Gustav Bang (1871-1915) was the foremost pre-war Danish Marxist theoretician. An editor, Party leader, writer, historian, parliamentarian, and husband to leading Social Democrat parliamentarian Nina Berg. On his death in 1915, International Socialist Review published this considerable essay (I am not sure when it was originally penned) over three issues of ISR in 1915; January, February, and September. Translated by the under-appreciated veteran Danish-American wobbly Marxist, Caroline Nelson. Bang’s focus is almost entirely on the historical context, political and philosophical, not personal or (richly) anecdotal, passages of the letters. Somewhat hampered by the as yet fully discovered and curated extent of the collection and Bang’s own fence-straddling over Revisionism, nevertheless Bang gives us a substantial overview and fine introduction to the absolute bounty that is the Marx-Engels correspondence. This major piece is transcribed for the first time here.
‘Marx’s and Engels’ Forty Year Correspondence’ by Gustav Bang, Translated by Caroline Nelson from International Socialist Review. Vol. 15 Nos. 7,8 1915, Vol. 16 No. 3. September, 1915.
PART ONE from ISR. Vol. 15. No. 7. January, 1915.
The first part of the correspondence throws a light on the modern labor movement in its swaddling clothes, before it was distinct from the revolutionary psychology of the bourgeois revolutions before 1848. In this period the chief work for the later Socialistic movement was,—‘‘The Communist Manifesto.”
Around 1840 there was all over Western Europe a strong, rising intellectual fermentation. People had a sort of a prophetic idea of the revolutionary overthrow that was about to take place. The capitalist method of production had undermined the foundation of society which was built upon forms inherited from older times, and a terrible clash showed itself more and more to be unavoidable.
It was the bourgeoisie, as it naturally had to be, that at that time entertained the revolutionary views, because conditions were at war with their economic interests, and because they were historically to create a free play for capitalist productive evolution. But it went here as it has gone in all other similar events, viz., the movement spread downward to the working class, and here got its special color, in agreement with their economic and social demands, which in the revolutionary circles were strongest in the foreground.
“Communism” was the name under which this first labor movement sprouted among the western European workers—a word ‘ that has no other meaning than the words —Scientific Socialism—that later took its place.
For the first time then do we find in continental Europe a Socialist movement, not alone in small scattered groups, but as a mass movement. This movement was yet extremely muddled in its conception, and in most instances only half conscious of its purpose. It was also strongly impregnated with many petty bourgeois notions, and to a certain extent with all kinds of Utopian dreamings. Nevertheless, it showed that the working class was on the point of awakening to a consciousness of its position in society-and to drawing conclusions from it.
It was very natural that in the most industrially developed countries in Europe, where a new working class had formed, which was very different from the old, it should be there that communism found its first foothold. This was in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Western Germany, not to mention England, where capitalist development was far ahead of any on the continent. Everywhere could be found not only workers, but small bourgeoisie, academicians and officials who were followers of communism; and the membership increased from year to year.
The organizations in the large cities were very active instruments in spreading the communistic ideas over the world. Their membership was. for the most part German political exiles and wandering journeymen, and their program all over was communistic. Here the most intelligent workers became acquainted with the thoughts that were foremost in their time and spread them further.
The first letters in the group were from Engels in 1844-1845 and they were written in western Germany. They give a general view of the communistic movement as it developed there. He tells how he meets comrades everywhere, and that he is constantly surprised to find people who, apparently without any special influence, have formed communistic clubs. So that the ideas that scarcely a year before were not known are now subjects for lively discussions in books and articles, in newspapers and magazines. The first agitation had to be carried on quietly from man to man, but very soon public meetings were held that caused great attention. Engels writes in a letter in February, 1845 “We held a meeting yesterday in the city’s finest hall, in the finest hotel, which was our third communistic meeting. Forty people came to our first meeting, and to the second we had 130, and at the third there were at least 200. The whole of Eberfeld and Barmen, from the money aristocrat to the small merchant, was represented, but the workers remained away. We talk about nothing but communism and each day brings us new followers.”
This letter gives away the weakness that the communist movement in western Europe at that time suffered from lack of proletarian backbone. It consisted of academicians, Officials and small merchants, at least they formed the majority among the communists, even in the places where capitalist industry was most developed. The workers for the greater part remained out of the movement. Engels did not like this situation, and in the very first letter in the collection he says:
“It is already many years since the working class has reached the last steps of the old civilization. The awful increase in the number of crimes, robbery and murder is their protest against the old social organization. The streets are unsafe at nights; the bourgeois get thrashed and sometimes stabbed in the back and robbed, and if the proletariat here develop after the same law as in England, it will become plain that it is useless to protest by violence as individuals against the social order, and they will protest as human beings showing their solidarity through communism. If only we could get to show them the way! But that seems impossible.”
The second weak point in communism was that it was not then clear. It sought to create a Socialist order in society, but regarding the means that should be used to bring this about, there was the greatest confusion. All kinds of imaginary ideas bobbed up and found followers. A theoretical education was imperative. Engels requests Marx to send out a pamphlet on National economy. He writes:
“Even if there is much that you, yourself, are not satisfied with, minds are ripe, and we must strike while the irons are hot.”
At this time Engels wrote his famous book “The Condition of the English Workers.” He wondered what influence it would have on the German workers as a means to awaken their sleeping class consciousness. Regarding it he writes:
“It is natural that when I here hammer away that I really mean to strike the— ass, viz., the German bourgeoisie, whom I plainly make understand that they are just as bad as the English, except for the fact that they have less courage and initiative in their attempt to flay the workers.”
The same muddled ideas greet Engels after he has moved to Paris in 1846, where he constantly associates with the German political exiles. There were hair-splitting debates about all sorts of hazy notions, and endless discussions about human rights and the real worth of material things, etc. The communist’s meetings were so dull that the audiences could not keep awake. Engels sought in lectures and debates to make an account of the aims of communism, and the means that should bring it about. He succeeded in some degree, but the object was well nigh impossible.
About this time Proudhon stepped upon the scene with his ideas which attracted great attention, not only among the French workers, but also among the foreign workers in Paris. The idea was that the workers should use their savings to start factories, in which they at the same time should be both shareholders and workers, and this kind of production should so develop that little by little it would be able to displace capitalist production and establish the Socialist order.
Engels called this a fanatical idea and thought that it was necessary to carry on a critical agitation against it. He writes:
“The German workers are really stupid enough to believe in it, although they cannot keep twenty-five cents in their pockets to pay for their meeting places. They, nevertheless, believe that with their savings they can buy out the whole of beautiful France. The craziest phraseology has to them more worth than the simplest fact and a proven knowledge of economics. That we really have to fight such barbaric nonsense is disgusting.”
Marx now wrote a book against Proudhonism in 1847 under the title of “The Poverty of Philosophy,” and unveiled its impossibility. Engels’ letter from Paris shows that all this was necessary to make room for the idea of modern Socialism among the working class.
Of much greater importance for the future was, of course, “The Communist Manifesto,” which was written by Marx and Engels in cooperation at the end of 1847. The communists had requested them to write out a program with a short ac- count of the communistic objects and purposes. It was to be ratified in a congress to be held in London in December, 1847, where Engels was to be present. From one of Engels’ letters it seems that it was he who planned this world-wide famous, little sketch, while Marx only took part in its editing. Engels wrote:
“I believe that we do best in leaving the catechismic form and calling it, The Communist Manifesto, as we must tell a great deal of history in it. That form we first thought of is not suitable. I bring with me what I have outlined. It is simple telling, but poor editing. I begin with—What is Communism? Right after that I show how the proletariat arose, and its difference from the past working class, and then I go on to the development of the opposing interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie; then I show the economic crises and their results. In this I mix all sorts of side interests and finish with the communist party politics as far as it concerns the public.”
The reaction that followed the revolution of 1848 brought communism to a disorganized and weakened state. The organizations that were saved split up into inner cliques that were often very sectarian.
Marx and Engels drew out of all connection with them. They felt that there was important work to be done in establishing a theoretical basis, for the movement which should form the sure foundation for the coming, real revolutionary labor movement. They isolated themselves, and it was well for them to slip from the whole system of compromising, half-baked ideas, which occupied the groups at that time. They purposely severed themselves from all official positions in the small revolutionary committees and cliques. Engels wrote some- what bitterly:
“We are really more revolutionary than the phrase mongers, because we have learned something which they have not; and we know what we want which they do not.”
Marx several years later gives vent to the following remarks:
“Our position as representatives of the proletarian party we owe to our own efforts, and what establishes it is the general hate that all the groups in the old world and in the old parties have for us.”
It was with great joy that they saw here and there small organizations spring up with the Communist Manifesto as a program. But they understood that a long time must pass before the next great proletarian uprising could take place.
But this awful time, —“this awful peace period,” as Marx calls it, was not wasted. During this time took place not only a slow growth of class consciousness among the working class in Europe, but also the writing of the principle work “Capital” that laid the theoretical foundation for the whole of the modern labor movement.
PART TWO from ISR. Vol. 15. No. 8. February, 1915.
MARX lived a third of a century in London as an exile, until his death in 1883, and during that time he spent his chief energy on Capital. The first succeed in finishing. Engels later completed them on the foundation of the manuscripts that he had left. The first chapters of Capital are the most difficult of understanding. They contain the famous theory of surplus value, and necessarily forms a basis for the understanding of the whole Marxian economic theory.
The correspondence brings us into the work-shop of Marx and Engels and shows us the method that they followed in building up the great work, and the difficulties that they had to overcome before their data could be hammered into shape for their literary undertaking, in order that it might be presented in the finished form in which we now have it. Capital presents a closely built theoretical system that enlightens all sides of capitalistic society, and leaves no important question open for doubt.
We have already seen some of the sufferings and sorrows that Marx had to contend with, and the mass of information that had to be gathered; but that was not all. Marx in his work possessed personally great drawbacks. He worked with difficulty and with dragging effort. As quick as he was in his thoughts and just as surely as he could “strike the nail on the head” with lightning rapidity, just so slow was he when he came to the point of drawing an absolute scientific conclusion. It was against his nature to be satisfied with a surface understanding that might shine for the moment, but on closer study might prove to be false. He thus had to sound every question to the very bottom, until every possibility was tried and all doubts removed. We see that he could occupy himself for years with the same problems. If he reached conclusions that did not seem to him perfectly satisfying and absolutely unassailable, he put them aside for a time, to take them up later for solution. When at last the problems had been solved, then Marx could work at full speed to unfold the theoretical conclusions which he had drawn. He wrote in one of his letters:
“I work like a madman through the nights to embody my economic studies. I work rapidly until four o’clock in the morning generally.”
Engels hurried him on. The absolute correctness of the work played a less important role to him than the agitating influence that it could be used for. He writes in a letter already in 1851:
“You’ll not begin to write as long as there is a single book on the subject that you have not read,” and in 1860, when the pamphlet on “Criticism of Political Economy” was published, and Marx prepared to continue it, he wrote: “You must surely be a little less conscientious in your work; it is much too good for the public. That the book gets written and published is the main thing. The weak points which you can see, the ‘asses’ will never discover, and when there come unsettled times, and history comes to a standstill, what use will it be if you are not ready with Capital? The main cause of this delay lies in your awful conscientiousness, but in the last analysis it is better to get the book out than it is on this account not to get it out at all.”
Marx had first decided to publish his work in a series of pamphlets, but in the early sixties he changed his plan, and decided to give out his economic studies in gathered form. He did not like to let the first volume come to light before it was perfectly clear to him what material should compose the rest of the volumes. The first volume of Capital was, on the whole, ready long before it was published, but there was yet material that was to go into the second and third volume, which was not fully worked out. And before that was done he could not let the first volume be published, because the whole theory in Capital form a connected system, an organic whole, where the divisions are integral parts. Each proves the correctness of the others.
There is a long letter from Marx in 1862 that tells how, in the main, he is perfectly clear on the theory of the division of exploitation, which he presents in Capital, and which turned all the inherited economic theories upside down, and placed the capitalist production in the right light. In a letter in 1868, a year after the publishing of the first volume of Capital, he gives a simple sketch of the contents of the third volume that corresponds perfectly to the work that many years after saw the light.
But while the Marxian economic theory was early formed in its general outline in his mind and partly worked out in manuscript, there were, nevertheless, all the minute details to be worked out to deepen and broaden it. Here it was that Engels’ business experiences and insight came to good use in the work. We find in the letters that time after time Marx directs questions to Engels regarding practical business conditions. He wants to know the general wage of the spinners of different kinds of cloth; how much cotton they can spin in a day, and what price there is on raw cotton and cotton thread, and about the division of labor in the cotton industry, and how the wear and tear of machinery and working material is taken stock of, and how the capitalists take account of that part of the profit that is used in householding, etc.?
“The theoretical law regarding these questions,” he writes, “is very simple and self-evident, but it 1s well to have an inkling of how they present themselves in practice.”
Under other circumstances, where the questions for theoretical purposes are superfluous, but have an actual bearing on the conditions as they exist, we find Marx never shrank from any trouble to acquire a perfect knowledge of his subject. We find that Marx took a course of study to secure an understanding of the development of practical mechanics. He writes regarding this:
“It is with me in mechanics as it is in languages, I understand the theoretical laws, but the simplest technical reality that demands ideas, causes me the greatest trouble.”
Those who are familiar with the Marxian economic system, and who have formed their idea of society on its foundation, have naturally a great interest in learning that it was worked out through long intellectual labors. The most interesting part, perhaps, is the theory of land value, which is developed in the third volume of Capital. We find in the correspondence how wrong the idea is that Marx in the development of his system dealt only with the factory system, without giving the special conditions in agriculture sufficient notice. On the contrary, the developing tendencies in agriculture interested him in a high degree and occupied his mind constantly. The special laws that here came into play are continually objects of the most thorough study. There was first and foremost the theory of land value to solve, as to whether it issued directly from its use or indirectly from investment. In 1857 Marx had discovered the main fault in the land-value theory of Ricardo, which Ricardo had presented a generation be- fore, and which had universally been accepted as correct in national economy. Marx realized that it was not alone the different natural quality of the soil that decided its high or low productiveness, but also the more or less developed technique in agriculture. Through long and hard study he built up his own special theory on land value that finally solved the question. This theory did not rest on mere abstractions; far from it. He continually sought to learn from practice. He studied the agricultural development, not only in England and Western Europe, but in Russia, Western Asia and India as well. He also sought to be familiar with the latest technical agricultural development, and this problem was the subject of many and very interesting examinations by Marx and Engels.
In the long period that the correspondence covers, whole series of historical events took place that turned the then ruling power in Europe upside down. The cause of this was undoubtedly the onward sweep of the capitalist method of production into wider and wider fields.
In 1854-55 war took place between France and England on one side and Russia on the other; in 1859 there was the Italian war that laid the basis for the Italian political organization; in 1864 there was war with Denmark on one side and Prussia and Austria on the other; in 1866 there was the Prussia-Austrian war that led to the foundation of the German Empire as a united country, and lastly we have in 1870-71 the German-Franco war, that ended in the overthrow of the French monarchy and establishment of the republic, and the short-lived Paris Commune. All this formed the basis for the so-called “Armed Peace,” a craze that has inflicted the whole of the world with its constantly growing militarism. There were also other events of far-reaching importance that issued from the revolutions that the capitalist mode of production brought about. In 1861 the bondage of the Russian peasantry was abolished, which became the first step in the Russian social change, with a tendency toward capitalism. In 1861-65 the great American war was fought to a finish between the Southern and Northern states, that ended in the abolition of Negro slavery, and thereby created a free run for the overwhelming development of the American business life on a gigantic capitalist basis.
It was a period of great movements and adventures, a time full of anxiety and expectations; one big political crisis was scarcely over before another stood before the door. All these strenuous events were continually objects of discussion between Marx and Engels in their correspondence. If we did not already know beforehand how deeply they studied their times, we would know it from the study of these letters. The reading of these letters gives one the same impression as a series of moving pictures, where twenty years of European national life unfolds itself in a steady, changing panorama, in logical sequences; where one situation gives birth to another; causes and effects follow each other very closely here. It unravels that peculiar chapter in European history where the star of France sets and Germany’s star rises; Bismarck relieved Napoleon III as leader of European international politics, and the central power of Europe shifts. It shows how the state-forms gradually shape themselves in accordance with the interests of capitalistic society. This correspondence between Marx and Engels is therefore also a rich source of information regarding these historical events. And this is not so much because it contains anything beyond that which is already known to the historians, but because it throws a new light on events.
It is easy to see afterward that Marx and Engels often made hasty judgments, formed wrong interpretations, but it is beyond all human possibility to be able to correctly judge events when we are in the midst of them. We are, on the other hand, often surprised by the wonderful keenness, especially of Engels, in interpreting political situations and seeing the results they would have in the long run. Foremost stand their judgment of Napoleon III and his government. It is clear to them from the very first that he is a miserable character. He has a shallow, gambling nature, whose power could only rest on the hollowest and most irresponsible foundation, which sooner or later would come down with a crash. Then demoralization would eat itself into all public life in France and undermine its political position that would create a catastrophe that would remove the central political power of Europe eastward to Germany. When at last this comes about in 1870, when the French army was demolished and the monarchy had fallen, Marx had good reason to write to Engels:
“I believe that you and I are the only two men who, from the very beginning, understood Napoleon in all his common war marshalings and who were never deceived or put off on the wrong track by his momentary success.”
Marx and Engels saw everything through the view-point of the revolutionary proletarian, and their judgments were never haphazard in their expression, and always turned around the possibility of the working-class struggle for freedom. That is the psychology that permeates the letters where European conditions are discussed. These thoughts become stronger and stronger as time passes and the socialist labor movement changes from a possibility for the future to an actual reality of the present.
Already in 1859 this revolutionary viewpoint is in the foreground. Engels writes: ‘Looked at from our point of view, I mean, in a revolutionary light, it does not matter if Austria meets with defeat…On the whole, it is such that no matter who makes mistakes they must fall to our advantage.”
Under Prussian-Austrian war in 1866 this revolutionary viewpoint becomes still stronger. No matter how strongly they both disliked Bismarck and his politics, they understood fully that the victory of Prussia and the formation of Germany into a united nation under the Prussian leadership, was a historical necessity for a future German labor movement of a very different order and size than that which had been a possibility before. Engels here writes:
“The situation has the advantage that it clears the field for a revolutionary movement, because it makes an end to the fights in the small capitols, and at any rate makes for development. In the last analysis, is a German Reichstag very different from a Prussian Lantag? The movement swept away all the small state nonsensical talk, and the worst influence, which considered only local conditions, has ceased. Parties at last have become national instead of merely local.”
The letters are especially interesting from the summer of 1870, shortly after the breaking out of the German-Franco war. Here the superior intelligence of the two men plainly shows itself. There were two reasons for wishing the defeat of France; one was on account of the chauvinism that ruled the French middle class. A great part of the working class would thereby disappear; the other was that the German national organization necessarily had to be settled before there could be any talk of a strong and far reaching labor movement there.
In a letter of the 15th of August, 1870, Engels gives his view of the situation as he sees it from a socialist standpoint:
“The condition, according to my understanding, is this: Germany is driven into a war with Napoleon, where the national existence is at stake. If Germany is defeated by Napoleon, Bonapartism is then established for many years to come, and Germany may be bankrupt for a generation. It will then be useless to talk about an independent German labor movement, for the struggle for national existence will then consume all energy, and at best the German workers will drag on behind the French. On the other hand, if Germany wins, then Bonapartism is, at any rate, finished, and the everlasting talk about the union of Germany will come to an end, as it will be accomplished.
“The German workers can then organize themselves on a much more rational basis than they could before; and no matter what kind of government France gets, the French workers will, at any rate, get more freedom than under Bonapartism…Napoleon could not have made this war except for the chauvinism that rules the great mass of the French people, including the workers, especially those occupied in the building trades in the great cities that have come under the influence of Bonaparte. Until this chauvinism gets a sound ducking, peace between Germany and France is impossible. We could have expected that a proletarian’ revolution would have undertaken this work; but now that we have the war, the Germans will have to do it, and that as quickly as possible.
“That it is Bismarck and his followers who undertake this affair is positively obnoxious, but there is nothing to do about that, and to make a fight against Bismarck on that account would be foolish. Bismarck is here, just as he was in 1866, doing a good work that is an advantage to us. It gets done, though he does it in his own way and against his own will. He brushes the tables cleaner for us than they were before. The German workers therefore ought, in the interest of their movement, confine their tactics to the following: First, join the national movement as far as it tends only to defend Germany; second, sound the difference between the German national interest and the Prussian dynasty; third, oppose the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine: fourth, work for an honorable peace as soon as a republican and not a chauvinistic government is in power in France; and lastly, always point out the common interest of the German and French workers, and the fact that the working class does not counsel war and the fighting of each other.”
The Communard uprising in Paris took place shortly after this, and for a short time established the Paris Commune. But alas! here is a gap in the letters. So that they throw no light on how Marx and Engels judged this episode of the revolutionary movement. We only see that they opposed it with all their power.
PART THREE from ISR. Vol. 16 No. 3. September, 1915.
The correspondence between Marx and Engels covers four different periods.
First, the communistic period in the forties, when the movement was in its first formation or embryonic state, when it had not yet divorced itself from bourgeois ideas. The communistic movement lost strength under the reaction that set in after the revolution of 1848, and Europe was for many years in the death- grip of this reaction. The small communistic organizations became more and more sectarian and at last died a straw- death.
Here came the long, hard period where everything was dead, and all independent life and power of the working class seem to ebb away. But in that time was the great development of the capitalist system that created a proletarian working class in the modern sense of the word. Little by little this class got its eyes open to its own position in society. And, as we have seen, it was the time that the pioneer work was done for the theoretical foundation of the coming socialist movement. During that time the historic means was brought about for the social democracy that now in every country attempts to capture the power of society.
Then followed the period of the formation of the “International” in 1864, and it prompted a mighty stirring of the working class all over Europe. A new socialist movement arose on a much sounder basis than that in the communistic period twenty years before.
The “International” foundered in the seventies, but it gave birth to a new period, and the organizations that it had brought into the world lived on. The movement that it had started continued to grow. It steadily increased in power and membership, with a clearer program, and used tactics suitable to the different conditions in the different . countries. Modern socialism developed in the form that we know it today. To enlighten us on this period there is comparatively little in the correspondence, as Engels at that time had moved to London to live. It is only when one or the other of the two men were away from the city that they exchanged letters. Nevertheless, there are letters wherein Marx and Engels express themselves on important matters, such as the formation of the German social-democratic party, which reaches back to 1863, when the general German Labor Organization was built by the leadership of Lassalle, the year before the “International” was founded.
Lassalle, Marx and Engels had originally been in close personal touch, but many things happened that induced Marx and Engels to pass a sharp judgment on Lassalle during the last years of his life. He repulsed them, not only on account of his boundless egotism, but also on account of his self-aggrandizement. Lassalle seriously represented himself as the one man who had practically held in his hand Europe’s fate for many years, claiming that it was he who hindered Prussia from interfering in the Italian war; he who had given Garibaldi good advice, which, if carried out, would have resulted in changing Europe’s political balance. The letters contain many references that throw light on the character of Lassalle. But that which chiefly made Marx and Engels oppose Lassalle was the fear that they entertained, and naturally must entertain, that the labor movement under his leadership would be led into a by-path.
It was with good reason that they were anxious regarding the program that he had formed and wanted the German labor movement to take up, which was that the workers should form co-operative factories partly supported by the state. These factories were gradually to replace capitalistic production, and thereby re- shape the whole of society from the capitalist basis to the socialist. This idea seemed to Marx and Engels not only fanatical, but very dangerous as a basis for the coming German labor movement. So that it was not wholly without reason that they feared Lassalle as a labor dictator, whose personal egotism might easily gain the upper hand over his regard for the cause.
That Marx’s and Engels’ cool regard for Lassalle’s activity was fully merited could not be doubted. But, regardless of the criticisms of Lassalle, it was, nevertheless, his agitation method which in 1863, and the following year, had such a tremendous influence on the German working class and helped them to awaken to class-consciousness. So far it had historical value. Marx and Engels were not blind to this, and it was this that kept them from publicly attacking Lasalle’s propaganda. And when Lassalle in the last part of August, 1864, was suddenly killed in a duel they could both, in spite of it, appreciate his work. Engels writes, the 4th of September:
“No matter what Lassalle was, privately or publicly, he was nevertheless one of the most important men in Germany. At the present moment he was to us a very unreliable friend, and in the future he would certainly have been our enemy, but that does not matter; it hurts me to see how Germany loses all its some- what able people in the extreme parties. What jubilation will there not be among the factory owners and the swine of the reform party. Lassalle was the only fellow in Germany they feared.”
Marx answered a few days later:
“I have not been able to think of anything else these days than of the tragedy of Lassalle. He was, at any rate, one of the old guard and an enemy of our enemy…When, after all is said and done, it hurts me to think that our relationship in the last few years was not of the best, which he certainly could blame himself for. On the other hand, I am glad that I did not yield to the request from different quarters to attack him in his triumph- ant year.”
Later on followed the long, inner conflict between the two directions in the German labor movement, with the Lassallance on one side and the division on the other side coming nearer to Marxian, Socialist principles. The leading man on the Marxian side was Liebknecht, and the conflict did not end until in 1875 in the Gotha-congress, where the two divisions joined together in the social-democratic party.
As the German labor organization general secretary in the “International,” Marx sought to hold himself neutral in those inner, often very annoying, disputes. All his personal sympathy was naturally on the side of Liebknecht and his followers. But Marx was very far from agreeing with their tactics sometimes. He often sent furious letters to Liebknecht, when he, according to Marx’s judgment, committed stupidities. Sometimes he was proven to be right, while on the other hand his judgments were shown to have been too hastily formed. This was very natural, as he was too far away to know the conditions and the difficulties. Especially was Marx dissatisfied in the period following shortly after the Prussian-Austrian war in 1866, and particularly with the German social-democratic press, which, according to his idea, was too friendly toward Austria and Southwest Germany; instead of attacking Bismarck, he thought that it ought to direct its batteries on both sides. Liebknecht’s political attitude toward Prussia, in the years closely after the war, were such that he only sought to criticise and carry on agitation without at the same time seeking to get practical reforms for the working class. This attitude was the subject for strong criticism from Marx’s side, who writes:
“It is a great standpoint that he has, which is to the effect that we can, of the so-called present state, neither give nor receive considerations for the working class. With that point of view we can advance damn little among the workers. It was very different under the German-Franco war in 1870; here was the labor party’s attitude on both sides of the border line, a correct expression of the interest of the working class. It is lucky that the class struggle in both France and Germany is so far advanced that a foreign war cannot effectually turn the wheel of time back.” A few days later he writes: “It is only the working class that form an active opposition to the international swindle.”
Eugine Duehring, in the middle of the seventies, appeared in the social-democratic party in Germany and presented a series of clouded, half-socialistic theories, which gave Engels a reason for writing his famous opposition book, entitled “Eugene Duehring’s Overthrow of Science,” part of which appear in English under the title, “Socialism Utopian and Scientific.” It was a work of duty, which Engels found it necessary to pro- duce, because it looked as though the new ideas would confuse the understanding among different German socialists. This book is today one of the greatest importance because it gives a popular view of the theory of socialism.
The correspondence also throws light on the history of the French socialist movement, in a series of letters that Marx wrote during his stay in Paris in 1882. Here, as in Germany a half dozen years before, lay two parties at war with each other, tearing each other to pieces in bitter quarrels. Marx had trouble both with the Marxians and anti-Marxians. The Marxians were led by Lafargue and Guesde, and that Marx was far from enthusiastic over the tactics that they used appears in a letter:
“I have already aired my grievance to you in a few lines about Lafargue’s and Guesde’s stupidities. It is beyond me how one, when he leads a movement, can so thoughtlessly and foolishly risk everything— for no earthly use.”
Many were the diseases of infancy of the Socialist party, and trouble and trials in its childhood in the different countries. These caused many regrets and worries to the two men, who kept a keen lookout over the movement, and followed the awakening of the proletariat throughout the world. The workers’ sound sense came more and more to the fore and made itself felt in the party life. Marx and Engels had dedicated their lives to the movement, and it was with the deepest satisfaction that they saw in their life-evening the movement that had been so terribly weak grow so strong that it was no longer possible to stop it and whose final victory is, sooner or later, assured.
The International Socialist Review (ISR) was published monthly in Chicago from 1900 until 1918 by Charles H. Kerr and critically loyal to the Socialist Party of America. It is one of the essential publications in U.S. left history. During the editorship of A.M. Simons it was largely theoretical and moderate. In 1908, Charles H. Kerr took over as editor with strong influence from Mary E Marcy. The magazine became the foremost proponent of the SP’s left wing growing to tens of thousands of subscribers. It remained revolutionary in outlook and anti-militarist during World War One. It liberally used photographs and images, with news, theory, arts and organizing in its pages. It articles, reports and essays are an invaluable record of the U.S. class struggle and the development of Marxism in the decades before the Soviet experience. It was closed down in government repression in 1918.
PDF of January, 1915: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/isr/v15n07-jan-1915-ISR-riaz-ocr.pdf
PDF of February, 1915: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/isr/v15n08-feb-1915-ISR-riaz-ocr.pdf
PDF of September, 1915: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/isr/v16n03-sep-1915-ISR-riaz-ocr.pdf