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London, 18 April 1883

Philipp Van Patten,
57 2nd Avenue, New York

Esteemed Comrade,

My statement in reply to your inquiry of the 2nd April as to Karl Marx's position with regard to the Anarchists in general and Johann Most in particular shall be short and clear.

Marx and I, ever since 1845, have held the view that one of the final results of the future proletarian revolution will be the gradual dissolution and ultimate disappearance of that political organisation called the State; an organisation the main object of which has ever been to secure, by armed force, the economical subjection of the working majority to the wealthy minority. With the disappearance of a wealthy minority the necessity for an armed repressive State-force disappears also. At the same time we have always held, that in order to arrive at this and the other, far more important ends of the social revolution of the future, the proletarian class will first have to possess itself of the organised political force of the State and with its aid stamp out the resistance of the Capitalist class and re-organise society. This is stated already in the Communist Manifesto of 1847, end of Chapter II.{a}

The Anarchists reverse the matter. They say, that the Proletarian revolution has to begin by abolishing the political organisation of the State. But after the victory of the Proletariat, the only organisation the victorious working class finds ready-made for use, is that of the State. It may require adaptation to the new functions{b}. But to destroy that at such a moment, would be to destroy the only organism by means of which the victorious working class can exert its newly conquered power, keep down its capitalist enemies and carry out that economical revolution of society without which the whole victory must end in a defeat{c} and in a massacre of the working class like that after the Paris Commune.

Does it require my express assertion, that Marx opposed these anarchist absurdities from the very first day that they were started in their present form by Bakunin? The whole internal history of the International Working Men's Association is there to prove it. The Anarchists tried to obtain the lead of the International, by the foulest means, ever since 1867[2] and the chief obstacle in their way was Marx. The result of the five years' struggle was the expulsion, at the Hague Congress, September 1872, of the Anarchists from the International[3], and the man who did most to procure that expulsion was Marx. Our old friend F. A. Sorge of Hoboken, who was present as a delegate, can give you further particulars if you desire.

Now as to Johann Most. If any man asserts that Most, since he turned anarchist, has had any relations with, or support from Marx, he is either a dupe or a deliberate liar. After the first No. of the London Freiheit had been published{d}, Most did not call upon Marx and myself more than once, at most twice. Nor did we call on him or even meet him accidentally anywhere or at any time since his new-fangled anarchism had burst forth in that paper{e}. Indeed, we at last ceased to take it in as there was absolutely 'nothing in it'. We had for his anarchism and anarchist tactics the same contempt as for that of the people from whom he had learnt it.{f}

While still in Germany, Most published a 'popular' extract of Das Kapital{g}. Marx was requested to revise it for a second edition. I assisted Marx in that work. We found it impossible to eradicate more than the very worst mistakes, unless we re-wrote the whole thing from beginning to end, and Marx consented his corrections being inserted on the express condition only that his name was never in any way connected with even this revised form ofJohann Most's production.{h}

You are perfectly at liberty to publish this letter in the Voice of the People{i} if you like to do so.

Yours fraternally,

F. E.

First published, slightly abridged, in Der Sozialdemokrat, Nr. 21, 17 Mai 1883
and in full, in Russian, in Marx-Engels Archives, Vol. I (VI), Moscow, 1932
Reproduced from the original, checked with the newspaper


{a} See present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 505-06.

    Communist Manifesto of 1847, end of Chapter II:

    When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

    In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

{b} In Der Sozialdemokrat this sentence reads: 'This State may require very important changes before it can fulfil its new functions.'

{c} In Der Sozialdemokrat: 'another defeat'.

{d} On 4 January 1879

{e} The words 'since his new-fangled anarchism had burst forth in that paper' are omitted in Der Sozialdemokrat.

{f} See letters of K . Marx to J. Ph. Becker of 1 July 1879 and to F. A. Sorge of 19 September 1879, and of F. Engels to J. Ph. Becker of 1 April 1880 (present edition, Vols. 45, 46).

{g} J. Most, Kapital und Arbeit. Ein populärer Auszug aus 'Das Kapital' von Karl Marx, Chemnitz [1873] .

{h} See this volume, p. 14. - Engels to Sorge. 24 April 1883

{i} In Der Sozialdemokrat, the words 'in the Voice of the People' are omitted.


[1] This letter was written by Engels in reply to that by Philipp Van Patten of 2 April 1883. In it the latter informed Engels that at a meeting dedicated to Marx's memory Johann Most and his supporters had claimed Most had been on intimate terms with Marx, that he had helped to popularise Capital in Germany and his propaganda work had enjoyed Marx's support. Engels' letter and an excerpt from that by Van Patten were published in German in Engels' article 'On the Death of Karl Marx' carried by Der Sozialdemokrat, No. 21 of 17 May 1883 (see present edition, Vol. 24). Engels made several changes in the German text of his letter the most important of which are given in the footnotes.

This letter was first published in English in an abridged form in: K. Marx and F. Engels, Correspondence. 1846-1895, Martin Lawrence, London, 1934, and in full in: K. Marx and F. Engels, Letters to Americans. 1848-1895. A Selection, International Publishers, New York, 1953.—9

[2] The reference is to the disruptive activities in the International of Mikhail Bakunin and his supporters. In the autumn of 1868 in Geneva they founded the International Alliance of Socialist Democracy, an organisation with its own programme and rules that contradicted those of the International (see present edition, Vol. 21, pp. 207-11).—Karl Marx, Remarks on the programme and rules of The International Alliance of Socialist Democracy

Following the refusal by the General Council of the International Working Men's Association to admit the Alliance to the International, in 1869 Bakunin, in violation of the promise he had given to disband his organisation, secretly introduced the Alliance into the International with the aim of seizing its leadership. Posing as sections of the International, sections of the Alliance publicised their anarchist programme, claiming it was the programme of the International. In November 1871, the Bakuninists' congress in Sonvillier, Switzerland, called for a revision of the International's Rules, notably the articles on the importance of the political struggle by the working class and its party. —10, 108

[3] At the Hague Congress of the First International (2-7 September 1872) a special commission was formed to investigate the secret activities of the Alliance. On the strength of the materials it studied, the commission concluded that the activities of the Alliance were incompatible with membership in the International, as were the activities of the leaders of the former, Bakunin and Guillaume. Having generally accepted the commission's proposals, the Hague Congress decided to publicise the documents at the commission's disposal concerning the Alliance and expelled Bakunin and Guillaume from the International. —10

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