Marx-Engels Correspondence 1884

Engels To Karl Kautsky
In Zurich

London, 26 June 1884

Source: MECW Volume 47. p. 155.

Dear Kautsky,

The anti-Rodbertus ms. goes back tomorrow by registered mall. 1 found little that called for comment and have made a few pencilled notes. Apart from these 1 would add the following:

1) Roman Law is the consummation of the law of simple, i.e. of precapitalist, commodity production, though the latter also embodies much of the legal system of the capitalist period. Exactly, that is, what our burghers needed at the time of their rise and, in accordance with local common law, did not get.

On p. 10 there are several things 1 object to: 1. Surplus value is the exception only in the case of production by slaves and serfs. It ought to read surplus product, most of which is directly consumed but not valorised.

2) As regards the means of production, the matter is not quite as you say. In all societies based on a division of labour that has evolved naturally, the product, and hence also to some extent the means of production, dominates the producer-on occasion at any rate-as did, in the Middle Ages, the soil the peasant who was simply an appurtenance of the land and the tool the guild handicraftsman. Division of labour is the direct domination of the instruments of labour over the worker, although not in the capitalist sense.

Much the same applies to the concluding bit on the means of production.

1) You should not separate agriculture any more than technology from political economy, as you do on pp. 21 and 22. Rotation of crops, artificial fertilisers, the steam engine, the power loom, cannot be separated from capitalist production any, more than the tools of the savage and the barbarian from his production. The tools of the savage condition his society just as much as do more modern ones capitalist society. What your view boils down to is that, while production does indeed determine the social institution today, it did not do so before capitalist production existed, because tools had not as yet been guilty, of original sin.

The moment you say means of production, you say society and a society determined by, amongst other things, those means of production. Means of production as such, extraneous to society and without influence over it, exist no more than does capital as such.

But how the means of production, which, at earlier periods, including that of simple commodity production, exercised only a very mild domination compared with now, came to exercise their present despotic domination, is something that calls for proof and yours strikes me as inadequate, since it fails to mention one pole, namely the creation of a class which no longer had any means of production of its own, or, therefore, any means of subsistence, and hence was compelled to sell itself piecemeal.

In the case of Rodbertus’ positive proposals, emphasis ought to be laid on his Proudhonism- after all he proclaimed himself Proudhon 1, the forerunner of the French Proudhon. Constituted value, invented by, Rodbertus as early, as 1842, is to be established. His proposals here are lamentably retrograde by comparison with Bray and with Proudhon’s exchange bank. The worker is to get only 1/4 of the product, but that is assured! We can discuss this later.

Repose (physical) is suiting me splendidly; I get better every day and this time the cure will be complete. The dictation of the 2nd book of Capital is going ahead splendidly. We’ have already reached Part II – but there are big gaps. The editing is only provisional, of course, but that too will get done. I can see my way ahead, cela suffit.

Ede’s letter received with thanks. You will have to be patient with my letter-writing; I mustn’t get run down again and a frightful amount of work and correspondence is piling up.

My regards to you both,

F. E.

Wage Labour and Capital will go off as soon as the comparison is done, perhaps tomorrow.