Letters of Marx and Engels, 1846

Engels To Marx [126]
In Brussels

Source: MECW Volume 38 p. 89;
Written: November/December 1846;
First published: in slightly abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, 1913 in full in MEGA, 1929.

Paris, middle of November-December 1846

Dear Marx,

The reasons for the brief letter I recently sent Gigot are the following. During the investigation into the disturbances in the Faubourg St. Antoine in October, a multitude of Germans were arrested and questioned, the whole of the second batch consisting of Straubingers. [127] Some of these numskulls, who have now been sent across the border, must have talked a great deal of nonsense about Ewerbeck and myself; in fact, in view of their paltriness, nothing else could have been expected of the Straubingers than that they should have been scared to death and have given away all that they knew and more. On top of that, such Straubingers as I was acquainted with, secretive though they were concerning their own miserable affairs, shamefully sounded the alarm about my meetings with them. That’s how these lads are.

At the Barrière, as I have already written and told you, the noble Eisermann delivered himself of a further, detailed avis aux mouchards [notification to the informers] in which he attacked me. Junge was also guilty of some gross indiscretions; the fellow is a trifle swollen-headed, he wishes to be sent to Calais and London at the expense of the French government. In short, M. Delessert set one spy after another at the heels of myself and Ewerbeck, who has long been under suspicion and has an expulsion order hanging over his head. These spies succeeded in following us to the marchand de vins, where we sometimes forgathered with the Faubourg stalwarts. This was proof enough that we were the leaders of a dangerous clique, and not long afterwards I learned that M. Delessert had requested M. Tanneguy Duchâtel to issue an expulsion order against me and Ewerbeck, and that there was a splendid pile of documents relating to the case in the Prefecture, almost next door to the place where the whores are medically examined. Needless to say, I had no desire to let myself be banished on the Straubingers’ account. I had already anticipated something of the kind when I noticed the nonchalance with which the Straubingers were holding forth for all to hear and arguing all over the place about who was right, Grün or I. I was sick and tired of the whole business, there was no putting the lads to rights; even in discussion they wouldn’t speak their minds frankly just like the people in London, and I had achieved my main object, the triumph over Grün. It was an excellent opportunity of honourably ridding myself of the Straubingers, vexing as the whole affair was in other respects. I therefore let it be known to them that I could no longer remain their tutor and that, furthermore, they should watch their step. Ewerbeck at once decided to go on a journey and appears, indeed, to have departed forthwith [128] — at any rate, I haven’t seen him since. Where he has gone, I do not know. The police had also been looking for the little man (Bernays) who, however, had withdrawn to his old place because of a variety of escapades (it’s remarkable what mad scrapes he gets into as soon as he sets foot in the civilised world). When he will return to Paris, I don’t know, but in no circumstances will he move into lodgings where he had intended to, hence the address that was given you is useless. He has safely received his manuscript. Meanwhile I can thank the noble police for having reft me from the arms of the Straubingers and reminded me of the pleasures life has to offer. If the suspicious individuals who have been following me for the past fortnight are really informers, as I am convinced some of them are, the Prefecture must of late have given out a great many entrance tickets to the bals Montesquieu, Valentino, Prado, etc., etc. I am indebted to Mr Delessert for some delicious encounters with grisettes and for a great deal of pleasure, car j'ai voulu profiter des journées et des nuits qui pouvaient être mes dernières 4 Paris. Enfin [since I wanted to take advantage of the days and nights which might well be my last in Paris. Anyway], since in other respects I've been left in peace up till now, everything would appear to have quietened down. But in future address all letters to Monsieur A. F. Körner, artiste-peintre, 29, rue neuve Bréda, Paris, with an envelope inside bearing my initials, taking care that nothing shows through.

You will understand that, in the circumstances, I have had to leave W. Weitling entirely to his own devices. Having seen none of our people, I have no idea whether he has been or still is here. Nor does it matter. I don’t know the Weitlingians at all and, he'd get a fine welcome amongst those I know; because of their eternal clashes with his tailor friends, they feel the most frightful animosity towards him. .

The affair with the London people [129] is annoying precisely because of Harney and because they, of all the Straubingers, were the only ones with whom one could attempt to make contact frankly and without arrière-pensée. But if the fellows are unwilling, eh bien, let them go. In any case one can never know if they won’t produce another address as miserable as the one to Mr Ronge or to the Schleswig-Holsteiners.[130] On top of that, there’s their perpetual envy of us as ‘scholars’. By the way, we have two methods by which we can rid ourselves of them should they rebel: either make a clean break with them, or simply allow the correspondence to lapse. I would be for the latter, if their last letter admits of an answer which, without giving undue offence, is lukewarm enough to rob them of any desire to reply quickly. Then another long delay before answering — and two or three letters will be enough to consign this drowsy correspondence to its last sleep. For how and why should we ridicule these fellows? We have no press organ and even if we had one, they are no writers but confine themselves to an occasional proclamation which no one ever sees, still less cares about. If we are to ridicule the Straubingers at all, we can always avail ourselves of their fine documents; if the correspondence finally does lapse, well and good; the rupture will be gradual and attract no great attention. In the meantime we shall quietly make the necessary arrangements with Harney, taking care that they owe us the final letter (which they will in fact do, once they have been made to wait 6-10 weeks for an answer), and then leave them to clamour. An immediate rupture with the fellows would bring us neither gain nor gloire. Theoretical disagreements are hardly possible with the fellows since they have no theory and, sauf for their possible unspoken misgivings, they wish to learn from us: nor are they able to formulate their misgivings, so that all discussion with them is impossible except, perhaps, face to face. In the case of an open rupture they would bring up against us all that generalised communist thirst-for-learning stuff: we'd have been glad to learn from the learned gentlemen, if they'd had something decent, etc. Practical party differences would — since there are only a few of them on the committee and a few of us too — soon degenerate into mere personalities and ill-natured exchanges, at least on the face of it. As a party we can enter the lists against literary men, but not against Straubingers. They are, after all, a couple of 100 strong, vouched for among the English by Harney, proclaimed in Germany by the Rheinischer Beobachter, etc., etc., a rabid and by no means impotent communist society; they are, furthermore, the most tolerable of the Straubingers, and can certainly not be bettered so long as there is no change in Germany. We have learnt from this business that, in the absence of a proper movement in Germany, nothing can be done with the Straubingers, even the best of them. It is better after all to let them quietly go their own way, attacking them only as a whole, en bloc, than to provoke a dispute which might only serve to sully our reputations. Vis-à-vis ourselves, these lads declare themselves to be ‘the people’, ‘the proletarians’, and we can only appeal to a communist proletariat which has yet to take shape in Germany. In addition, the Prussian Constitution is in the offing, and we might then be able to make use of the fellows’ signatures, etc., etc. — Anyway, my words of wisdom will doubtless arrive too late and you will already have passed and acted on a resolution in this matter. I would, by the way, have written earlier, but I was waiting to see what turn the affair with the police would take.

I have just received a reply from the Swiss publisher [Johann Michael Schläpfer]. The letter, enclosed herewith, only confirms my belief that the fellow’s a scoundrel. No ordinary publisher would accept so amiably after keeping one waiting x weeks. Now we shall have to see what the Bremen man [Kühtmann] says, and then we can always do as we think fit. Then again. there’s the. fellow at Belle-Vue near Constance; perhaps something might be arranged with him [131]; I could try him again if the Bremen man’s not agreeable. Meanwhile I'll make some more enquiries in Herisau — if only we had a decent fellow in Switzerland to whom one could send the manuscript [The German Ideology] with instructions to hand it over only against payment in cash. But the only one there is that thirsty paterfamilias Püttmann!

During the recent bad spell, one of my innocent, incidental pastimes, besides girls, has been to concern myself to some extent with Denmark and the other northern countries.[132] What an abomination! Rather the smallest German than the biggest Dane! Nowhere else is the misère of morality, guilds and estates still carried to such a pitch. The Dane regards Germany as a country which one visits in order to ‘keep mistresses and squander one’s fortune on them’ (while travelling in Germany, he had a mistress who ran through the better part of his fortune, we read in a Danish school book). He calls the German a tydsk [German] windbag, and regards himself as the true representative of the Teutonic soul — the Swede in turn despises the Dane as ‘Germanised’ and degenerate, garrulous and effete — the Norwegian looks down on the Gallicised Swede and his aristocracy and rejoices in the fact that at home in Norge [Norway] exactly the same stupid, peasant economy is dominant as at the time of the noble Canute, and he, for his part, is treated en canaille [scornfully] by the Icelander, who still continues to speak exactly the same language as the unwashed Vikings of anno 900, swills whale oil, lives in a mud hut and goes to pieces in any atmosphere that does not reek of rotten fish. I have several times felt tempted to be proud of the fact that I am at least no Dane, nor yet an Icelander, but merely a German. The editor of the most advanced Swedish newspaper, the Aftonbladet, has twice been here in Paris to seek enlightenment on the organisation of labour, has for years taken the Bon Sens and the Démocratie pacifique; he solemnly conferred with Louis Blanc and Considérant, but found himself out of his depth, and returned home none the wiser. Now as before he loudly advocates free competition or, as the Swedes have it, freedom of nourishment or else själfförsörjningsfrihet, freedom of self-supply (which sounds even better than freedom to pursue a trade). Of course, they're still up to their necks in the guild nonsense and, in the parliaments, it’s precisely the bourgeois who are the most rabid conservatives. Throughout the whole country there are only two proper towns, à 80,000 and 40,000 inhabitants respectively, the third, Norrköpping, having only 12,000 and all the rest perhaps 1,000, 2,000, 3,000. At every post station there’s one inhabitant. In Denmark things are scarcely better, since they have only one solitary city there, in which the guilds indulge in the most ludicrous proceedings, madder even than in Basle or Bremen, and where you aren’t allowed on the promenade without an entrance ticket. The only thing these countries are good for is to show what the Germans would do if they had freedom of the press, viz., what the Danes have actually done, immediately found a ‘society for the proper use of the free press’, and print almanacs full of Christian good intentions. The Swedish Aftonbladet is as tame as the Kölner Zeitung, but considers itself ‘democratic in the true sense of the word’. On the other hand the Swedes have the novels of Fröken Bremer and the Danes of Councillor of State (Eta traad) Oehienschläger, Commander of the Order of the Dannebrog.[133] There’s also a terrific number of Hegelians there and the language, every third word of which is filched from the German, is admirably suited to speculation.

A report was begun long ago and will follow within the next few days.[134] Write and tell me if you have Proudhon’s book. [Proudhon, Système des contradictions économiques, ou Philosophie de la misère]

If you wish to make use of Proudhon’s book, which is bad, for your own book, I will send you the very extensive excerpts I have made. It’s not worth the 15 francs it costs.