Marx-Engels Correspondence 1865

Marx To Engels
In Manchester

Source: MECW Volume 42, p. 159;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913.

[London,] 20 May 1865

Dear Fred,

Cutting enclosed which includes my address to Johnson.

Edgar’s reappearance did, of course, surprise us greatly. Quite the fellow I thought him, and his career quite as I expected it. It is a pity that he could not always have been right-hand to Garibaldi He would have suited him to a tee. But the poor devil is still very weak. He will be staying here for some time, apropos of which you could be doing a good work by contributing to the replenishment of my wine-cellar.

I am working like a horse at the moment, as I must make use of the time when I am fit for work, and the carbuncles are still with me, though they only trouble me locally and do not disturb the brain-pan.

In between times, since one cannot always be writing, I am doing some differential calculus dx/dy. I have no patience to read anything else at all. Any other kind of reading always drives me back to my writing-desk.

Special meeting of the ‘International’ this evening. A good old codger, an old Owenist, Weston (carpenter), has put up the following two propositions that he is constantly defending in The Bee-Hive:

1. that a general rate in the rise of the rate of wages would be of no benefit to the workers;

2. that the trades unions for that reason, etc., are harmful.

If these two propositions, in which he alone in our Society believes, were to be accepted, we should be in a terrible mess, both in respect of the trades unions here and the infection of strikes now prevailing on the Continent.

He will be supported in the matter by a native Englishman — since non-members are also admitted to this meeting — who has written a pamphlet to the same effect. I am, of course, expected to produce a refutation. I ought therefore really to have worked out my réplique for this evening, but I thought it more important to get on with writing my book, and so I shall have to rely on improvisation.

I know in advance, of course, what the two main points will be:

1. that wages determine the value of commodities;

2. that if the capitalists pay 5s. today instead of 4, tomorrow they will sell their commodities for 5s. instead of 4 (being enabled to do so by the increased demand).

Trite though that is, and however little it penetrates the topmost surface of things, it is, nevertheless, not easy to explain to the ignorant all the competing economic questions involved. You can’t compress a course of political economy into 1 hour. But we shall do our best.

Edgar regards it as a good omen that he met you first in England. He liked Lizzy very much.


K. M.

It is a most strange irony of fate that this Edgar, who never exploited anyone other than himself and was always a workman in the strictest sense of the word, went through a war of and with starvation for the slave-owners. Ditto that both brothers-in-law have for the moment been ruined by the American war.