‘The Marx-Engels Institute’ by Alexander Trachtenberg from Workers Monthly. Vol. 5 No. 1. November, 1925.

Riazanov (center) and Institute staff.
‘The Marx-Engels Institute’ by Alexander Trachtenberg from Workers Monthly. Vol. 5 No. 1. November, 1925.

The Russian Communist Party decided in 1920 to establish a Marx Museum where everything pertaining to the life and work of Marx would be collected and preserved as a monument to the man whose ideas and efforts came to fruition in the victorious Proletarian Revolution. At the suggestion of Comrade D. Riazanov, who was made its head, and who is one of the best informed Marxian scholars, the scope of the Museum was broadened to include scientific research into the origin and development of Marxism and the Socialist movement. The Museum was renamed “The Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels Institute,” and by special decree the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet government declared it a national institution under its own authority. A palatial building which was formerly the Moscow residence of Prince Dolgoruky was turned over to the Institute for its activities.

As its first task the Institute began to build a library of books and other material dealing with Socialism and related subjects. The various nationalized private libraries and literary collections were combed for appropriate published works, and a good deal of valuable material was obtained for the Institute. To this nucleus were later added several important collections which Comrade Riazanov had bought during his travels in Austria, Germany and England. The Institute’s library now boasts of having over 100,000 volumes and, in some fields, it claims precious collections which can be rivaled only by those in the British Museum and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

The Institute in 1924.

The Institute’s Program.

The Institute has set for itself the following program:

1. To collect and properly classify all published writings of Marx and Engels. First editions which were brought out under the direct supervision of the authors and in the original languages are particularly sought, as errors may have crept into later editions or translations, not to speak of omissions, excisions, or other editorial changes which were perpetrated upon the writings of the founders of scientific Socialism by those who were responsible for the later editions. In addition to first editions of books and pamphlets the Institute has been searching for copies of newspapers, magazines and other periodical publications to which Marx and Engels contributed articles. This fugitive material is harder to obtain. Where they are known to exist and cannot be secured for the Institute, photostatic copies are made of the printed articles in order to preserve under one roof everything that was published by Marx and Engels during their lifetime.

2. To collect all unpublished writings, notes, and original letters of Marx and Engels. Upon Engels’ death in 1895 the German Social-Democratic Party became the guardian of most of the literary heritage of Marx and Engels. Eduard Bernstein and August Bebel were made the executors. As Bernstein was then living in England he kept a portion of the material in London, sending the rest to the archives of the German Party in Berlin. Laura Lafargue, Marx’ daughter, took some material with her to France. Thus at the very beginning the personal libraries of Marx and Engels, their manuscripts, notes, letters, etc., instead of being carefully preserved in one place, were distributed over three countries with no record of the entire heritage having been made in advance. Much of the material was lost on account of this gross neglect and will probably never be retrieved. It is hard to understand how men like Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Kautsky and Bernstein, personal friends of Marx and Engels, who were entrusted with their literary heritage, did not treat it with the care it deserved. Later events showed that they treated with the same respect the ideas and policies promulgated by Marx and Engels.

Riazanov at his Institute office.

When the German Party later began to publish the material left by Marx and Engels, it did not publish everything; that was available. The most significant posthumous publications are Marx’ Theories of Surplus Value, edited in three volumes by Kautsky; From the Literary Heritage of Marx and Engels, edited by Franz Mehring in three volumes and containing a great deal of important matter not published before, and the Marx-Engels Letters in four volumes which were | edited by Bebel and Bernstein. Sorge’s volume containing | a great many letters from Marx and Engels to him and others was published independently the year following Engels’ death. The Neue Zeit published from time to time letters and other material from the manuscripts which were in the German Party archives.

Comrade Riazanov spent many years studying the writings of Marx and Engels. He was particularly searching for everything that was left unpublished of Marx’ and Engels’ works. He worked in the German party archives and followed up every clue for other available unpublished manuscripts. He was particularly successful in extracting some manuscripts from Bernstein who had grown to consider them as his personal property. Some valuable manuscripts were discovered by Riazanov accidentally among other papers turned over to him for inspection. Had it not been for the tenacity and perseverance of Riazanov during the past twenty-five years some very important manuscripts, or portions of them, such as The Holy Family, German Ideology, etc., would have been considered “lost” or “eaten by mice” —Bernstein’s usual excuses when Riazanov hounded him for some material which he knew ought to have been — preserved.

‘Philosophy’ cabinet of the Institute.

The original manuscripts could not be brought to Moscow. The German Social-Democratic party would not part with the heritage, though it cared little about its safety, nor was it interested to have it all properly edited and published. When I saw Riazanov in Berlin in 1923, he was engaged in photographing a great deal of that material. Riazanov then claimed to possess about 10,000 photostats of the original writings and rare printed material of Marx and Engels.

Publishing Activities.

The collection of all published and unpublished writings of Marx and Engels, including letters, notes, addresses, etc., properly classified, edited, and annotated by the various research workers of the Institute will offer an opportunity to reconstruct as completely as possible the great scientific achievements of Marx and Engels. Thirty years after Engels’ death there appears the possibility of seeing in print the material which Marx intended for his Capital and other economic treatises; also important writings of Engels on natural science, physics, chemistry, military science, etc. the publication of which was neglected by Engels on account of his work on Capital and other Marx manuscripts after Marx’ death. Letters of Engels to Bebel, Adler, Kautsky and Bern- stein dealing with important tactical questions will be brought to light. Probably the fact that the Marx-Engels Institute was preparing to publish Engels’ letters has caused Bernstein to bring them out recently in Germany.

The complete edition of all writings of Marx and Engels in Russian will consist of thirty-six volumes. There will also be an international edition in which the writings of Marx and Engels will appear in the languages in which they were written. The smaller works, pamphlets or articles will be arranged chronologically, Marx’ writings beginning in 1837 and Engels’ in 1839. This will take seventeen volumes. Volumes 18 to 25 will contain the correspondence between Marx and Engels and letters from Marx and Engels to Lasalle, Wedemeyer, Kugelmann, Freiligrath, Liebknecht, Bebel, Sorge, Becker, Bernstein, Adler, Kautsky, Zassulitch, etc. Volumes 26 to 34 will contain the economic works of Marx’ Capital, Theories of Surplus Value and some unpublished economic writings. The last two volumes, 35 and 36 of this ambitious collection, will be devoted to a complete index of names, subjects and cross-references, and will contain a great deal of biographical and bibliographical material. The completion of this stupendous undertaking will be an event of great significance to our movement. In addition to this definitive edition of the writings of Marx and Engels, which will be primarily for students of Marxism, the Institute is also preparing popular editions of the most important works with explanatory notes in order to make these works more accessible to the masses.

The Institute’s reading room.

Extensive Research Planned.

4. If the Marx-Engels Institute had set for itself only one task above described it would have earned the lasting gratitude of every Marxist, and we could take additional pride in the Russian Revolution for having made it all possible. But the Institute has still a larger program in view.

In thorough Marxist fashion, it wants to give the labor movement Marx and Engels, not only as they are mirrored in their writings, but the living Marx and Engels, tackling the various sciences, acquiring knowledge and storing it for future use, working out methods of thought and action, dealing with burning problems of the day.

The Institute is a research institution par excellence. Since Marx and Engels closely followed and were influenced in their social philosophy by the study of the social and economic history and conditions of Germany, France and England where they lived, the Institute has collected all available published material dealing with those countries. As the fields of history, economics, philosophy and sociology were the particular domains in which Marx and Engels specialized, the Institute has established for each of these fields special departments, where all material upon which Marx and Engels drew for their studies is properly classified and studied in order to reconstruct the intellectual road which the two great scholars and leaders traversed. The Institute plans to publish a bibliography of the material in the various fields which Marx and Engels studied. This will be gathered from the various references in published and unpublished works and notes left by them. All the works quoted by Marx and Engels in their writings are being collected for the library of the Institute where they will be studied by the various research workers. The Institute has also a department devoted to the history of the political and economic phases of the labor movement. The Utopian Socialist schools, which were especially’ studied by Marx and Engels, and the activities of the First International, in which Marx and Engels took a very active part, have been singled out for special attention in the history of Socialism and Labor. There is also a special department on Russian Marxism.

‘German History’ cabinet of the Institute.

All these departments have been organized for research and study and not for exhibition purposes. As a result of the work of these departments the Institute plans to give the revolutionary movement, besides the thirty-six volumes of collected writings of Marx and Engels, twenty-seven volumes of Plekhanov’s works, sixteen of which have already been published, twenty-five volumes of Kautsky’s works, two of which have already been published, and the complete works of Lasalle, Lafargue, Labriola, Mehring, Luxemburg, and Zassulitch. All these will be edited by Comrade Riazanov.

As the materialist school of philosophy exerted a great influence over Marx and Engels, the writings of Democritus, Feuerbach, Holbach, etc., are being studied and prepared for publication in a Library of Materialism under the joint editorship of Riazanov and Deborin. An edition of Hegel’s writings in eight volumes is also contemplated.

While the Marx and Engels writings are being studied and prepared for publication, certain material which is coming to light and which the Institute believes should not be withheld any longer, is being published periodically in the Archive of the Marx-Engels Institute. Two volumes of this Archive have already been published. The first volume contains the letters from Engels to Bernstein and several drafts of a letter from Marx to Vera Zassulitch dealing with the land problem in Russia, and theses on Feuerbach by Marx and Engels. The prize contribution in this volume is, however, that of Comrade Riazanov, who reveals to us the true character of the literary executors of Marx and Engels.

German Socialists Falsify Engels.

Among the manuscripts secured by Riazanov there was the original Engels’ Introduction to Marx’ Class Struggles in France 1848-1850. By a careful comparison of the manuscript with the published text Riazanov discovered certain excisions intentionally made by Bernstein before it was published. It was this garbled introduction that Bernstein utilized in giving the world the impression that Engels had forsaken the path of revolutionary action, and had joined the reformist and pacifist camp. In the introduction to his Evolutionary Socialism Bernstein writes as follows: “In 1895 Friedrich Engels stated in detail in the preface to War of the Classes (Class Struggles) that the time of political surprises, of the “revolution of small conscious minorities at the head of unconscious masses” was today at an end, that a collision on a large scale with the military would be the means of checking the steady growth of Social-Democracy and of even throwing it back for a time—in short, that Social-Democracy would flourish far better by lawful than by unlawful means and by violent revolution. And he points out in conformity with this opinion that the next task of the party should be “to work for an uninterrupted increase of its votes or to carry on a slow propaganda of parliamentary activity.” (Bernstein’s emphasis).

Riazanov recalls how Kautsky was then furious about this and publicly questioned the veracity of the views ascribed to Engels. Kautsky demanded in the Neue Zeit that Bernstein publish the original manuscript of the Introduction, which Bernstein never did. (This was at the time when Kautsky was fighting Bernstein’s revisionism). Riazanov also quotes letters of Engels to Lafargue and to Kautsky protesting against the interpretation of certain passages in the Introduction which was written during the time when the exception laws against the Socialists were being considered in Germany. Engels was particularly furious at Liebknecht, who was then editor of the Vorwaerts, for printing garbled excerpts of his Introduction, making him appear a “pacifist supporter of legality.”

After giving this historical polemic of 1895, the year of Engels’ death, Riazanov tells how he found the original manuscript of the Introduction in the archives of the German Social-Democratic Party. The result of his close scrutiny and verbatim comparison between the manuscript and the published Introduction of the German edition revealed the following surgical operations performed on a very important introduction by Engels to a very important monograph by Marx. In order to show exactly how the literary executors intentionally falsified and adulterated this Introduction I shall quote from the latest German edition of the book Die Klassenkaempfe in Frankreich 1848-1850, published by Buchhandlung Vorwaerts, Berlin, 1920) printing in bold type the portions which were omitted. In the parallel column ap- pears the translation of this portion, quoted from the English translation published in this country by the Socialist Labor Party in 1924 with a translation of the omitted parts printed in bold type.


Page 21 “Therefore, even during the classic period of street battles, the barricade had a moral rather than a material effect. It was a means to shake the solidity of the military. If it held until that had been accomplished, the victory was won; if not, it meant defeat. This is the point of view to be borne in mind, even… in an investigation of the prospects of the future street-battles.

Page 23 “And finally, the newly built quarters of the large cities, erected since 1848, have been laid out, in long, straight and wide streets as though made to order for the effective use of the new cannon and rifles. The revolutionary, who would himself select the new working class districts in the north of Berlin for a barricade battle, would have to be a lunatic, Does this mean that the street-battles will Play no part in the future? Not at all. It simply means that conditions have become far more unfavorable for the civilian fighters since 1848, and far more favorable for the military forces. Street battles in the future may be successful only if this unfavorable situation can be neutralized by other factors. Such fights will therefore be far less usual in the earlier stages of a great revolution, than in its later course, and will have to be fought with greater resources of strength. Such battles will rather resort—as in the great French Revolution, and as on September 4th and October 3ist, 1870, in Paris—to open attack than to the defensive tactics of the barricades.

Page 24 “In the Latin countries, too, it is being realized that the old tactics must be revised. Mere unprepared random fighting has everywhere been relegated to the background. Everywhere, the German example of the utilization of the franchise and of the conquest of all possible positions has been imitated.”

Page 26 “To keep going this growth (Reference is here made to the increasing parliamentary influence of the German Socialists—A.T.) without interruption until it swamps the ruling governmental system, not to use up this daily increasing accumulation of force, but to preserve it intact for the decisive day, that is our main task.”

Page 27 “To shoot out of existence a party numbering millions, that is not possible with all the magazine rifles in Europe and America. But normal development would be hindered, the accumulated forces would perhaps not be available at the critical (‘decisive’ stricken out by Engels) moment, the decisive struggle (English translation gives decision) delayed, prolonged and coupled with heavy sacrifices.”

Page 28 “But do not forget that the German Reich (Engels addresses here the Prussian reactionaries—A.T.), like all small states, and indeed like all modern states, is the product of a covenant; first of a covenant among the rulers themselves, and second of a covenant of the ruler with the people. If one party breaks the agreement, the whole of it falls, the other party being no longer bound by it. As Bismarck has so neatly shown the way (in 1866). If you violate the Constitution of the Empire, the Social-Democracy will be free to act or not act with regard to you as it may choose. But what it will do—there is hardly any fear of its telling you about that now.”

The above quoted excisions show that the leaders of the German Social-Democracy have not only betrayed a personal trust which Engels, before his death, bestowed upon them, but have also conspired to adulterate and falsify his views on a very important and vital tactical question. Comrade Riazanov and the Russian Communist Party under whose direction he worked, deserve the gratitude of the entire revolutionary movement for having “excavated” from the archives of the German Social-Democracy that part of the Introduction which the literary executors of Engels have so traitorously and flagrantly suppressed, and which he is now able to restore to us. Under the able and devoted leadership of Riazanov the Institute is continuing these researches and we may expect more important contributions of Marx and Engels which the German Socialists concealed either in part or in their entirety.

This tremendous undertaking of the Institute to reconstruct Marx and Engels in their full scientific greatness and revolutionary glory is bound to redound to the benefit of the revolutionary labor movement. The Communist parties of the various countries which will spread the works of the Institute among the masses will find thousands of workers who still follow Socialist leadership coming over to them when they learn of the dastardly betrayal of the memory and principles of Marx and Engels by that leadership.

Marx and Engels in America.

Not very many of our American comrades know of the great interest which Marx and Engels took in the early American Socialist and labor movements. There is a great deal of Marx and Engels material available in this country which must be “excavated” and brought to light. There are several libraries in this country which have buried writings of Marx and Engels. Some writings, though published, are little available to the membership. The writer reported to the last Convention about his photographing of over two hundred original letters of Marx and Engels which are in the files of the New York Public Library. Those letters dealt to a great extent with American problems. They should be translated and made available for our movement. How many of our comrades know of Marx’ and Engels’ continued contributions to the New York Tribune for about ten years, of their reactions to our Civil War, of their contact with people active in the early labor and Socialist movement through the American sections of the First International and through private correspondence? And what about the atrociously translated and poorly published writings of Marx and Engels which we have in the English language?

The Marx and Engels Institute does not belong to the Russian Communist Party alone. It belongs to the revolutionary working-class movement of the world. It is the gift of the Russian Revolution to us all. The Communist International has pledged the support of all the Communist parties to the work of the Institute. By doing our share in bringing to light a great deal of material dealing with the early Socialist and labor history which can be easily made available, we shall aid the Institute and ourselves learn something of the traditions of the American labor movement.

Besides encouraging Marxian and Socialist research our Party should stimulate serious study of the fundamentals of Marxism. To our demand that every Party member should be a Leninist we must insist that he should also be a Marxist. In fact one cannot be a true Leninist without being a thorough Marxist.

The Marx-Engels Institute is doing yeoman’s work in salvaging the heritage of Marx and Engels so that we may be richer in tools with which to sharpen our minds and steel our energies. Let us make the most of this opportunity.

*At the last Convention of the Workers (Communist) Party of America the writer made a short report on the activities of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow and the possibilities for Marxian research in this country. The delegates received the report with marked interest and voted unanimously to endorse the work of the Institute and to extend the Party’s co-operation in its endeavors. The Convention also instructed the reporter to write an article for the Workers’ Monthly in order to acquaint the Party membership with the aims and activities of the Institute. The present article is an attempt to comply with that instruction.—A.T.

The Institute in 1930.

The Workers Monthly began publishing in 1924 as a merger of the ‘Liberator’, the Trade Union Educational League magazine ‘Labor Herald’, and Friends of Soviet Russia’s monthly ‘Soviet Russia Pictorial’ as an explicitly Party publication. In 1927 Workers Monthly ceased and the Communist Party began publishing The Communist as its theoretical magazine. Editors included Earl Browder and Max Bedacht as the magazine continued the Liberator’s use of graphics and art.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/culture/pubs/wm/1925/v5n01-nov-1925.pdf

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