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Marx-Engels Correspondence 1857

Marx To Engels
In Ryde

Source: MECW Volume 40, p. 186;
First published: in Der Briefwechsel zwischen F. Engels und K. Marx, Stuttgart, 1913.

[London,] 25 September 1857

Dear Engels,

I presume you will have received today my letter of the day before yesterday acknowledging the £5. I cannot understand the delay, having myself taken it to the post on time.

Your ‘Army’ is capital; except that I was thunderstruck by the sheer bulk of it — so much work can’t possibly be good for you. And if I'd known that you would work late into the night I would rather have let the whole thing go to the devil.

More graphically than anything else the history of the army demonstrates the rightness of our views as to the connection between the productive forces and social relations. Altogether, the army is of importance in economic development. E.g. it was in the army of Antiquity that the salaire [wages] was first fully developed. Likewise the peculium castrense in Rome, the first legal form according recognition to the movable property of others than fathers of families. Likewise the guild system in the corporation of the fabri. Here too the first use of machinery on a large scale. Even the special value of metals and their use as money would seem to have been based originally — as soon as Grimm’s Stone Age was over — on their significance in war. Again, the division of labour within a branch was first put into practice by armies. All this, moreover, a very striking epitome of the whole history of civil societies. If you ever have the time, you might work the thing out from that point of view.

The only points I think you have overlooked in your account are: 1. the earliest manifestation of a ready-made mercenary system on a large scale and at once among the Carthaginians (for our own private use I shall take a look at a work — previously unknown to me — by a Berlin man on the Carthaginian armies); 2. the development of the army system in the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy, where tactical ruses, at any rate, were perfected. Likewise an extremely humorous description of Machiavelli’s (which I shall extract for you) in his History of Florence of how the condottieri fought. (But if I come and meet you in Brighton (when?), perhaps I had better bring you the Machiavelli. The History of Florence is a masterpiece.) Lastly, 3. the Asiatic military system as it first appeared in Persia and subsequently in various much modified forms among, inter alia, the Mongols and Turks.

In writing my biographies, etc., I naturally had to consult all sorts of encyclopaedias, including German ones. In so doing I discovered that, under the headings ‘Labour’, ‘Classes’, ‘Production’, etc., much had been systematically if stupidly cribbed from us. On the other hand, everyone had eschewed all mention of ourselves, even when devoting whole columns to Mr Edgar Bauer and other such panjandrums. Tant mieux pour nous. The biographies in the German encyclopaedias are written for children under 8 years of age. The French, if biased, are at least urbane. The English encyclopaedias crib systematically from the French and German. In the latter, the same fellows appear to unload the same twaddle onto different publishers. Ersch and Gruber not much good except in the later volumes, wherein many learned articles.


K. M.

Pauly’s Realencyclopädie des Alterthums is reliable.