Letters of Marx and Engels 1845

Letter from Engels to Marx

in Brussels

Written: Barmen, 22 February-7 March 1845 [1]
First Published: abridged in Die Neue Zeit, Bd. 2, No.44, Stuttgart, 1900-01 and in full in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Bd. 1, Stuttgart, 1913
Transcribed: Ken Campbell
HTML Markup: S. Ryan

Dear Marx,

After much writing here and there I have at last received your address from Cologne and at once sit down to write to you. The moment I heard of your expulsion [2] I thought it necessary to open a subscription list, so that the extra expense you have incurred thereby should be shared out communist-fashion between us all. The thing has made good progress and three weeks ago I sent fifty odd talers to Jung; I also approached the Duesseldorfers, who have collected the same amount, and in Westphalia, too, I have instigated through Hess the agitation necessary to that end. Meanwhile the subscription list here has not yet been closed. Koettgen, the painter, has been dragging his feet and thus I am not yet in possession of all the money we can expect. However, I hope everything will have come in within a few days, and then I will send you a bill on Brussels. Since I don't, by the way, know whether this will be enough to enable you to set up house in Brussels, I shall, needless to say, have the greatest pleasure in placing at your disposal my fee for my first English piece, [3] some of which at least I hope will soon be paid me, and which I can dispense with for the time being as my old man [4] is obliged to keep me primed. At least the curs shan't have the satisfaction of seeing their infamy cause you pecuniary embarrassment. The fact that you should have been compelled to pay your rent in advance is the height of turpitude. But I fear that in the end you'll be molested in Belgium too, [5] so that you'll be left with no alternative but England.

However, not a word more of the vile business. Kriege will already be with you by the time this arrives. The fellow's a capital agitator. He will tell you a great deal about Feuerbach. The day after he left here I received a letter from Feuerbach -- we had, after all, written to the fellow. [6] Feuerbach maintains that until he has thoroughly demolished the religious piffle, he cannot concern himself with communism to the extent of supporting it in print, and also that, in Bavaria, he is too much cut off from the mainstream of life to be able to do so. However, he says he's a communist and that his only problem is how to practise communism. There's a possibility of his visiting the Rhineland this summer, in which case he must come to Brussels and we'll soon show him how.

Here in Elberfeld wondrous things are afoot. Yesterday we held our third communist meeting in the town's largest hall and leading inn. [7] The first meeting was forty strong, the second 130 and the third at least 200. All Elberfeld and Barmen, from the financial aristocracy to epicerie [8] , was represented, only the proletariat being excluded. Hess gave a lecture. Poems by Mueller and Puettmann and excerpts from Shelley were read, also an article from the Burgerbuch on existing communist colonies.[9] The ensuing discussion lasted until one o'clock. The subject is a tremendous draw. All the talk is of communism and every day brings us new supporters. The Wuppertal communism is une verite, [10] indeed, already almost a force. You have no idea how favourable the soil is here. The most stupid, indolent, philistine people, hitherto without any interest in anything in the world, are beginning almost to rave about communism. How long it will still be tolerated I do not know, but the police at any rate are completely at a loss, themselves not knowing where they stand, and just at a time when the chief swine, the District President, is in Berlin. But should they impose a ban, we'll find some way round it and if we can't, we'll at least have stirred things up so mightily that every publication representing our interest will be voraciously read here. As I shall be leaving at Easter, it is all to the good that Hess should settle here and at the same time publish a monthly [11] at Baedeker's in Elberfeld; Kriege, I believe, has a prospectus of this. [12] In any case, as I have probably told you already, I shall be going to Bonn. [13] My projected journey to Paris has now fallen through, there no longer being any reason for me to go there, but anyhow I shall be coming to Brussels instead, the more so since my mother and two sisters [14] will be visiting Ostend in the summer. I must also pay another visit to Bielefeld and the communists there [15] and, if Feuerbach doesn't come, I shall go to him and then, provided I have the time and the money, visit England once again. As you see, I have a good deal ahead of me. Bergenroth told me that he, too, would probably be going to Brussels in a few weeks or so. Together with some Duesseldorfers, he attended our second meeting, at which he spoke. Incidentally, standing up in front of real, live people and holding forth to them directly and straightforwardly, so that they see and hear you is something quite different from engaging in this devilishly abstract quillpushing with an abstract audience in one's 'mind's eye'.

I am to request you once more on Hess' behalf -- and do so on my own as well -- to send Puettmann something for his quarterly. [16] It's essential that we all appear in the very first issue, so that the thing acquires some character. In any case, without us it will never so much as materialise.

25 February

Yesterday evening we got news that our next meeting was to be broken up by gendarmes and the speakers arrested.

26 February

Yesterday morning the chief burgomaster [17] forbade Mrs. Obermeyer to permit such meetings on her premises, and I received a tip to the effect that if the meeting was held notwithstanding, arrest and prosecution would follow. We have now of course given it up and can only wait and see whether we shall be prosecuted, though this seems hardly likely as we were wily enough not to provide a pretext, and the whole dirty business could only lead to the government's being made a terrible fool of. In any case the public prosecutors and the entire district court were present and the chief prosecutor himself took part in the discussion.

7 March

Since writing the above I have spent a week in Bonn and Cologne. The people in Cologne are now permitted to hold their meeting in connection with the Association. [18] As regards matters here, [16] a rescript has come in from the Duesseldorf government whereby further meetings are forbidden. Hess and Koettgen have protested. Won't do any good, of course, but these people will see from the tone of the protest that they can't get the better of us. Hess is once more tremendously sanguine because in all other respects everything is going so famously and we have made really tremendous progress. The good fellow is always full of dreams.

Our Gesellschaftsspiegel will be splendid, the first sheet has already been censored and everything passed. A mass of contributions. Hess is living in Barmen, in the Stadt London. It seems unlikely that Bergenroth will come to Brussels in the immediate future, though someone else will, whose name I won't mention as this letter will probably be opened. If it can somehow be managed, I too shall come to see you again in April. At the moment my chief problem is money, since the meeting caused some family ructions, after which my old man made up his mind to support me only as regards my 'studia' but not as regards communist aims of any description.

There's a whole lot more I should tell you if I knew of a safe address in Brussels, which in any case you must send me. Much of what has happened here could be harmful to a great many people if perused in a cabinet noir. [19] I shall stay here, then, another four weeks and leave for Bonn at the beginning of April. Anyhow, write to me again before then, so that I know how things are with you. Most of the money has been collected, though I don't yet know what it amounts to; it will be sent off directly. My manuscript [20] will be leaving any day now.

The Critical Criticism has still not arrived! [21] Its new title, The Holy Family, will probably get me into hot water with my pious and already highly incensed parent, though you, of course, could not have known that. I see from the announcement that you have put my name first. Why? I contributed practically nothing to it and anyone can identify your [22] style.

Let me know by return whether you are still in need of money. Wigand is due to send me some in about a fortnight's time and then all you have to do is dispose of it. I fear that the outstanding subscriptions will not amount to more than 120 or 150 francs.

Apropos, we here are planning to translate Fourier and, if at all possible, to produce a 'library of the best foreign socialist writers'. [23] Fourier would seem to be the best to start off with. We've found people to do the translation. Hess has just told me about a Fourier glossary brought out in France by some Fourierist or other. You will know of it. Could you send me particulars at once and, if possible, post me a copy. At the same time recommend what French writings you think suitable for translation for our 'library'. But look sharp; the matter is urgent, as we are already negotiating with a publisher. [24] How far have you got with your book? I must now get down to my manuscript, so goodbye for the present and write directly about the points I have mentioned.


F. E.

Greetings to Kriege and Buergers.
Is Bernays there?

[On the fourth page of the letter]

A Madame Marx. Bois Sauvage, Plaine Ste Gudule, Chez Monsieur J. B. Lannoy, Bruxelles


[1] In the original the first date is written at the beginning of the letter and the second at the end of it.

[2] Marx, Ruge and Bernays were expelled from France for contributing to the newspaper Vorwarts! Expulsion decree issued 11 January 1845. Soon after his arrival in Brussels from Paris, Marx was followed by his wife Jenny Marx and daughter Jenny (born on 1 May 1844). It was with great difficulty that Jenny Marx had managed to get the money for the journey.

[3] F. Engels, The Condition of the Working-Class in England

[4] Friedrich Engels senior, Engels' father.

[5] Engels' apprehension proved to be well-founded. When Marx arrived in Brussels, the Belgian authorities demanded that Marx should undertake not to publish anything concerning politics in Belgium. Marx was compelled to undertake such an obligation on 22 March 1845. The Prussian Government, too, did not leave Marx in peace and pressed for his expulsion from Belgium. To deprive the Prussian authorities of the pretext for interfering in his life, Marx, officially renounced his Prussian citizenship in December 1845.

[6] Feuerbach's letter to Engels and that of Marx and Engels to Feuerbach have not been found.

[7] The meetings in Elberfeld on 8, 15 and 22 February 1845 were described by Engels in the third article of the series "Rapid Progress of Communism in Germany" published in The New Moral World in May 1845. Engels' speeches at the first two meetings were published in the Rheinische Jahrbücher zur gesellschaftlichen Reform. Further meetings were banned by the police.

[8] "grocers"

[9] F. Engels, 'Description of Recently Founded Communist Colonies Still in Existence'.

[10] "a reality"

[11] This refers to the Geseltschaftsspiegel.

[12] Engels took part in preparing Geseltschaftsspiegel. It reflected his intention it expose the evils of the capitalist system and defend the interests of the workers by criticizing half-measures and advocating a radical transformation of the social system.

[13] In his letter to Marx of 20 January 1945.

[14] Apparently, Elise and Hedwig.

[15] The socialist circle in Westphalia and the Rhine Province, with which Engels maintained close contacts and whose members were Otto Luening and Julius Meyer, was mentioned in the report of the Prussian police superintendent Duncker to the Minister of the Interior Bodelschwingh of 18 October 1845. This report contains the following remark concerning Engels: "Friedrich Engels of Barmen is a quite reliable man, but he has a son who is a rabid communist and wanders about as a man of letters; it is possible that his name is Frederick."

[16] Rheinische Jahrbücher.

[17] Johann Adolph Carnap.

[18] This refers to the General Association for Relief and Education founded in Cologne in November 1844.

[19] Cabinets noirs (secret officers or black officers) were established under the postal departments in France, Prussia, Austria and a number of other countries to deal with the inspection of correspondence. They have been in existence since the time of the absolute monarchies in Europe.

[20] F. Engels, The Condition of the Working-Class in England.

[21] The Holy Family by Marx and Engels was published about 24 February 1845.

[22] The manuscript is damaged here, but the text is decipherable.

[23] The projected publication in Germany of the "Library of the Best Foreign Socialist Writers" was also discussed by Marx and Engels in their subsequent letters. Engels mentioned it in the third article of his series "Rapid Progress of Communism in Germany" published in May 1845 in The New Moral World. In early March 1845, Marx drew up a list of authors to be included in the "Library". This list shows that "Library" was intended to be an extensive publication in German of works by French and English utopian socialists. The project was not realized because of publishing difficulties. The only work completed was "A Fragment of Fourier's on Trade" compiled by Engels and published with his introduction and conclusion in the Deutsches Burgerbuch fur 1846.

[24] Julius Theodor Baedeker