Marx-Engels Correspondence 1863
Source: MECW, Volume 41, p. 479;
First published: abridged in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913 and in full in MEGA, Berlin, 1930.
I hereby acknowledge the £10 with many thanks. Being uncertain whether you would be able to send the money for Monday, and in view of the great fear of bills of exchange which obtains in this house, I had simultaneously written to Dronke. For the past four weeks little Jenny has again had a slight cough. Today I sent her to see Dr Allen.
I myself am not quite fit either, but am rid of my worst complaint. In the meantime, which would certainly delight Vogt, I have been wolfing sulphur!
Izzy has sent me (and you, too, perhaps) the speech he made in court about indirect taxation. One or two individual bits are good, but for one thing it is, on the whole, written in an unbearably officious, chatty style, with absurd pretensions to scholarship and consequentialness. In addition, it is essentiellement the confection of a ‘pupil’ who cannot wait to make a name for himself as a ‘thoroughly learned’ man and original scholar. Hence the abundance of historical and theoretical blunders. One example may suffice (should you not have read the thing yourself). To impress the court and the public, he tries to give a kind of retrospective history of the argument against indirect taxation and therefore, going back at random beyond Boisguillebert and Vauban, cites Bodin, etc. And here he shows himself to be the schoolboy par excellence. He omits the physiocrats, clearly ignorant of the fact that everything A. Smith, etc., wrote on the subject was cribbed from them and that in general they were the protagonists where this question was concerned. Likewise, ‘indirect taxation’ is, in true schoolboy fashion, seen as ‘bourgeois taxation’, and so indeed it was ‘In the Middle Ages’, but not today (not, at least, where the bourgeoisie is developed), to discover which he need seek no further than Mr R. Gladstone et co. in Liverpool. The jackass doesn’t appear to know that the argument against ‘indirect’ taxation is one of the platforms of the English and American friends of ‘Schulze-Delitzsch’ et cie, and hence isn’t at any rate directed against them — the Free-Traders, I mean. Again, in true schoolboy fashion he applies a proposition of Ricardo’s to the Prussian real estate tax. (Quite wrong, this.) Quite touching, how he imparts to the court ‘his’ discoveries, the fruit of the most profound ‘learning and truth’ and of terrible ‘night vigils’, namely that, in the Middle Ages ‘landed property’ prevailed, in later times ‘capital’, and at present the ‘principle of the workers’ estate’, ‘labour’, or the ‘moral principle of labour'; and, on the same day as he was imparting this discovery to the louts, Senior Councillor to the Government Engel (knowing nothing about him) was imparting it to a more distinguished audience at the Academy of Singing. He and Engel exchanged ‘epistolary’ congratulations upon their ‘simultaneous’ scientific findings.
The ‘workers’ estate’ and the ‘moral principle’ are indeed achievements on the part of Izzy and the Senior Councillor to the Government.
I have not been able to bring myself to write to the fellow since the beginning of this year.
If I commented on his stuff, I'd be wasting my time; besides, he appropriates every word as a ‘discovery’. To rub his nose in his plagiarism would be absurd since, in view of the state they are in after he has finished with them, I have no desire to relieve him of our ideas. Nor would it do to accord recognition to such rodomontade and indiscretions. The fellow would instantly exploit it.
So, there’s nothing to be done but wait until he ultimately boils over. Then I shall have a very nice excuse, namely that (like Senior Councillor to the Government Engel) he is for ever insisting it’s not ‘communism’. So, in my reply, I shall say that, had I wished to take any notice of him, these repeated asseverations of his would have compelled me
1. to show the public how and where he had cribbed from us;
2. how and wherein we differ from his stuff.
Hence, so as not to compromise ‘communism’ in any way or injure him, I had ignored him completely.
Come to that, the chap is making all this hullabaloo out of sheer vanity. Throughout 1859 he was heart and soul for the Prussian liberal bourgeois party. Now he may find it more convenient to attack the ‘bourgeois’ under the auspices of the government than to attack the ‘Russians’. To rail against the Austrians and adulate the Italians has always been as typical of your Berliner as to keep one’s trap shut about the Russians, which is what the valiant lad does.