Marx-Engels Correspondence 1851

Engels to Marx
In London

Source: MECW Volume 38, p. 289;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, 1913.

[Manchester,] Thursday, 13 February 1851

Dear Marx,

I had been more or less expecting this business with Harney. I saw the notice of the Bem meeting in The Friend of the People, which stated that the Germans, French, Poles and Hungarians, as well as the fraternal democrats would be taking part, and it was quite clear that these could be none other than Great Windmill Street & Co. I forgot to draw your attention to this announcement before. There’s no possibility of my pursuing the matter any further today. But tomorrow I shall write a letter to Harney in which I shall tell him not to print the manuscript I sent him, as I shall not be providing a sequel, and in which I shall at the same time explain the whole business to him in detail. If this letter is of no avail, the whole rigmarole will have to be dropped until Mr Harney returns of his own accord, which will happen very soon. I have a very strong suspicion that he will be up here shortly and then I shall duly take him to task. It’s about time he realised that we're in earnest with him, too. At any rate, so as to save time and avoid writing twice I shall send the letter to you to be passed on to him as quickly as possible once you've read it.

Personally I find this inanity and want of tact on Harney’s part more irritating than anything else. But au fond it is of little moment.

At long last we again have the opportunity — the first time in ages — to show that we need neither popularity, nor the support of any party in any country, and that our position is completely independent of such ludicrous trifles. From now on we are only answerable for ourselves and, come the time when these gentry need us, we shall be in a position to dictate our own terms. Until then we shall at least have some peace and quiet. A measure of loneliness, too, of course — mon Dieu, I've already had a 3 months’ spell of that in Manchester and have grown used to it, and this, moreover, as a bachelor, which here, at any rate, is excessively boring. Besides we have no real grounds for complaint if we are shunned by the petits grands hommes; haven’t we been acting for years as though Cherethites and Plethites were our party when, in fact, we had no party, and when the people whom we considered as belonging to our party, at least officially, sous réserve de les appeler des bêtes incorrigibles entre nous [with the reservation that between ourselves we called them incorrigible fools], didn’t even understand the rudiments of our stuff? How can people like us, who shun official appointments like the plague, fit into a ‘party’? And what have we, who spit on popularity, who don’t know what to make of ourselves if we show signs of growing popular, to do with a ‘party’, i.e. a herd of jackasses who swear by us because they think we're of the same kidney as they? Truly, it is no loss if we are no longer held to be the ‘right and adequate expression’ of the ignorant curs with whom we have been thrown together over the past few years.

A revolution is a purely natural phenomenon which is subject to physical laws rather than to the rules that determine the development of society in ordinary times. Or rather, in revolution these rules assume a much more physical character, the material force of necessity makes itself more strongly felt. And as soon as one steps forward as the representative of a party, one is dragged into this whirlpool of irresistible natural necessity. By the mere fact of keeping oneself independent, being in the nature of things more revolutionary than the others, one is able at least for a time to maintain one’s independence from this whirlpool, although one does, of course, end up by being dragged into it.

This is the position we can and must adopt on the next occasion. Not only no official government appointments but also, and for as long as possible, no official party appointments, no seat on committees, etc., no responsibility for jackasses, merciless criticism of everyone, and, besides, that serenity of which all the conspiracies of blockheads cannot deprive us. And this much we are able to do. We can always, in the nature of things, be more revolutionary than the phrase-mongers because we have learnt our lesson and they have not, because we know what we want and they do not, and because, after what we have seen for at least three years, we shall take it a great deal more coolly than anyone who has an interest in the business.

The main thing at the moment is to find some way of getting our things published; either in a quarterly in which we make a frontal attack and consolidate our position so far as persons are concerned, or in fat books where we do the same without being under the necessity of mentioning any one of these vipers. Either way suits me; in the long run, and with reaction on the increase, it seems to me that the feasibility of the former is decreasing and that the latter will come more and more to be the expedient to which we must apply ourselves. What price all the gossip the entire émigré crowd can muster against you, when you answer it with your political economy?

Tomorrow, the letter for Harney. En attendant, salut.

F. E.