Letters of Marx and ENgels 1846


in Brussels

Written: [Paris,] Wednesday, 16 September 1846
First Published: abridged in abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Bd. 1, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA, Abt. III, Bd. 1, 1929
Translation: Peter and Betty Ross
Transcribed: zodiac@interlog.com
HTML Markup: S. Ryan

Committee No. 2

[Paris,] Wednesday, 16 September 1846

Dear Friends,

Your news about Belgium, London and Breslau [1] was of great interest to me. [2] I told Ewerbeck and Bernays what was of interest to them. Keep me au fait [3] as well with the success of our enterprise and plus ou moins [4] the enthusiasm with which the various localities are taking part, so that I can expatiate on that to the workers here in so far as it is politic. What are the Cologne people [5] doing?

There's all manner of news from here.

I've had several meetings with the local workers, i.e. with the leaders of the cabinet-makers from the Faubourg St. Antoine. These people are curiously organised. Apart from the business of their league [6] having been thrown into the utmost confusion -- as a result of a serious dispute with the Weitlingian tailors -- these lads, i.e. 12-20 of them, foregather once a week; they used to hold discussions but, after they ran out of matter, as indeed they were bound to do, Ewerbeck was compelled to give them lectures on German history -- starting from scratch -- and on an extremely muddled political economy, a popular rendering of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher. [7] Meanwhile I appeared. In order to establish contact with them, I twice discussed conditions in Germany since the French Revolution, my point of departure being the economic relations. What they glean from these weekly meetings is thrashed out on Sundays at Barriere meetings [8] attended by Cherethites and Pelethites, wife and children. [9] Here -- abstraction faite de toute espace de politique [10] -- such things as 'social questions' are discussed. It is a good way of attracting new people, for it's entirely public; a fortnight ago the police arrived and wanted to impose a veto but allowed themselves to be placated and did nothing further. Often more than 200 people foregather.

Things cannot possibly remain as they are now. A degree of lethargy has set in amongst the fellows which comes from their being bored with themselves. For they have nothing to set against the tailors' communism but popularisations a la Grun and green-tinted [11] Proudhon, [12] all this having been laboriously dinned into them, partly by no less a person than Mr Grun himself, partly by an old, bombastic master cabinet-maker and minion of Grun's, Papa Eisermann, but partly, too, by amicus [13] Ewerbeck. Naturally they soon ran dry, endless repetition ensued and, to prevent them going to sleep (literally, this was getting worse and worse at the sessions), Ewerbeck torments them with hair-splitting disquisitions on 'true value' (this last being somewhat on my conscience) and bores them with the primeval forests of the Teutons, Hermann the Cheruscan, and the most ghastly old German etymology according to Adelung, all of it quite wrong. By the way, the real leader of these people isn't Ewerbeck but Junge, who was in Brussels [14]; the fellow realises very well what ought to be changed, and might do a great deal since he has them all in his pocket and is ten times more intelligent than the whole clique, but he vacillates too much and always has some new bee in his bonnet. I haven't seen him for nearly 3 weeks -- he never turned up and isn't to be found -- which is why so little has as yet been achieved. Without him most of them are spineless and irresolute. But one must be patient with the fellows; in the first place we must rid ourselves of Grun, whose enervating influence, both direct and indirect, has been truly dreadful. And then, when we've got these platitudes out of their heads, I hope to be able to achieve something with the fellows, for they all have a strong desire for instruction in economics. This should not take long, as Ewerbeck who, despite his notorious muddle-headedness, now at its fullest flowering, has the best intentions in the world, is completely in my pocket, and Junge, too, is wholly on my side. I have discussed the correspondence [15] with six others; the plan was much acclaimed, specially by Junge, and will be implemented from here. But unless Grun's personal influence is destroyed and his platitudes eradicated, thus reinvigorating the chaps, nothing can be done in view of the considerable material obstacles to be faced (particularly engagements almost every evening). I have offered to confront Grun in their presence and to tax him with his personal rascalities, and Bernays also wishes to be there -- Ewerbeck too has a bone to pick with him. This will happen as soon as they have settled their own affairs with Grun, i.e. obtained a guarantee for the money advanced for the printing of Grun's Landtag shit. [17] But since Junge didn't turn up and the rest behaved towards Grun-like children, that matter, too, is still not in order, although with a little effort it could have been settled in 5 minutes. The unfortunate thing about it is that most of these fellows are Swabians.

Now for something to amuse you. In his new, as yet unprinted book, which Grun is translating, [18] Proudhon has a great scheme for making money out of thin air and bringing the kingdom of heaven closer to all workers. No one knew what it was. Grun, while keeping it very dark, was always bragging about his philosopher's stone. General suspense. At length, last week, Papa Eisermann was at the cabinet-makers' and so was I; gradually the old coxcomb came out with it, in a naively secretive manner. Mr Grun had confided the whole plan to him. Hearken, now, to the grandeur of this plan for world redemption: ni plus ni moins [19] than the already long extant in England, and ten times bankrupt LABOUR-BAZARS or LABOUR-MARKETS, associations of all artisans of all trades, a big warehouse, all work delivered by the associes valued strictly in accordance with the cost of the raw product plus labour, and paid for in other association products, similarly valued. [20] Anything delivered in excess of the association's needs is to be sold on the world market, the proceeds being paid out to the producers. In this way the crafty Proudhon calculates that he and his fellow associes will circumvent the profit of the middleman. That this would also mean circumventing the profit on his association's capital, that this capital and this profit must be just as great as the capital and profit of the circumvented middlemen, that he therefore throws away with his right hand what the left has received, has none of it entered his clever head. That his workers can never raise the necessary capital, since otherwise they could just as well set themselves up separately, that any savings in cost resulting from the association would be more than outweighed by the enormous risk, that the whole thing would amount to spiriting away profit from this world, while leaving the producers of the profit to cool their heels, that it is a truly Straubingerian idyll, [21] excluding from the very outset all large-scale industry, building, agriculture, etc., that they would have to bear only the losses of the bourgeoisie without sharing in its gains, all these and a hundred other self-evident objections he overlooks, so delighted is he with his plausible illusion. It's all too utterly preposterous. Paterfamilias Grun, of course, believes in the new redemption and already in his mind's eye sees himself at the head of an association of 20,000 ouvriers [22] (they want it big from the start), his family, of course, to receive free clothing, board and lodging. But if Proudhon comes out with this, he will be making a fool of himself and all French socialists and communists in the eyes of bourgeois economists. Hence those tears, that polemicising against revolution [23] because he had a peaceable nostrum up his sleeve. Proudhon is just like John Watts. In spite of his disreputable atheism and socialism, the latter regards it as his vocation to acquire respectability in the eyes of the bourgeoisie; Proudhon, despite his polemic against the economists, does his utmost to gain recognition as a great economist. Such are the sectarians. Besides, it's such an old story! [24]

Now for another highly curious affair. -- The Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung of 21 July, Paris, 16 July. Article on the Russian Embassy [25] ...

"That is the official Embassy -- but quite extraneous to it, or rather above it, there is a certain Mr Tolstoy who bears no title, is described, however, as 'confidant of the Court.' Formerly, with the Ministry of Education, he came to Paris charged with a Literary mission; there he wrote a few memoirs for his Ministry, sent them a few reports on the French daily press, then wrote no more but did all the more. He maintains a splendid establishment, is invited everywhere, receives everyone, busies himself with everything, knows everything and arranges much. He seems to me to he the actual Russian Ambassador in Paris.... His intervention works wonders" ( -- all Poles seeking a pardon addressed themselves to him -- ) "-- at the Embassy all bow down before him and in Petersburg he is held in great regard."

This Tolstoy is none other than our Tolstoy, that noble fellow who told us untruthfully that he wanted to sell his estates in Russia. [26] Besides the apartment to which he took us, the man has a magnificent hotel [27] in the rue Mathurin where he receives the diplomats. This has long been known to the Poles and to many of the French, but not to the German radicals amongst whom he thought it better to insinuate himself as a radical. The above article was written by a Pole known to Bernays, and was immediately taken up by the Corsaire-Satan and the National. On reading the article, all Tolstoy did was laugh heartily and crack jokes about having been found out at last. He is now in London, where he will try his luck, being played out here. It's a pity he is not coming back, otherwise I'd have had a joke or two to try out on him, eventually leaving my card in the rue Mathurin. After this, c'est clair [28] that Annenkov, whom he recommended, is also a Russian informer. Even Bakunin, who must have known the whole story since the other Russians knew it, is very suspect. I shall, of course, give him no hint of this, but wreak vengeance on the Russians. Even though these spies may not constitute any particular threat to us, we can't let them get away with it. They're good subjects for conspiratorial experiments in corpore vili. [29] For that they are not really too bad.

Father Hess. After I had happily consigned his spouse, [30] cursing and swearing about same, to oblivion, i.e. to the furthest end of the Faubourg St. Antoine where there is a wailing and gnashing of teeth (Grun and Gsell), I received not long since, through the agency of one Reinhardt, another letter in which the communist papa sought to re-establish relations. It's enough to make one split one's sides. As if nothing had happened of course, altogether in dulci jubilo, [31] and moreover altogether the same old Hess. After the remark that he was to some extent reconciled with 'the party' (the 'Yiddish' Circle appears to have become insolvent) -- and 'also anxious to resume work' (which event ought to be rung in with a peal of bells), comes the following historical note (dated 19 August):

'A few weeks ago we were within a hair's breadth of a bloody riot here in Cologne, Large numbers being already armed' (among them certainly not Moses). 'The affair did not come to a head because the military did not put in an appearance' (tremendous triumph for Cologne's pint-sized philistine), etc., etc...'

Then he tells of the civic assemblies [32] where 'we', i.e. 'the party' and Mr Moses, 'qua communists, won so complete a victory that we', etc.

'We drove, first the moneyed aristocrats ... and then the petty bourgeois, with glory' (none of them possessing any talent) 'from the field. Eventually we could have (!) carried everything in the assemblies' (e.g. made Moses Chief Burgomaster); 'a programme was adopted to which the assembly pledged its candidates, and which' (hear, hear) 'could not have been more radical even if drawn up by English and French communists' (!!!) (and by no one understood more foolishly than by Moses).... 'Keep an occasional eye' (sic) 'on my [wife]' (both parties would like me to take over the distaff side at my own expense and risk, j'en ai les preuves [33]).... 'and pass this onto Ewerbeck as a heartener.'

May God bless this 'heartener', this manna from the desert. I, of course, completely ignore the beast -- he has now written to Ewerbeck too (and this simply in order that a letter may be conveyed to his distaff side at the former's expense), and is threatening to come here in two months' time. If he visits me, I think I too shall be able to tell him something by way of a 'heartener'.

Now that I'm in full swing, I might as well conclude by telling you that Heine is here again and that the day before yesterday Ewerbeck and I went to see him. The poor devil is dreadfully low. He has grown as thin as a rake. The softening of the brain is spreading, and so is the facial paralysis. Ewerbeck says he might very easily die of pulmonary paralysis or of a sudden cerebral stroke, but could also drag on, sometimes better, sometimes worse, for another three or four years yet. He is, of course, somewhat depressed, melancholy and -- most significant of all -- extremely benign (and, indeed, seriously so) in his judgments -- Maurer is the only person about whom he constantly cracks jokes. For the rest his intellectual vigour is unimpaired, but his appearance, made stranger still by a greying beard (he can no longer be shaved round the mouth), is enough to plunge anyone who sees him into the depths of depression. The impression made by the sight of so splendid a fellow gradually wasting away is exceedingly painful.

sketch of man with moustache I have also seen the great Maurer. "Manikin, manikin, how little you weigh!" The man's really a sight worth seeing, and I was atrociously rude to him, in return for which the jackass evinces a particular affection for me, and tells me I have a kindly face. He resembles Karl Moor six weeks dead. Reply soon.



Write soon, as I shall in a fortnight's time [...] from here; such a business a letter [...] easily remain lying or be refused at the old place.

At the Fraternite there has been a tremendous dispute between materialists [34] and spiritualists.[35] The materialists, outvoted by 23 to 22, walked out. But that has not stopped the Fraternite from publishing a very nice article on the various stages of civilisation and their ability to continue developing in the direction of communism. [36]

You'll be amused by the following: Journal des economistes, August of this year, contains, in an article on Biedermann's article on communism, [37] the following: First, all Hess' nonsense, comically Gallicised; next, we read, comes M. Marx.

'M. Marx est un cordonnier, comme un autre Communiste allemand, Weitling, est un tailleur. Le premier (Mx) n'a pas une grande estime pour le communisme francais (!) qu'il a ete assez heureux d'etudier sur les lieux. M. ne sort (du) reste point non plus' (do you not recognise Mr Fix in this Alsatian expression?) 'des formules abstraites et ie se garde bien d'aborder aucune question veritablement pratique. Selon lui' (note the nonsense) 'l'emancipation du peuple allemand sera le signal de l'emancipation du genre humain; la tete de cette emancipation serait la philosophie et son coeur le proletariat. Lorsque tout sera prepare, le coq gaulois sonnera la resurrection germanique... Marx dit qu'il faut creer en Allemagne un proletariat universel (!!) afin de realiser la pensee philosophique do Cornmunisme'. [38] Signed T. F. (mort depuis).[39]

That was his last work. The previous issue carried an equally comical review of my book. [40] The September number contains an article on Julius which I have not yet read. [41]

[On the back of the letter]

Monsieur Charles Marx au Bois Sauvage, Plaine Ste Gudule, Bruxelles


[1] Polish name: Wroclaw.

[2] The letter of Marx and other members of the Brussels Communist Correspondence Committee to Engels mentioned here has not been found.

[3] "acquainted"

[4] "more or less"

[5] Roland Daniels, Heinrich Burgers, Karl d'Ester

[6] A reference to the Paris communities of the League of the Just.

[7] Reference is probably to Engels' 'Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy'.

[8] Barriere meetings were Sunday assemblies of members of the League of the Just held at the Paris city gates (barrieres). As a police agent reported on 1 February 1845, 30 to 200 German emigrants gathered in premises rented for this purpose from a wine-merchant in avenue de Vincennes near the city gate.

[9] 2 Samuel 8:18; 15:18; 20:7, 23

[10] "all politics apart"

[11] A play on Grun (green)

[12] By 'tailors' communism' Engels means the utopian communism of W. Weitling and his followers.

Karl Grun, who visited Paris in 1846-47, preached 'true socialism' and Proudhon's petty-bourgeois reformist ideas among the German workers.

[13] "friend"

[14] Adolph Junge, a cabinet-maker from Dusseldorf, was a notable figure in the Paris communities of the League of the Just in the early 1840s. At the end of June 1846, after a short visit to Cologne, he returned to Paris via Brussels where he met Marx and Engels. In Paris he vigorously opposed Grun and other advocates of 'true socialism' and became an associate of Engels when the latter was in Paris. At the end of March 1847, the French police expelled Junge from the country.

[15] 5 May 1856

[17] [K. Grun,] Die preussischen Landtags-Abschiede.

[18] Grun's German translation of Proudhon's book was published in Darmstadt in February (Volume I) and in May (Volume II) 1847 under the title Philosophie der Staatsökonomie oder Notwendigkeit des Elends.

[19] "neither more nor less"

[20] By labour-bazars or labour markets Engels means equitable-labour exchange bazars which were organised by the Owenites and Ricardian socialists (John Gray, William Thompson, John Bray) in various towns of England in the 1830s for fair exchange without a capitalist intermediary. The products were exchanged for labour notes, or labour money, certificates showing the cost of the products delivered, calculated on the basis of the amount of labour necessary for their production. The organisers considered these bazars as a means for publicising the advantages of a non-capitalist form of exchange and a peaceful way -- together with cooperatives -- of transition to socialism. The subsequent and invariable bankruptcy of such enterprises proved their utopian character.

[21] Straubingers -- travelling journeymen in Germany. Marx and Engels used this term for German artisans, including some participants in the working-class movement of that time, who were still largely swayed by guild prejudices and cherished the petty-bourgeois illusion that it was possible to return from capitalist large-scale industry to petty handicraft production.

[22] "workers"

[23] Engels refers to Proudhon's letter to Marx of 17 May 1846, in which he turned down a proposal to work in the correspondence committees.

[24] H. Heine, 'Ein Jungling liebt cm Maedchen' from Lyrisches Intermezzo.

[25] Engels quotes from the article 'Die russische Allianz und die russisehe Gesandtschaft'.

[26] Engels had been misled by Karl Bernays and Heinrich Bornstein as he later pointed out in his letter to Marx of 15 January 1847. The item in the Allgemeine Zeitung dealt with the tsarist spy V. N. Tolstoy and not with the Russian liberal landowner G. M. Tolstoy whose acquaintance Marx and Engels had made in Paris.

[27] "mansion"

[28] "it's clear"

[29] "on the vile body"

[30] Sibylle Hess

[31] "sweetness and joy"

[32] During the campaign for the elections to the local councils in Cologne which started at the end of June 1846, it was obvious at the very first meetings that the Cologne communists had a considerable influence on the petty-bourgeois electors (the Prussian workers were virtually deprived of suffrage). In the course of the election campaign, disorders took place in Cologne on 3 and 4 August, and were suppressed by the army. The people indignantly demanded that the troops should be withdrawn to their barracks and a civic militia organised. Karl d'Ester, a Cologne communist, described these disturbances in an unsigned pamphlet Bericht iber die Ereignine za KoIn vow 3. und 4. Augstst und den folgenden Tagen, published in Mannheim in 1846.

[33] "have proof of it"

[34] By materialists Engels meant associates of Theodore Dezamy and other revolutionary representatives of French utopian communism who drew the socialist conclusions from the teaching of the eighteenth-century Frencls materialist philosophers. In the 1840s there existed in France a society of materialist communists which consisted of workers; in July 1847 eleven of its members were brought to trial by the French authorities.

[35] By spiritualists Engels must have meant the editors of the Fraternite who were influenced by the religious-socialist ideas of Pierre Leroux, and by the "Christian socialism" of Philippe Buchez and Felicite Lamennais.

[36] Engels seems to be writing about a series of articles 'La civilisation' published in the Fraternite in 1845 and 1846. The first article was entitled 'La civilisation est l'acheminement de l'esprit humain vers la communaute".

[37] The reference is to a review of K. Biedermann, 'Unsrc Gegenwart und Zukunft' written by Th. Fix and published in the Journal des Economistes, Vol. 15, No.57, August 1846.