Letters of Marx and Engels from Science and Society

Engels to Sorge

Written: June 29, 1888;
Source: Science and Society Volume II, No. 2, Spring 1938;
Translated and Edited: by Leonard E. Mins;
HTML Mark-up: Andy Blunden and Sally Ryan.

June 29, 1888.

Dear Sorge:

My evening at work has been ruined by visitors, and that gives me some free time to write you.

The criticism of Henry George that Marx sent you is such a masterpiece in content and so homogeneous in style that it would be a pity to weaken it by adding the desultory marginal notes written in English in Marx’s copy. These will always remain for eventual use later. The whole letter to you was written with a view to subsequent publication verbatim, as Marx usually did in such cases. Thus you are not committing any indiscretion in having it printed. If it is to be printed in English, I'll translate it for you, since the translation of the Manifesto again shows that there doesn’t seem to be anyone over there who can translate our German, at least, into literary, grammatical English. That requires training as a writer in both languages, and training not merely in the daily press. It is dreadfully hard to translate the Manifesto; the Russian translations are still by far the best I have seen.

The third edition of Capital is giving me a tremendous amount of work. We have a copy in which Marx notes the changes and additions to be made according to the French edition, but all the detail work is yet to be done. I have completed it as far as “Accumulation,” but here an almost total reworking of the whole theoretical section is involved. Then there is the responsibility. For the French translation is in part a simplification of the German, and Marx would never have written like that in German. Moreover, the bookseller is pressing me.

Before I finish with it I cannot think of undertaking Volume II. There exist at least four versions of the beginning; that is how often Marx began it, always being interrupted in editing the definitive text by illness. I cannot say as yet how the arrangement and the conclusion of the last one, dated 1878, will agree with the first, dating from 1870.

Almost everything dating from the period before 1848 has been saved. Not only the manuscripts finished by him and me at the time are almost complete (except for those gnawed away by mice), but so is the correspondence. Everything since 1849 is complete, of course, and the material after 1862 is even classified to some degree. There is also very extensive written material on the International, enough, I think, for its whole history, but I haven’t been able to look it over more closely.

There are three or four mathematical manuscripts, too. I once showed your Adolf an example of Marx’s new foundation of the differential calculus.

If not for the voluminous American and Russian material (more than two cubic meters of books on Russian statistics alone), Volume II would have been printed long ago. These detailed studies detained him for years. As always, everything was to be complete down to the present day, and now all that has come to nought, with the exception of his excerpts, which I hope will contain, as was his custom, many critical remarks that can he used for the notes of Volume II....

I have already read five sheets of the final proofs of the third edition; the man promises to deliver three sheets a week.

F. E.

I simply haven’t the time to answer the many long letters sent me by little Hepner. His reports always interest me, though mixed with much personal gossip and written with the superiority of one who has just landed. You must therefore convey my excuses to him.

Schevitsch has replied to me “dignifiedly,” regretting my “pettiness.” Dignity sits well on him. He'll get no answer.

Nor will Most, who must confirm everything I assert, and for that very reason is furious. I believe he will find support in that sectarian land, America, and cause trouble for some time. But that is precisely the character of the American movement: that all mistakes must be experienced in practice. If American energy and vitality were backed by European theoretical clarity, the business would be finished over there in ten years. But that is impossible historically.