Marx-Engels Correspondence 1864
Source: MECW Volume 41, p. 560;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913.
During the past few days my thoughts have been damnably preoccupied with Lassalle’s misfortune. After all, whatever else he may have been, he was one of the vieille souche and the foe of our foes. And then the thing came so unexpectedly that it’s hard to believe so noisy, stirring, pushing a person is now dead as a door-nail and compelled to hold his tongue altogether. As regards the cause of his death, you are perfectly right. It is one of the many indiscretions he committed in the course of his life. With all that, I am sorry that our relationship should have been clouded in recent years, though the fault lay with him. On the other hand, I am very glad that I resisted every incitement from whatever quarter and never attacked him during his ‘year of triumph’.
Heaven knows, our ranks are being steadily depleted, and there are no reinforcements in sight. I'm convinced, by the by, that this catastrophe would never have happened had L. not consorted with military adventurers and révolutionnaires en gants jaunes in Switzerland. But he was fatalement drawn again and again to this Coblenz of European revolution.
The Bavarian envoy’s daughter, is none other than the daughter of Donniges of Berlin, a fellow university demagogue of Rutenberg and co.’s, originally one of that little weed Ranke’s jeunes gents — or rather, since they were no gentlemen, jeunes gens — whom he got to edit beastly old German imperial annals, etc. What that capering little troll Ranke regarded as wit — playful anecdotalism and the attribution of all great events to mean and petty origins — was strictly forbidden these young men from the country. They were supposed to stick to what was ‘objective’ and leave wit to their master. Our friend Donniges was regarded as something of a rebel, since he contested Ranke’s monopoly of wit, in deed if not word, and showed ad oculos in various ways that he, no less than Ranke, was a born ‘valet’ of ‘history’.
Well, I wonder what will become of the organisation built up by L. Herwegh, that platonic friend of ‘labour’ and practical friend of the ‘Muses’, isn’t the right man. In general, none of its lesser leaders are anything but rubbish. According to what Liebknecht writes, the Schulze-Delitzsch Association in Berlin can now boast no more than 40 members. How things stand over there is clear from the fact that our Wilhelm Liebkn. is a consequential political personage. Should L.’s death lead fellows like SchuIze, etc., to make insolent remarks about the deceased, we can only hope that L.’s official supporters conduct themselves in such a way as to enable us to enter the lists if necessary. I must now find out who has his correspondence. I shall at once obtain an injunction — for already the mob of memoir vultures such as Ludmilla, etc., are circling round these literary remains — prohibiting the publication of a single line of mine or yours. If necessary, this can be legally enforced in Prussia.
So far as America is concerned, I consider the present moment, entre nous, to be extremely critical. If Grant suffers a major defeat, or Sherman wins a major victory, so all right. Just now, at election time, a chronic series of small checks would be dangerous. I fully agree with you that, to date, Lincoln’s re-election is pretty well assured, still 100 to 1. But election time in a country which is the archetype of democratic humbug is full of hazards that may quite unexpectedly defy the logic of events (an expression which Magnus Urquhartus considers no less idiotic than ‘the justice of a locomotive'). An armistice would seem to be quite essential to the South, if it is to be saved from complete prostration. It was the first to raise this cry, not only in its northern organs, but actually in those of Richmond, although, now that the said cry has evoked an echo in New York, the Richmond Examiner is scornfully tossing it back to the Yankees. It is altogether symptomatic that Mr Davis should have decided to treat Negro soldiers as ‘prisoners of war’ — the last official order of his war secretary.
Lincoln has at his disposal considerable means for achieving election. (Needless to say, the peace proposals made by him are mere humbug.) The election of an opposition candidate would probably lead to a genuine revolution. Nevertheless, there is no mistaking the fact that during the next 8 weeks, in the course of which the matter will be decided pro tem, much will depend on military eventualities. This is undoubtedly the most critical moment since the beginning of the war. Once this has been shifted, Old Lincoln can blunder on to his heart’s content. The old man, by the by, cannot possibly ‘create’ generals. He'd be better able to select ministers. Yet the Confederate papers attack their ministers just as the Yankees do those in Washington. Should Lincoln succeed this time — as is highly probable — it will be on a far more radical platform and in completely changed circumstances. Then the old man will, lawyer-fashion, find that more radical methods are compatible with his conscience.
I hope to see you tomorrow! Regards to Madame Liz.
Herewith a photograph of Laura. I am hourly awaiting that of Jenny, but it has not, alas, arrived yet.
Salut Old Boy.