Marx-Engels Correspondence 1856

Marx To Engels
In Manchester

Source: MECW Volume 40, p. 19;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in: Marx and Engels, Works, 1929.

[London 5 March 1856, 28 Dean Street, Soho]

Dear Frederic,

Next week I shall take a closer look at the Heffter. If there’s anything to it, I shall order it. Eichhoff’s Histoire de ta langue et de la littérature des Slaves, Paris 1839, is very poor indeed. Apart from the grammatical section, which I'm unable to assess (but I notice that the Lithuanians and Letts are said to be Slavs. Isn’t that nonsense?), the rest is mostly plagiarisms from Schaffarik. The fellow also gives samples of the Slavs’ vernacular poetry in the original, together with a French translation. Indeed, it was amongst these that I found Igor’s expedition. In essence, the poem is a call for unity on the part of the Russian princes just before the invasion by the Mongol hordes proper. The poem contains a curious passage, ‘Void les jolies filles des Gothes entonnent leurs chants au bord de la Mer noire’. [Here are the pretty daughters of the Goths singing their songs on the shore of the Black Sea] From this it would seem that the Getae or Goths celebrated the victory of the Turkish Polovtsians over the Russians. The whole poem is epic-Christian, although heathen elements are still strongly in evidence. The Bohemian epic Zaboi (Samo?), in the anthology of Bohemian epic poetry in a German translation published by Hanka and Swoboda is, on the other hand, fairly polemical and fanatically anti-German. Appears to be directed against a German capitano of Dagobert’s who was beaten by the Bohemians. But it is a call for vengeance as much upon Christianity as upon the Germans, who are reproached in the most naively poetical terms with having, amongst other things, sought to compel the worthy Bohemians to be satisfied with only one wife. Other folk poetry I discovered (the Poles have none save for Adalbert’s Prayer to the Mother of God) are:

Götze, Fürst Vladimir und seine Tafelrunde, 1819. Stimmen des russischen Volkes, 1828.

Kapper (Siegfried), Slavische Melodien, Leipzig 1844. By the same, Die Gesänge der Serben, 1852. (More comprehensive than [those] of Jakob. Lastly, by Vuk Stephanovitsch, Serbische Hochzeitslieder. German by E. Wesely. Pest 1826.

Works which I have noted and shall be looking through for you next week are, besides the Cyprien and the Desprez: Südslavische Wanderungen im Sommer 1850, 2 vols, Leipzig 1851. (Has also been translated into English.) Betrachtungen über das Fürstenthum Serbien, Vienna 1851. Die serbische Bewegung in Südungarn, 1851 Berlin. Slawismus und Pseudomagyarismus. Von aller Menschen Freunde, nur der Pseudomagyaren Feinde, Leipzig 1842. Die Beschwerden und Klagen der Slaven in Ungarn, Leipzig 1843.

I don’t remember whether the Neue Preussische Zeitung is to be had in Manchester. At present it is very interesting. The Prussian government has now, as once Louis XVIII, got its chambre introuvable, and the bureaucratic government is beginning to be afraid of the backwoods squires, who are taking their victory au sérieux. During debates on rural parish, rural court, and land tenure relations, when, as old Dolleschall said, ‘it’s his bread and butter that is at stake’ — the clashes in the Prussian Chamber are becoming serious. You will have seen, among other things, that Count Pfeil claimed for landowners the privilege of flogging their people, and boasted of having himself performed heroic deeds in this line. Now the Left has dug up posters of 1848, signed by this same Pfeil in 1848, and altogether in the style of the ‘crazy year’. There have even been duels between the two sides, and today the Neue Preussische Zeitung carries a leader roundly declaring that there are ‘depraved scoundrels’ in its party just as there are very ‘noble’ people in the Liberal Party. It preaches ‘moderation’, conciliation’, ‘a battle of principles, but no personalities’. The Left is adjured to reflect that ‘the Mountain will always swallow the Gironde’ and to consider that ‘peace or no peace, for Prussia there lies ahead a time of very great confusion, at home or abroad’ and that at this moment a ‘party split’ means ‘suicide’. Capital, is it not? And withal no one in Prussia cares a rap about the Chamber and its splits. All the more significant, then, this admission of fear. Father Leo delivered a lecture before the King on Münzer (part of which was printed in the Neuen Prussische). One might almost think it was a direct riposte to your essay in the Revue der Neue Rheinischen Zeitung. Essential, of course, that the Reformation be absolved of the responsibility of having given birth to the Revolution. Münzer was a ‘fanatic’ who said: ‘intelligo ut credam’ [I understand in order to believe]. Luther said: ‘credo ut intelligam’ [I believe in order to understand]. The Spenersche’s reply was that in his later years Luther repented, etc., of the abject role he had played in politics. As you see, the ferment is at work even in official circles.

Apropos the Reformation, it was Austria who, from the start, laid the foundations of the Slav peril at a time when all races save the Russian were inclined to support the Reformation. With the Reformation came the translation of the Bible into all the popular Slav dialects. And thereby of course awakening national consciousness. On the other hand, deep-rooted alliance with the German Protestant North. Had Austria not suppressed this movement, Protestantism would have provided not only the foundations for the dominance of the German spirit, but also and equally, bulwarks against Greek-Orthodox Russia. Not a pitfall but Austria has driven the Germans into it and, in Germany as in the East, she paved the way for the Russians.

Did you read about last Friday’s parliamentary sitting, at which Evans reproached Palmerston for feigning incredulity when, 3 1/2 months ago, he warned him about Kars; at which he said that Panmure in the despatch informing Simpson, ‘You are nominated successor of Raglan’, added ‘take care of Dowb’. The unfortunate Simpson replied: ‘Repeat your despatch’, whereat Panmure (Lord Carnot as Evans calls him), ‘Take care of Dowbiggin’, a cousin of his; at which, finally, Lord Hamilton slated Evans for having, after the battle of Inkerman, advised Raglan to abandon cannon and trenches and to embark the British army. The day before yesterday, poor Evans made amende honorable. That there was a betrayal at Kars would seem to be pretty clear from the written account of a certain Swan, recently returned from the East — a betrayal which took place not during the last few days but earlier, in order to bring the situation about.

Now for Seiler. Threatened with prosecution by the sheriff, he set off for America some 3 weeks ago by the Southampton steamer, fully intending on arrival in Halifax to telegraph the New-York Staats-Zeitung (for which he once wrote) as follows: ‘Sebastian Seiler, the famous author of Kaspar Hauser, has landed safely on the west coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The great man left behind his Alexander II, 55 pages, mostly extracts from the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung, one copy of which was to be sent on immediately in his wake. For it is to appear on both sides of the Atlantic. This gossipy rubbish he surrounded with a great deal of humbug, having parts of it copied out by his wife, sister-in-law, etc., so that one and all they were astounded by poor Sebastian’s untiring industry. Negotiations with the London booksellers over this Alexander II served to give a veneer of erudition to his ‘business errands’ to town where every day he carefully investigated the quality of the lobster and suchlike, not forgetting the French ‘omelette’. Besides this Alexander, he has left other unpleasant surprises behind. You will remember that Liebknecht signed a bill for him, lured on by the foolish hope that Seiler would deduct a few pounds in his favour from the amount discounted. The bill fell due but was not presented. Seiler made out that he had paid it. He had only renewed it. Two days after he left, Liebknecht got a letter from a lawyer in the City requiring him to pay the bill. Pieper, whom Seiler’s green-bespectacled sister-in-law loves for the sake of his glassy eyes, was despatched to the greengrocer. Consternation in the family. For Sebastian had already received the money to pay the bill, but had poured it down his gullet. Love, however, overcomes all obstacles, and his wife is convinced that she can lay claim to love only once, and then only from Sebastian. Hence she is trying to arrange matters. But the greengrocer is grave and glum, becoming daily more enlightened as to the whereabouts of his dear son-in-law. The thing is still pending. Meanwhile fresh bills, allegedly honoured, keep arriving every day.

Levy. Sent here by the Düsseldorf workers with a twofold mission.

1. Denunciation of Lassalle. And, having considered the matter very carefully, I think they are right. Since the countess got her 300,000 talers, [from 1846-50, Lassalle handled Countess Sophie von Hatzfeldt’s divorce, concluded in 1851 with a financial settlement] Lassalle has changed completely; deliberately repulsing the workers, a sybarite, coquetting with the Blues. He is further accused of having constantly exploited the party for his filthy personal ends and wanting to make use of the workers themselves for personal crimes in the interests of the law-suit. The law-suit ended as follows: Count Hatzfeldt’s head clerk, Stockum who, as you know, was subsequently sentenced at the Assizes to 5 years’ penal servitude, had quarrelled with the count. He gave Lassalle to understand that he had in his possession documents which could have the count put in chains for perjury, forgery, etc. Lassalle promises him 10,000 talers. On the other hand, Lassalle persuades Kösteritz, the Chief Public Prosecutor (who has been compelled to resign as a result of this affair), to let Count Hatzfeldt know that there’s a bill of indictment hanging over his head. Hatzfeldt is making a bolt for Paris when Lassalle hands him the incriminating documents in return for his signing the settlement with the countess, and withdraws the bill of indictment. (Kösteritz, of course, was acting purely as his instrument.) Hence it was not his legal acumen that brought the law-suit to a sudden close, but a quite vulgar intrigue. Lassalle did not pay Stockum the 10,000 talers, and the workers are right in saying that such a breach of faith would be excusable only if he had handed over the money to the party instead of fraudulently keeping it for the countess. They report a host of personal dirty tricks which I cannot repeat because too many to remember. For instance, Lassalle gambled in foreign government paper with Scheuer of Düsseldorf, who advanced him the money for the purpose. They lost. Meanwhile Scheuer went bankrupt. Lassalle wins the law-suit. Scheuer demands the money he advanced Lassalle. The latter contemptuously draws his attention to §6 of the Code, which forbids gambling on foreign Exchanges. The workers say they turned a blind eye to everything done by Lassalle because of his plea that he was involved in the law-suit for reasons of honour. Now, having won, instead of getting the countess to pay him for his work and achieving independence, he is, they say, living shamefully under her thumb as homme entretentu [kept man] without any pretext whatever. He had always boasted about what he would do as soon as the law-suit had been won and now he was casting them aside, deliberately and defiantly, as redundant instruments of no further use. He had attended one more (private) meeting on New Year’s Day because a French colonel was present. To everyone’s astonishment, he addressed 60 working-men exclusively on the subject of ‘the struggle of civilisation against barbarism’, the Western Powers versus Russia. Apparently he had planned to go to Berlin, play the grand gentleman there and open a salon. On his return, he promised the countess in Levy’s presence to set up ‘a court of literati’ for her. likewise in Levy’s presence, he was constantly reiterating his ‘dictatorial aspirations’, etc., etc. (he seems to see himself quite differently from the way we see him, regarding himself as able to subdue the world because of his ruthlessness in a private intrigue, as though a man of real worth would sacrifice 10 years to such a bagatelle). An instance, by the by, of how dangerous he can be: in order to smuggle a labour party man into the police, ostensibly as a spy, he gave him one of my letters with instructions to say he had stolen it from Lassalle to establish his credibility. The workers further say that, being the diplomat he is, he would not have behaved so brusquely towards them had it not been his direct intention to go over to the bourgeois party. At the same time, he believes his influence is such that if he climbed onto a table at a moment of insurrection and harangued the masses, etc., he could talk them round. According to Levy, he is so much hated that, whatever we might decide, the workers would massacre him should he be in Düsseldorf at the moment of action. They are, by the by, convinced that he would lose no time in placing himself at the disposal of the other side should he hear of anything suspicious.

These are nothing but isolated points, deduced from what I heard, and only partially retained. The whole thing made a distinct impression on myself and Freiligrath, however prejudiced in Lassalle’s favour and mistrustful of workers’ tittle-tattle I may have been. I told Levy that it was, of course, impossible to reach any conclusion on the strength of a report from one side only; suspicion was in place whatever the circumstances; they should continue to keep an eye on the man but for the time being avoid any public row; we might perhaps find some opportunity of forcing Lassalle to make his position clear, etc., etc.

Qu'en Pensez-vous? I should like to have Lupus’ opinion too.

2. The second purpose of Levy’s mission was to give me information on how things stand with the workers in the Rhine Province. The Düsseldorf workers are still in contact with the Cologne people, amongst whom there are no longer any gentlemen. But those chiefly concerned with propaganda are now the factory workers in Solingen, Iserlohn and district, Elberfeld and the ducal-Westphalia area. In the iron districts the fellows are all for force, and are held back only by the prospect of a French revolution and the fact that ‘the Londoners think the time is not yet ripe’. If the thing drags on much longer Levy believes that a rising will be difficult to prevent. But whatever the circumstances, an insurrection in Paris would be the signal. These people seem to be firmly convinced that we and our friends would instantly hasten to join them They naturally feel the need for political and military leaders. Not that one can in any way blame the chaps for that. But I fear that, with their exceedingly artless plans, they would be smashed to smithereens before we had so much as a chance of leaving England. At all events, we owe it them to point out exactly what is and what isn’t feasible from the military point of view. I have, of course, declared that, circumstances permitting, we would range ourselves with the Rhenish workers; that any uprising, undertaken off their own bat, without prior initiatives in Paris or Vienna or Berlin, would be idiotic; that, should Paris give the signal, it would be advisable, whatever the circumstances, to risk all, since then even the ill-effects of a momentary defeat could themselves be no more than momentary; that I and my friends would seriously consider what direct action might be taken by the working population of the Rhine Province, and that in due course they should again send someone to London, but do nothing without prior agreement.

The tanners of Elberfeld (or Barmen?) who were pretty reactionary in 1848 and 1849, are now particularly eager for revolution. Levy assures me that the workers in the Wupper valley regard you, personally, as ‘their’ man. It would seem, by the way, that on the Rhine the belief in a revolution in France is fairly widespread, and even the philistines are saying: ‘This time it will be different from 1848. This time there'll be people like Robespierre, etc., instead of the chatter-boxes of 1848.’ On the Rhine at least, democracy’s reputation has sunk very low.


K. M.