that first brought about the development of the revolution.

II. Étude. Y a-t-il raison suffisante de la Révolution au XIX siècle?

The revolution of 1789 overthrew the ancien régime. But it omitted to create a new society or to create society anew. It was concerned only with politique instead of with économie politique. At present ‘anarchie des forces économiques’ prevails, hence ‘tendance de la société à la misère'! This manifests itself in the division of labour, machinery, competition, the credit system. Increase in pauperism and crime. Again, the State (l'état) becomes ever greater, endowed with all the attributes of absolutism, acquires ever more independence and power. Increase in the national debt. The State sides with wealth against poverty. Corruption. The State subjugates society. There is a need for the new revolution. The task of the revolution consists à changer, à redresser la mauvaise tendance de la société. Society itself must not be touched. In its case there can be no question of reconstruction arbitraire.

III. Étude. Du Principe d'Association.

Association is a dogma, but not a force économique. Association is in no way organic or productive, as are the division of labour, commerce, exchange, etc. Association should not be confused with force collective.

Collective force is an impersonal act, association is voluntary commitment. Association is by its nature sterile, even harmful, since it impedes the freedom of the worker.

The force that has been ascribed to the contrat de société [social contract] belongs solely to the division of labour, to exchange, to the force collective. When an association is founded for the purpose of carrying out great works, these must be ascribed to its means rather than to the principle of association. A man submits to an association only if it offers him une indemnité suffisante. Only to the associé faible or paresseux [the associate who is weak or lazy] is the association productive d'utilité. It is solidarity, responsabilité commune vis-à-vis third parties. As a rule an association is only feasible dans des conditions spéciales, dépendantes de ses moyens [in special conditions, depending on the means employed]

Association established with a view to the family tie and the law of dedication, and apart from any external economic consideration — association for its own sake, is purely an act of religion, a supernatural bond, devoid of positive value, a myth.

Association should not be confused with the

new relations which are intended to evolve from reciprocity between producers and consumers. Association puts the contracting parties on an equal footing, subordinates their freedom to social duty, depersonalises them.

IV. Étude. Du Principe d'autorité.

The idea of government was born of family custom and domestic experience. The final stage of governmental evolution is democracy.

The idea of government is in opposition to that of contract. The true revolutionary motto is: Plus de Gouvernement! The autorité absolue is soon compelled to negate itself and to circumscribe itself with lois [laws] and institutions. The laws enacted are as innumerable as the interests which they outwardly determine. They have an ominous tendency to multiply. The law is a fetter forced on me from without. Constitutional monarchy. A contradiction in terms. Suffrage universel. The intuition divinatoire de la multitude [the prophetic intuition of the masses] is nonsense. Quai-je besoin de mandataires, pas plus que de représentants! [what need have I of mandatories, any more than of representatives] Votes, even though unanimous, decide nothing. According to suffrage universel, Bonaparte would be the right man, etc. La démocratie pure on le gouvernement direct — figments in the minds of Rittinghausen, Considérant, Ledru-Rollin — aboutit a 1'impossible et a l'absurde [leads to impossibility or absurdity]. In being carried to extremes this idea of the State is revealed for the nonsense it is.

V. Étude. Liquidation sociale.

1. Banque nationale. The liquidation of the Bank of France is decreed. It is not declared a national bank, but rather an ‘établissement d'utlité publique’. Interest is reduced to 1/2 or 1/4 per cent.

2. The. national debt. The capitaux particuliers [private capital], having been deprived of the industrie de 1'escompte [discount industry], flows into the Bourse, the State no longer pays more than 1/2 or 1/4 per cent, and thus interest ceases to be of interest. Instead of interest, the State pays annuities, i.e. it repays in yearly quotas the capital it has been loaned. Or in other words, a decree to the effect that the interest on the debt paid by the State be deemed annuities and deducted from the principal.

3. Mortgage Debts. Simple Bonds.

Interest on all debts, mortgages, simple contract debts, joint-stock shares, is fixed at 1/4 or 1/2 per cent. Repayment claims can be met only by annual instalments. The annual instalment for all sums below 2,000 fr. will be 10 per cent, for sums above 2,000 fr. 5 per cent. In order to facilitate the repayment and replace the function of the former money-lenders a section of the offices of the National Discount Bank will become a mortgage bank; the maximum of its advances will be 500 million per annum.

4. Real estate: Buildings. Decree:

Every payment made in respect of rent shall be entered to the account of the property reckoned as twenty times the rent. With every instalment of rent the tenant will acquire a proportional and joint share in the house he occupies and in the totality of all buildings let for rent and serving as dwellings for the citizens. Property thus paid for will pass by degrees into the hands of the communal administration, which by the fact of the payment will take over the mortgages and prerogatives in the name of the mass of tenants, and will guarantee their domicile to all of them in perpetuity at the cost price of the building. The communes will be able to negotiate separate agreements with the owners for the immediate liquidation and repayment of the leased properties. In this case, and in order that the present generations shall enjoy reduced rents, the said communes will be able immediately to reduce the rent of houses for which they have concluded agreements, in such a way that amortisation be completed only in thirty years. For repairs, fittings and upkeep of the buildings, as in the case of new constructions, the communes will negotiate with the companies of masons or associations of building workers according to the principles and rules of the new social contract. The owners, sole occupiers of their own houses, will retain the property as long as they judge this advantageous to their interests.

5. Landed property.

Every payment of rent for the use of a piece of real estate will make the farmer part-proprietor of it and will count as a mortgage payment by him. When the property has been entirely paid for it will be immediately taken over by the commune, which will take the place of the former owner and will share with the farmer the ownership and the net product. The communes will be able to negotiate separate agreements with the owners who desire it for the redemption of the rents and the immediate repayment of the properties. In that case at the request of the communes steps shall be taken to install the cultivators, and to delimit their properties, taking care that as far as possible the size of the area shall make up for the quality of the land, and that the rent shall be proportional to the product. As soon as the property has been entirely paid for, all the communes of the Republic will have to reach agreement among themselves to equalise the differences in the quality of the strips of land, and also the contingencies of farming. The part of the rent due to them from the plots in their particular area will be used for this compensation and general insurance. Dating from the same period the old owners who worked themselves on their properties, will retain their title, and will be treated in the same way as the new owners, will have to pay the same rent and will he granted the same rights in such a way that no one is favoured by the chance of location and inheritance and that the conditions of cultivation are equal for all. The land tax will be abolished. The functions of the rural police will devolve on the municipal councils.

VI. Étude. Organisation des forces economiques.

1. Crédit. The above-mentioned banque nationals, together with its branches. Gradual withdrawal of gold and silver from circulation. Substitution of paper. As for personal credit, it should be operated in the workers’ companies and the agricultural and industrial societies.

2. Propriété. See Propriété foncière cited above. Under the above conditions it is possible

Without the slightest misgiving, to permit the owner to sell, transfer, alienate or otherwise dispose of his property as he pleases... Given the facility of repayment by annual instalments, the value of a piece of real estate can be indefinitely divided, exchanged, and undergo any conceivable change, without the real estate being in the least affected. Agricultural labour rejects associatory forms.

3. Division du travail, forces collectives, machines. Compagnies ouvrières.

Hence no associations in small workshops, among artisans, shoemakers, tailors, etc., marchands, etc. Association in big industry. Here, then, companies of workers.

Every industry, enterprise or undertaking which by its nature requires the combined employment of a large number of workers with different skills is bound to become the basis for an association or company of workers. But where a product may be obtained without a combination of special skills, through the activity of an individual or family, there is no need for association. — shopkeepers — Every person working in the association possesses an indivisible right in the property of the company; he has the right to perform successively all duties. His education, training and apprenticeship ought therefore to be conducted in such a way that, while he is made to take his share of disagreeable and arduous tasks, he will acquire experience in various sorts of work and fields of knowledge, so that when he reaches mature age he will have a wide range of qualifications and a sufficient income. Posts are subject to election and the rules are adopted by the members of the association. The size of the recompense depends on the nature of the work, the degree of the proficiency, and the amount of responsibility. Every member of the association shares both in the profits and in the expenses of the company in proportion to his services. Everyone is free to resign from the association whenever he wishes, and therefore to settle his accounts and renounce his rights; conversely the company is entitled to recruit new members at any time.

This is the solution to the two problems: that of collective force, and that of the division of labour. In the transitional period these workshops will be managed by the manufacturers, etc.

4. The Determination of Value; the Establishment of a Cheap Market. To combat the “high price of goods” and the “arbitrariness of prices” “The fair price accurately reflects: a) a total production cost according to the official average for free producers, b) the merchant’s salary or the compensation for the advantages which the seller forgoes by parting with the article.” To induce the merchant so to do, he must be given a guarantee. This may be

of several kinds: either the consumers, who wish to have the benefit of a fair price and who are at the same time producers themselves, undertake in their ruin to supply the merchant with their own products on equal terms, as is done by the various workers’ associations in Paris; or else the said consumers confine themselves to guaranteeing the dealer either a premium or a sale large enough to guarantee him an income.

E.g., the State

on behalf of the interests which it temporarily represents, and the departments and communes on behalf of their respective inhabitants, being desirous of ensuring a fair price and a high standard of goods and services for all, propose to guarantee that the entrepreneurs who offer the most advantageous conditions will receive either interest on the capital and material invested in their enterprises, or a fixed salary, or in appropriate cases a sufficient quantity of orders. In return, the tendering parties will pledge themselves to meet all consumers’ requests for the goods and services they have undertaken to supply. Apart from that, full scope is left for competition. They must state the component parts of their prices, the method of delivery, the duration of their commitments, and their means of fulfilment. The tenders submitted under seal within the periods prescribed will subsequently be opened and made public 8 days, 15 days, 1 month or 3 months before the contracts are allocated depending on the importance of the contracts, At the expiry of each contract, new tenders will be invited.

5. Commerce extérieur. As soon as the interest falls, it is necessary “to lower the tariffs” and, if it be depressed or standing between 1/4 and 1/2 per cent, the Customs must be abolished.

VII. Étude. The Merging of Government in the Economic Organism.

“Society without authority. Elimination of cults, Justice, Administration, police, Public Education, War, the Navy” etc. the whole with appropriate Stirnerian stock phrases.

Write and tell me in detail what you think of this formula. Salut.

K. Marx