Marx-Engels Correspondence 1882

Engels to Marx
In Ventnor


Source: Marx and Engels Correspondence;
Publisher: International Publishers (1968);
First Published: Gestamtausgabe;
Additional text from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975;
Translated: Donna Torr;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan in 2000;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

London, December 15, 1882

Enclosed is the appendix on the Mark. Be so kind as to send it back on Sunday, so that I can revise it on Monday--I was not able to conclude the final revision to-day.

I consider the view expounded here regarding the conditions of the peasantry in the Middle Ages and the rise of a second serfdom after the middle of the fifteenth century is on the whole incontrovertible. I have been right through Maurer for all the relevant passages and find nearly all my assertions there, supported, moreover, with evidence, while alongside of them are exactly the opposite, but either unsupported by evidence or taken from a period which is not that in question at all. This particularly applies to Fronhöfe [lands liable to feudal dues], Volume 4, conclusion. These contradictions arise in Maurer: (1) from his habit of bringing in evidence and examples from all periods side by side and jumbled together; (2) from the remnants of his legalistic bias, which always gets in his way whenever it is a question of understanding a development; (3) from his great lack of regard for the part played by force; (4) from his enlightened prejudice that since the dark Middle Ages a steady progress to better things must surely have taken place--this prevents him from seeing not only the antagonistic character of real progress, but also the individual retrogressions.

You will find that my thing is by no means all of a piece but a regular patchwork. The first draft was all of one piece but unfortunately wrong. I only mastered the material by degrees and that is why there is so much patching together.

Incidentally the general re-introduction of serfdom was one of the reasons why no industry could develop in Germany in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the first place there was the reversed division of labour among the guilds--the opposite from that in manufacture: the work was divided among the guilds instead of inside the workshop. In England at this stage migration to the territory outside the guild took place, but in Germany this was prevented by the transformation of the country people and the inhabitants of the agricultural market towns into serfs. But this also caused the ultimate collapse of the trade guild as soon as the competition of foreign manufacture arose. The other reasons which combined with this in holding back German manufacture I will here omit.


Today again fog and gas light the whole day long. Hartmann’s battery probably a failure for lighting; can be used at best for telegraphy, etc. More about this as soon as something definite has been established.

Keep well. I hope you'll soon get weather you're allowed to go out in.