Marx-Engels Correspondence 1851

Marx to Engels
In Manchester

Source: MECW Volume 38, p. 291;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, 1913.

London, 23 February [1851]

Dear Engels,

For a week you've had no news of me, firstly because I was awaiting the documents from Cologne and wished to tell you about them, secondly because I had to wait for further details about our ‘ex-friend’. The former have not yet arrived. As to the latter, I am now rather better informed.

Harney received your letter all right.

According to what I am told by Tessier du Mothay, who is now here, the Louis Blanc affair originated as follows:

The association in Church Street gave itself out to be a philanthropic association for assistance to French political refugees. Ledru-Rollin, L. Blanc, Adam, everyone, in short, made this a pretext for participating in it. Politics were banned by the statutes. Then 24 February hove into view. As you know, when presented with the opportunity of making themselves important, the French prepare for it as long in advance and treat it with as much solemnity as the prospective lying-in of a pregnant woman. Even if the association was merely a philanthropic one, so the argument ran, its members in their capacity as Frenchmen must nevertheless celebrate 24 February [the anniversary of the February 1848 revolution in France]. A definite evening was fixed for a debate on this important matter. On that evening both Ledru and Blanc were present. The latter delivered a carefully prepared, spuriously temperate, Jesuitical speech, in which he sought to prove that a political banquet contravened the association’s statutes, that it would simply make France aware of their dissensions, etc., and, amidst much pious talk of fraternité, the Corsican mandrake, vented his chagrin at not having been included in the provisional government by Ledru and Mazzini. He got his answer. Despite his speech, which none admired more sincerely than he did, it was decided to hold the banquet.

And what does la blanche Louise [Louis Blanc] do now? She declares that, as a result of this decision, the association has dissolved itself thereby restoring to each his individual freedom, and that he will make use of this restitution of his ‘free will’ and organise a banquet without any spirit of faction, pure fraternité and other delectable tit-bits.

His eyes turned naturally to Barthélemy, knowing as he did that the latter, the Germans, Poles, etc., together formed a compact mass. On the other hand Landolphe, le bel homme was entrusted with the mission of winning over our dear Harney. L. Blanc was even gracious enough to invite Harney to the dinner, though, during the past six months, he and Landolphe have been consigning him to the devil. What magnanimity!

On the other hand L. Blanc drafted a manifesto which, as our dear would say, is out and out. You will have read it in The Friend of the People. It even repudiates the ‘aristocracy of the mind’, thereby on the one hand ostensibly providing a motive for condescending to the dii minorum gentium [second rate luminaries] and, on the other, holding out to Schapper & Co. the immediate and cheerful prospect of an ‘aristocracy of stupidity.’ But this manifesto — feeble platitudes, naturally — is regarded by L. Blanc as the ‘wisest possible thing’ to which human nature, under the most happy circumstances, could aspire. It was intended not only to astound the whole of Europe but also and more particularly to give Ledru-Rollin a slap in the face, and to lead all the Blanquists in France to believe that, out of sheer intrepidity of principle, the incorruptible little man had disassociated himself from Church Street.

Thus the worthy Harney has made himself the tool of a vulgar intrigue and, what is more, an intrigue directed against Ledru-Rollin to whom, at the same time, he goes running and whose banquet he will also honour with his presence tomorrow. In order further to nettle this, despite his qualités très aimables and respectables, highly impressionable plebeian — impressionable, that is, to famous names, in whose shadow he feels touched and honoured — and in order at the same time to show Ledru-Mazzini that the Napoleon of socialism cannot be thwarted with impunity, the little man goes and solicits the felicitations of the Parisian workers. These ‘Parisian workers’, whose appearance on the scene was bound to make the blood rise to our dear’s head, are, of course, none other than the notorious 25 délégués des Luxembourg, who have never been delegated by anyone, and who, throughout Paris, are the object, now of the hatred, now of the risée of the other workers, — fellows whose importance is no greater than that of the members of the Pre-parliament or the Committee of Fifty in Germany. They feel a need for a petit bon dieu quelconque, a fetish, and there is something monstrous about the little man’s appearance which all along has made it a suitable object of worship. He for his part assures them that they are the greatest men and the truest socialists on earth. And had he not already nominated them pairs of the future Workers’ Republic? Hence, whenever he raises a finger, they offer their felicitations and, whenever they offer their felicitations, he publicly expresses his heartfelt thanks. And he raised a finger this time. In these professional felicitators Harney, of course, sees Paris, the whole of Paris.

Before I take leave of the mandrake, two more items which I learned from Tessier, both of them highly characteristic of this fausse pleureuse [crocodile].

Louise never speaks extempore. He writes down every word of his speeches and learns them by heart in front of the looking-glass. Ledru, on the other hand, always improvises and, on important occasions, confines himself to a few matter of fact notes. Hence, quite aside from the difference in personal appearance, Louise is completely incapable of making the slightest impression when alongside Ledru. He therefore welcomed any pretext that permitted him to avoid comparison with this dangerous rival!

So far as his historical works are concerned, he wrote them in the same way that A. Dumas wrote his feuilletons. He never studies more material than is needed for the next chapter. This is how such books as the Histoire des dix ans are produced. In this way it lends a certain freshness to his accounts. For what he’s conveying is at least as new to him as it is to the reader; on the other hand the thing as a whole is weak.

So much for L. Blanc. Now for our dear.

He was not content with merely attending the fellows’ meeting. Indeed not. He has turned their banquet of 24 February which, without him, would have been a complete fiasco, into a London event. A thousand tickets have already been sold for the banquet, which is being held in the City. It was Harney who placed the majority of the tickets, as Jones informed me the day before yesterday. O'Connor, Reynolds, hundreds of Chartists will be there. Harney has been drumming them up. Again according to Jones, he is en route all day, carrying out L. Blanc’s orders.

He has even perpetrated a little piece of perfidy with regard to Jones by getting him to translate L. Blanc & Co.’s manifesto and then asking him whether he would have any objection to being named as the translator. That was on Wednesday. So by then he already had your letter, although he gave no hint of this to Jones. Jones saw in his question merely an appeal to his own ‘socialist’ sentiments — and naturally replied that he had no objection.

Jones told me that, as a result of my arguments, he might stay away from the banquet, though he couldn’t say for certain. The reason for his indecision is perfectly sensible. Were he not to turn up, he would forfeit some of his popularity since, thanks to our dear, this banquet has become a Chartist occasion. He is also afraid that Reynolds might intrigue behind his back.

Jones disapproves of the behaviour of our dear [Julian Harney], whom I have not ‘seen again’. He tried to excuse it on the grounds that, if the Chartists failed to attend either of the banquets, they would be accused of political apathy, or of antipathy towards the foreign revolutionaries. To this I replied that in that case Harney, etc., should have held a Chartist meeting to celebrate the rotten 24 February instead of constituting a pedestal for a dwarf and half a dozen jackasses — a dwarf who never describes Harney as anything but a ‘brave garçon’, and who, if a movement were to go into action in London tomorrow, or in one year’s or 20 years’ time, would produce official documents to prove that he had set these pauvres Anglais dans la route du progrès [poor English on the path of progress] a path which led from 1688 to 24 February 1851, when Louis Blanc heard himself acclaimed by the whole of London, as once before by 50,000 workers in the courtyard of the Réforme, which holds barely 50 men. And how many crocodile’s tears about this event that never happened will he consign to paper!

Harney has become embroiled in this business, firstly, because of his inordinate admiration for official great men, which we have often derided in the past. Secondly, because he loves theatrical effects. He is truly avid of applause, if not actually vaniteux [vain]. There is no disputing that he himself is profoundly susceptible to the stock phrase and generates the most copious and impassioned gas. Is more deeply bogged in the democratic mire than he would care to admit. He has a twofold spirit, one inculcated by Frederick Engels, and one that is all his own. The former is for him a kind of straitjacket. The latter is he himself in puris naturalibus [in a state of nature]. But there is in addition a third, a spiritus familiaris [familiar spirit], and that is his worthy spouse. She has a great predilection for gants jaunes [dandies] à la Landolphe and Louis Blanc. She hates me, for one, as a frivolous fellow who might endanger her ‘property to be watched upon’. I have irrefutable proof that this female has more than one of her long plebeian fingers in this pie. The extent of Harney’s thraldom to this spiritus familiaris, and of the petty Scottish wiliness with which she conducts her intrigues, will be apparent to you from the following: You will recall how on New Year’s Eve she insulted Miss Macfarlane in the presence of my wife. Later she told my wife, with a smile on her lips, that Harney had not seen Miss Macfarlane throughout the evening. Later she told him that she had declined her acquaintanceship because the cleft dragoon had evoked the dismay and ridicule of the whole company and of my wife in particular. And Harney was idiotic and cowardly enough not to give Miss Macfarlane a chance to avenge the insult, thus breaking in the most unworthy manner with the only collaborator on his insignificant little rag [The Friend of the People] who really had any ideas. On his rag, a rara avis [rare bird].

What lends added weight to this meeting is the stir created in London by little Johnny’s [John Russell] resignation and the avènement [accession to power] of Stanley-d'Israeli.

There’s nothing the Frenchmen fear more than a general amnesty. It would rob all the local cardboard heroes of their halos.

A. Ruge, in company with Struve, Kinkel, Schramm, Bucher, etc., has been trying to bring into being a Volksfreund or, as our Gustav would have it, a Deutscher Zuschauer. Came to nought. Some of the others did not want Winkelried’s patronage, some, like the ‘easy-going’ Kinkel, demanded payment in cash, ce qui ne fait Pas le compte de M. Ruge [which didn’t suit Ruge’s book]. His chief aim was, as you will know, to extract money from the reading public. This was frustrated by Julius, since he too wants to bring out a paper here.

K. Heinzen is redacteur en chef [editor-in-chief] of the bankrupt New York Schnellpost and has entered into a hair-raising polemic with Weitling.

You would do well to write sometime soon to Red Becker in New York and inform him about l'état actuel des choses. [current state of things]

Enclosed a letter from Dronke. Send it back to me by return; if you wish to write yourself with it, tant mieux [so much the better].

Your remittance was a great help to me as I couldn’t possibly go on owing the bel homme a farthing any longer.

In my next letter, something about French literature of 1830-48.

Write, too, and tell me whether my sums are right.

K. M.

Incidentally, in our dealings with our dear — for he will seek to come back as soon as he has done with this great historical event — we must assume an air of superiority and make him feel that he has ‘lost’.

Apropos! Harney has had himself elected to a Chartist deputation to Church Street, whence, having made his entrée, he will repair to the City, where he will make himself at home.

Since, incidentally, there was nothing naive about his action, it follows that he arranged everything with the ‘bel’ homme behind my back and was no less reticent towards yourself.