Marx-Engels Correspondence 1859
Source: MECW Volume 40, p. 434;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in: MEGA, Berlin, 1930.
Lassalle’s letter contains several points upon which I shall haul him over the coals. D'abord, the laddie talks about what he ‘is to do for me’. But all I asked of him was that he, who set the whole thing in train and whose articles I was constantly seeing in the Presse, should enlighten me as to the mysterious silence from Vienna. This was his business. Secondly, he makes it look as though he had contributed to the Presse only after a tremendous struggle, on ‘my’ insistence. But at one point in the same letter he admits that he had already begun sending articles to Vienna before I had stated my case. Then, however, he proceeds to reverse the ‘nexus’. When he sent me Friedländer’s offer he drivelled away for two pages about whether or not he should write to Vienna, and made the thing dependent on my decision. D'abord, it went without saying that, if I thought writing for the Presse good enough for me, I wouldn’t think it beneath Lassalle. Moreover, I could see from his letter how anxious he was to obtain my consent. Why then do we now have this self-aggrandizing misrepresentation of the causal nexus? What he says about ‘bias’ and having written to Friedländer ‘telling him off’ about it, is nonsense. As Austrian papers go and considering the circumstances, the Vienna Presse is edited cleverly and fairly, with far greater tact than Lassalle would be able to command. Finally, I did not invite the laddie’s instructions as to what is or is not ‘worthy’ of me. I consider it rather arrogant of him to drop hints to me on the subject. If Friedländer manages to settle the financial side, I shall positivement stand by my decision, which is in no way altered by the fact that Lassalle’s articles don’t seem to suit Friedländer. From recent issues of the Presse I see that the number of its subscribers has risen to 27,000.
Lassalle’s pamphlet is an enormous blunder. The publication of your ‘anonymous’ pamphlet [Po and Rhine] made him envious. Admittedly the position of the revolutionary party in Germany is difficult at present, yet a little critical analysis of the circumstances suffices to make it plain. As regards the ‘governments’, it is clear from all points of view, if only in the interests of Germany’s existence, that they must be urged not to remain neutral but to be, as you rightly say, patriotic. But the affair can be given revolutionary pertinence simply by stressing opposition to Russia more strongly than opposition to Boustrapa. That’s what Lassalle should have done vis-à-vis the Neue Preussische Zeitung’s anti-French clamour. Indeed, it is this point which, as the war goes on, will in practice involve the German governments in high treason and at which it will be possible to seize them by the throat. Incidentally, if Lassalle takes it upon himself to speak in the name of the party, he must in future either resign himself to being publicly disavowed by us, since circumstances are too grave to take account of feelings, or else he must first ascertain the views held by others besides himself before following the joint inspiration of fire and logic. We must now absolutely insist on party discipline, otherwise everything will be in the soup.
The confusion presently reigning in men’s minds has reached a curious peak. D'abord, there is that traitor to the Empire, the ‘imperial regent’, who has received cash payments from Paris. In the Hamburg Freischütz, Mr Meyen praises Vogt’s piece. ‘There is a type of vulgar democrat (some sincere ones among them believe that an Austrian defeat, complemented by revolution in Hungary + Galicia, etc., would bring about revolution in Germany. The dolts forget that revolution in Germany now = disorganisation of her armies and would benefit, not the revolutionaries, but Russia and Boustrapa), a type, I say, of vulgar democrat who delights in being able to pipe the same tune as the Decembristising Hungarians (Bangyas all) and Poles (in the Prussian chamber a few days ago Mr Cieszkowski called Nicholas the Poles’ ‘great Slav ally’) and Italians. Another lot — e.g. Blind who seeks to combine patriotism and democratism — are making asses of themselves (and old Uhland too among their number) by demanding war with Austria against Bonaparte and, at the same time, an imperial parliament. D'abord, the asses fail to see that the conditions for the fulfilment of this repellent wish are entirely wanting. Secondly, however, they pay so little heed to what is really happening as to be wholly unaware that, in the only part of Germany which counts, namely Prussia, the bourgeois are proud of their Chambers, whose power is bound to grow with the growing embarrassment of the government; that these bourgeois are justifiably (as recent transactions in the Chambers go to show) disciplined to be dictated to by Badeners and Württembergers under — the style of ‘parliament’, just as the Prussian government is reluctant to be ruled by Austria under the style of ‘Federal Diet’ that these bourgeois know from the experience of 1848 that a parliament alongside their Chambers destroys the power of the latter while itself remaining nothing more than a phantasm. In fact there is much more revolutionary purchase in the Prussian Chambers, which have to vote budgets and which, in certain eventualities, have part of the army and the Berlin mob behind them, than in a debating club under the style of ‘Imperial Parliament’. That Badeners, Württembergers and other small deer take a different view because of their own importance goes without saying. There is a very real fear among our own party friends and other sincere revolutionaries that war against Boustrapa would mean a reversion to 1813-15. Finally, those who speak for the Crédit mobilier in Germany (Kölnische Zeitung, Fould-Oppenheim, etc.) naturally share the democrats’ apprehensions and pin their hopes on the Prussian dynasty’s traditional short-sighted perfidy (Peace of Basle, etc). On the other hand, a section of the democratic and revolutionary party feels bound for patriotic reasons to adopt a Jahn-Arndtian tone. In view of all these confusions, and since I believe that Germany’s fate is hanging in the balance, I think it behoves the two of us to issue a party manifesto. If the Vienna business is settled, you must come up for the purpose at Whitsun. If not, I shall come to Manchester.
From these general things I now come to the state of parties (German) in London, and here I must recapitulate certain matters which I considered too boring to recount to you so long as they were still in progress.
First, you will recall that Mr Liebknecht introduced the clown E. Bauer into the so-called Communist Society... just when I had publicly broken with Bauer and that the clown took over the Neue Zeit in which the ignorant blockhead, by his exaggeration of the few communist catch-phrases he had picked up from Scherzer, turned our party into a laughing-stock. For me it was a most disagreeable affair — not because of the few louts in London, but because of the malicious glee of the democratic crew, because of the false appearances evoked by smartly sending copies of the filthy rag to Germany and the United States, because of the knowledge the clown gained of the rotten state of the party; finally, because of the contacts he made with the International Committee here. Throughout the time the clown was editing the Neue Zeit and lecturing to the Society, Mr Liebknecht remained in the latter and, moreover, talked a great deal of nonsense about having to defend me against the great odium felt for me by the workers (i.e. louts), etc. Well, after only half a number (I sent it to you) of the Neue Zeit had appeared because of lack of money, Liebknecht acted as Chairman at a meeting to which the various associations had been invited for the purpose of saving the paper. The result, of course, was nil. After this performance, I convened our people (a small gang, Pfänder, Lochner, etc., and a few newcomers, whom Liebknecht had for a long time — ever since my removal out of town — treated as his private club) and took the occasion to pitch into Liebknecht in a manner far from pleasing to him until he declared himself a contrite sinner. He said that an attempt had been made to bring out the Neue Zeit again, but had been frustrated by his vigorous intervention. I was therefore surprised to receive, a day or two later, what appeared to be a successor to the Neue Zeit entitled Das Volk. However, the matter was elucidated in a curious way, as follows (see also enclosed letter):
Mr Clown had finally written to Biskamp (you have a letter to him from Biskamp) saying that Kinkel had ruined the Neue Zeit by his intrigues, appeared to be seething with vindictive feelings, etc. Well. Biskamp comes up to London and is d'abord startled by the fact that one of his own articles intended for the Neue Zeit has appeared in the Hermann somewhat watered down. He hurries to the clown, who seems far from pleased to see him, says he is ill, simulates disillusionment and ends up by telling him that the whole thing is a mess, that he (Biskamp) should not get involved in it, that Kinkel is too strong, etc. But Biskamp, struck by the fact that Kinkel had transferred his Hermann to the Neue Zeit’s press, having given up his former press, and that he was printing his manuscripts, hastily sought out Hirschfeld at the press where he discovered — Edgar Bauer’s manuscript and proof corrections. In one word, Mr Edgar had used the Neue Zeit to sell himself to Kinkel and — evidence of the man’s fecundity — made the most of the occasion by printing Biskamp’s manuscripts as contributions of his own. That oaf Kinkel! He seeks to ruin the Neue Zeit not by giving the clown money and allowing him to continue as editor, but by buying the said clown who, throughout his editorship, had eschewed all polemic! But in this way Gottfried thought to rid himself once and for all of competition, however small. One more word about the activities of this same Gottfried. A third German paper made its appearance here, first under the title Londoner Deutsche Zeitung, then under the title Germania. This paper, edited by a certain Ermani, had Austrian leanings. Gottfried revealed that the editor had committed some felony, got Dr Juch to threaten him, bought up his paper and press for a mere song (whether out of the Revolutionary Fund or with money supplied by the Prussian Embassy isn’t known) and, they say, intends to continue publishing the sheet under Juch’s management and a different title. Kinkel’s paper has 1,700 subscribers, is coming to be a source of income, and the fellow wishes to secure it against any competition or polemics.
After the clown’s betrayal, Biskamp, etc., founded Das Volk, and he and the louts first approached me indirectly through Liebknecht. Then Biskamp came to see me.
I told him that we could not contribute directly to a small paper nor, for that matter, to any party paper which we did not ourselves edit. However, the latter was a move for which every prerequisite was lacking at the moment. On the other hand Mr Liebknecht might give Biskamp the benefit of his collaboration. I appreciated, of course, that Gottfried has not been left in command of the field and that his dirty schemes should be baffled, but all I would undertake to do was to let them have from time to time published Tribune articles which they could use; to urge my acquaintances to take the paper; and, finally, to give them verbally any information that reached me and ‘pointers’ about this and that. On the other hand I stipulated that Biskamp should forthwith publish (he will do so in the very next number) a documented account of Bauer’s and Kinkel’s dirty work. (I shall thus have killed 2 birds with one stone, even if the little paper ceases publication.) Further, that the clown’s objective heights must be abandoned and that the tone adopted must in every respect be aggressive and polemical and, indeed, as amusing as possible.
Consequently, I would ask you, Lupus, Gumpert and anyone else you can get hold of (point out that our only interest in the thing is that it’s anti-Kinkel) to subscribe to Das Volk, office: 3 Litchfield Street, Soho. (Quarterly subscription 3/6d post free.) Gumpert and Biskamp both come from Hesse-Cassel and since the former may have an occasional bon mot up his sleeve, he might send it to his compatriot. Finally, let me have the name of some fellow (a stationer) in Manchester to whom Das Volk could be sent for distribution. (Write to the Bradfordian as well.)
I consider Das Volk to be a dilettante rag like our Brussels and Paris papers. But covertly and without intervening directly, we can use it to worry the life out of Gottfried, etc., etc. Again, the moment may come, and that very soon, when it will be of crucial importance that, not just our enemies, but we ourselves should be able to publish our views in a London paper. Biskamp works for nothing and hence is all the more deserving of support.
What is really choice is that in No. 18 of the Hermann, the clown wrote a highly inane, piddling sort of article in which he ‘proves’ that, because of ‘England’s neutrality’, the present war is condemned to be a ‘hole and corner war’. ‘Conclusive’ deeds are no longer possible on the unhappy Continent, which is the reason why noble England remains ‘neutral’. In No. 19 the clown is given a dressing-down by Blind from the indignant democratic-patriotic standpoint and by Bucher from the Urquhartite and thus, having been stamped upon by all parties, he will doubtless soon get the sack, even from the Hermann.
This has been a very good lesson for the louts. Scherzer, that old-Weitlingian jackass, imagined that he could nominate party representatives. At my meeting with a deputation of the louts (I have refused to visit any association, but Liebknecht is chairman of one and Laplander of another) I told them straight out that we owed our position as representatives of the proletarian party to nobody but ourselves; this, however, had been endorsed by the exclusive and universal hatred accorded us by every faction and party of the old world. You can imagine how taken aback the oafs were.
If you haven’t any Po and Rhine left, you must order some. Copies are also needed for Steffen, Weydemeyer and several reviews here.
Might it be possible to send poor Eccarius, who is again going to pieces in his sweat-shop, a fresh consignment of port?
Have received a letter from Weydemeyer and Komp. Shall send it you very soon. Thanks to them Duncker has already had orders for about 100 copies of my [Contribution to Critique of Political] Economy from the United States.
Tell Lupus that, from the beginning, Beta (Bettziech), editor of How do you do? was also Gottfried’s real editorial factotum.