Marx-Engels Correspondence 1870

Karl Marx to Ludwig Kugelmann, 17 February 1870

Source: Karl Marx, Letters to Dr Kugelmann (Martin Lawrence, London, undated). Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

Dear Kugelmann

Yesterday, for the first time for a long time, I went out into the fresh air.

First of all business. Be so kind as to send at once a copy of Vogt [1] to Ascher and Co, Unter den Linden 11, Berlin. I should be glad if, in despatching the book, you would get a receipt from the post office and send it on to me. You would also oblige me if you could let me know when, roughly, K Hirsch [2] wrote to you about the Vogt.

The pamphlet which you sent me is one of the plaidoyers [3] with which the privileged classes of the German-Russian-Baltic provinces are at the present time appealing to German sympathy. These canaille, [4] who have always distinguished themselves by their zeal in the service of the Russian diplomats, army and police and who, since the transference of the provinces from Poland to Russia, have willingly bartered their nationality for the legal authorisation to exploit the peasantry, are now crying out because they see their privileged position endangered. The old system of estates, orthodox Lutheranism and the exploitation of the peasants is what they call German culture, the protection of which Europe is now to take in hand. Hence, too, the last word of this pamphlet – landed property as the basis of civilisation, and landed property, moreover, as the wretched pamphleteer himself admits, mainly consisting of directly manorial estates or of peasant holdings subject to tribute.

In his quotations – in so far as they deal with Russian communal property – the fellow shows his ignorance as well as the cloven hoof. Schédo Ferroti [5] is one of the fellows who attribute (in the interest of landlordism, of course) the pitiful position of the Russian peasant to the existence of communal property, just as, formerly, the abolition of serfdom in Western Europe – instead of the serf’s loss of his land – was decried as the cause of pauperism. The Russian book Land and Freedom is of the same calibre. Its author is a Baltic cabbage-junker called Von Lilienthal. What impoverishes the Russian peasantry is what impoverished the French under Louis XIV, etc – state taxes and obrok [6] to the great landowners. Instead of causing misery, communal property has been the only factor mitigating it.

It is, moreover, historically false to say that communal property is Mongolian. As I have repeatedly indicated in my writings, it is of Indian origin and is therefore to be found among all civilised European peoples in the early stages of their development. The specifically Slavic (not Mongolian) form in Russia (which is also found among the non-Russian South Slavs) bears in fact greatest similarity, mutatis mutandis, [7] to the old German modification of Indian communal property.

That the Pole Duchinski [8] in Paris should declare the Great Russian race to be not Slavic, but Mongolian, and should have tried to prove this with a great show of erudition, was to be expected from the standpoint of a Pole. Nevertheless, his contention is not correct. It is not the Russian peasantry, but the Russian nobility, which is strongly alloyed with Mongolian-Tartar elements. Henri Martin, [9] the Frenchman, took the theory from Duchinski and ‘the inspired Gottfried Kinkel’ [10] has translated Martin and has thrust himself forward as an ardent friend of Poland, in order to make the democratic party forget his servile homage to Bismarck.

That, on the other hand, the Russian state, as against Europe and America, in its policy represents Mongolism, is of course a truth that has by now become a commonplace and therefore accessible even to people like Gottfried and the Baltic cabbage-junkers, philistines, priests and professors. The Baltic-German outcry must, therefore, in spite of everything, be exploited, because it puts the great German power, Prussia, in a ‘ticklish’ position. Everything that arouses antipathy on our part towards those ‘representatives of German culture’ is, precisely on that account, deemed worthy of protection in the eyes of Prussia. Another example of the crass ignorance of the pamphleteer: in his opinion the abandonment of Russian possessions in North America was merely a diplomatic trick on the part of the Russian government, which, be it remarked in passing, was very hard pressed for costs. But the main point is this: the American Congress has recently published the documents relating to the transaction. These include, among other things, a report of the American envoy in which he writes explicitly to Washington: the acquisition is in the meantime not worth a cent economically, but – but thereby England is cut off from the sea on one side through the Yankees and the reversion of the whole of British North America to the US is accelerated. That’s the secret of the whole affair!

I approved of the substance of your correspondence with Jacoby, but the exaggerated praises of my activities have really shocked me. Est modus in rebus! [11] If you must praise, then old Jacoby [12] himself is very praiseworthy. What other old radical in Europe possesses the sincerity and courage to place himself so decidedly on the side of the proletarian movement? That his transition measures and detailed proposals are of little value is an entirely unimportant matter. Between ourselves – take all in all – I expect more for the social movement from Germany than from France.

I have had a big row with that intriguer Bakunin. But more about that in my next letter.

My best compliments to Madame la Comtesse and Fränzchen.



1. Karl Vogt (1817-1895) – German natural scientist, vulgar materialist and petty-bourgeois democrat. After the Revolution of 1848-49 he lived in Switzerland, an active member of the ‘League of Peace and Liberty’. In his book, Herr Vogt, Marx proved that during the Italian war Vogt acted as agent of Napoleon III (in 1870 it was proved by documentary evidence that he was in the pay of Napoleon) – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.

2. Karl Hirsch (1841-1900) – German publicist and Lassallean. Later joined Liebknecht and Bebel with whom he worked on the Volksstaat. In the 1860s and 1870s he stood close to Marx – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.

3. Pleas – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.

4. Riff-raff – MIA.

5. D K Schédo Ferroti – pseudonym of Baron Heinrich Erdmann Carl Friedrich Ernst Wilhelm von Fircks (1812-1872), a prolific writer on Russian and East European matters – MIA.

6. Quit rent – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.

7. Having changed what must be changed – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.

8. Francisque (Franciszek) Henryk Duchinski (1816-1893) – Polish patriot, historian and publicist. Author of the theory of the Mongolian origin of the Great Russians – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.

9. Henri Martin (1810-1883) – French historian, Republican Nationalist – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.

10. Gottfried Kinkel (1815-1882) – German publicist and writer; petty-bourgeois democrat. Later went over to Bismarck – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.

11. There is a measure in all things – Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute.

12. Johann Jacoby, on 20 January 1870, made a speech on the ‘aims of the workers’ movement’, in which he proclaimed his sympathy with it. Johann Jacoby (1805-1877) – German radical. ‘One of the very rare German bourgeois democrats who, after the lessons of 1870-71, went over not to chauvinism or German liberalism but to socialism.’ (Lenin) (Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute)