Marx-Engels Correspondence 1851
Source: MECW Volume 38, p. 375;
First published: in MEW, 1934.
I am not at all sure whether I am doing the right thing in sending you a letter with Fabricius. What assurance have I that this man won’t be nabbed at the border, since he is letting people here burden him with a veritable valiseful of letters?
As your proposed American plan — Engels may have already written to you about this — has come to nothing, you will have no alternative but to come and reinforce us here. Something might even turn up that would enable us to collaborate — for payment, of course, car il faut vivre [for one has to live].
I have now heard from a reliable source that betrayal and denunciation are playing a part in the arrests of our friends. I am morally convinced that Messrs Willich and Schapper and their good-for-nothing pack of rascally curs are directly taking part in this infamy. You will appreciate how important it is to these ‘great men’ in partibus to remove such people in Germany as they believe to be directly in the way of their accession to the throne. The jackasses fail to comprehend that we regard them as jackasses and accord them at best our disdain.
Despite his respectably high-minded, broth-without-bread, non-commissioned officer’s moral hypocrisy, Willich is a thoroughly common, mark well, thoroughly common chevalier d'industrie. pillier d'estaminet [adventurer, pillar of the taproom] and — or so I am told by a respectable philistine, though I cannot myself vouch for it — also cardsharper. The lad loafs around all day at the pub, a democratic pub, naturally, where he drinks gratis, bringing customers in lieu of payment and entertaining them with his stereotyped phrases about a future revolution in which the chevalier himself no longer believes, so often has he reiterated them under such widely disparate circumstances, and always with the same result. The fellow is a parasite of the basest kind — invariably, of course, under patriotic pretences.
All this individual’s communism amounts to is a determination to tread the primrose path, always at the public expense, in communion with other footloose chevaliers. This man’s activities consist solely in gossiping and lying about us in pubs, and boasting of connections in Germany which, though non-existent, are nevertheless taken for gospel by the Central clown A. Ruge, the ideological boor Heinzen and by the stagey, coquettish, theologising belletrist Kinkel, connections of which he also boasts to the French.
Apropos, while this last-named sanctimonious Adonis runs off his legs in bourgeois cercles, permitting himself to be fed, cosseted, etc., etc., by them, he associates secretly and illicitly with Schapper and Willich in order to keep in touch with the ‘Workers’ Party’ as well. This lad would greatly like to be all things to all men. In every respect he bears a most striking resemblance to Frederick William IV who is nothing more than a Kinkel enthroned and is afflicted with the same rhetorical leucorrhoea.
Were you to ask me how you are to subsist here, my answer would be: follow in the footsteps of the doughty Willich. He sows not neither does he reap, and yet the heavenly Father feeds him.
But now au sérieux! If living in Germany is becoming too dangerous for you, it might be good for you to come here. If you could remain in Germany unmolested, that would, of course, be preferable, since it’s more useful to have people there than here.
Apropos, Britain’s overseas trade amounts to at least 1/3 of its entire trade — more, since the repeal of the corn duties. There is, by the by, no sense at all in Mr Christ’s arguments. Pinto has already pointed out that, if 10/10 are necessary to something, the final 1/10 is as important as the previous 9/10. Granted that Britain’s overseas trade amounts to only 1/4 (which is wrong), there can be no doubt that without that, the other 3 /4 would not exist, and still less the 4/4, which alone can produce the numeral 1.
The democrats have long been accustomed to miss no opportunity of compromising themselves, making themselves ridicules, and risking their own skins. But never has the impotence of the infiniment petits succeeded in demonstrating itself so strikingly as in the paper which the local Central democrats — Ruge, Hang, Ronge, etc. — are bringing out. Under the presumptuous title Der Kosmos (or Das Kosmos as Freiligrath aptly calls it) there appears a weekly scrawl the like of which, in its brazen and insipid insignificance, the German language — and that is saying a great deal-has never, perhaps, produced before. Not even one of little-German democratic parish magazines has ever brought forth such evil-smelling wind as this.
It would perhaps be as well if things were to remain quiet for a few years yet, so that all this 1848 democracy has time to moulder away. Untalented as our governments may be, they are veritable lumina mundi as compared with these bumptious mediocre jackasses.
I am usually at the British Museum from 9 in the morning until 7 in the evening. The material I am working on is so damnably involved that, no matter how I exert myself, I shall not finish for another 6-8 weeks. There are, moreover, constant interruptions of a practical kind, inevitable in the wretched circumstances in which we are vegetating here. But for all that, for all that, the thing is rapidly approaching completion. There comes a time when one has forcibly to break off. The democratic ‘simpletons’ to whom inspiration comes ‘from above’ need not, of course, exert themselves thus. Why should these people, born under a lucky star, bother their heads with economic and historical material? It’s really all so simple, as the doughty Willich used to tell me. All so simple to these addled brains! — Ultra-simple fellows!