Works of Karl Marx 1853

To the Editor of the People’s Paper

Source: MECW Volume 12, p. 290;
First published: in The People’s Paper, No. 71, September 10, 1853.

arnold ruge

Marx’s statement to the editor of The People’s Paper was written in connection with the anonymous article (by Golovin) “How to Write History”, published in The Morning Advertiser on September 3, 1853. This article, which attacked Marx, was a reply to Marx’s letter to the editor of The Morning Advertiser of August 30, 1853.

On August 31 The Morning Advertiser published Arnold Ruge’s letter in which Marx and the Neue Rheinische Zeitung were accused of slandering Bakunin. In his reply to Golovin Marx also exposed Ruge’s false arguments. Details connected with this statement are given by Marx in his letter to Engels of September 3, 1853, in which he also includes the first draft of his reply. On September 7, 1853 Marx wrote to Engels that he had sent his reply to The People’s Paper because the editors of The Morning Advertiser had refused to publish it.

In October the editors of The Morning Advertiser announced that the matter was closed.

Dear Sir, — The Morning Advertiser, of the 3rd inst., published the subjoined article, “How to write History.-By a Foreign Correspondent,” while he refused to insert my answer to the “Foreign Correspondent.” You will oblige me by inserting into The People’s Paper both, the Russian letter and my reply to it.

Yours truly,

Dr. Karl Marx.
London, September 7th.

How to Write History.- By a Foreign Correspondent

“Bakunin is a Russian agent — Bakunin is not a Russian agent. Bakunin died in the prison of Schlisselburg, after having endured much ill-treatment — Bakunin is not dead: he still lives. He is made a soldier and sent to the Caucasus — no, he is not made a soldier: he remains detained in the Citadel of St. Peter and St. Paul. Such are the contradictory news which the press has given us in turn concerning Michael Bakunin.

“In these days of extensive publicity, we only arrive at the true by affirming the false, but, has it at least been proved that Bakunin has not been in the military pay of Russia?

“There are people who do not know that humanity makes men mutually responsible — that in extricating Germany from the influence which Russia exercises on it, we react upon the latter country, and plunge it anew into its despotism, until it becomes vulnerable to revolution. Such people it would be idle to attempt to persuade that Bakunin is one of the purest and most generous representatives of progressive cosmopolitism.

“'Calumniate, calumniate,’ says a French proverb, [and] ‘something will always remain.’ The calumny against Bakunin, countenanced in 1848 by one of his friends, has been reproduced in 1853 by an unknown person.

“'One is never betrayed but by one’s own connexion,’ says another proverb; ‘and it is better to deal with a wise enemy than with a stupid friend.’ The conservative journals have not become the organ of the calumny insinuated against Bakunin. A friendly journal undertook that care.

“Revolutionary feeling must be but slightly developed, when it can be forgotten for a moment, as Mr. Marx has forgotten, that Bakunin is not of the stuff of which police spies are made. Why, at least, did he not do, as is the custom of the English papers — why did he not simply publish the letter of the Polish refugee, which denounced Bakunin? He would have retained the regret of seeing his name associated with a false accusation!”

The Foreign Correspondent in Saturday’s Morning Advertiser

‘... It is better to deal with a wise enemy than a stupid friend.'

Exactly so.

“Is he not a ‘stupid friend’ who is astonished at the discovery, that a controversy involves antagonistic opinions, and that historical truth cannot be extricated but from contradictory statements?

“Is he not a ‘stupid friend’ who thinks necessary to find fault with explanations in 1853, with which Bakunin himself was satisfied in 1848, to ‘plunge Russia anew in its despotism,’ from which she has never emerged, and to call French a trite Latin proverb?

“Is he not a ‘stupid friend’ who assures a paper to have countenanced’ a statement made by its Foreign Correspondent and unmarked by its editor?

“Is he not a ‘stupid friend’ who sets up ‘conservative journals’ as models for ‘revolutionary feeling’ at its highest pitch, invented the lois des suspects,[235] and suspected the ‘stuff’ of a traitor even in the Dantons, the Camille Desmoulins, and the Anacharsis Clootses, who dares attack third persons in the name of Bakunin, and dares not defend him in his own name?

“In conclusion, let me tell the friend of proverbial commonplace that I have now done with him and with all such-like friends of Bakunin.”

“Karl Marx.

“London, September 4th.”

Footnote from MECW Volume 12

235 A reference to the Convention decrees adopted in 1793 (spring-autumn) at the height of the struggle against counter-revolutionary conspiracies and revolts. The law on suspects (lois des suspects), promulgated on September 17, 1793, provided for the arrest of all persons “who by their conduct or their connections, their talks or writings proved to be adherents of tyranny”.