Written: August 11 1844;
First Published: Probleme des Friedens und des Sozialismus No. 2, 1958;
Source: From Marx Engels Collected Works Volume 3;
HTML Markup: Andy Blunden.
Since I just have the opportunity, I take the liberty of sending you an article of mine in which some elements of my critical philosophy of law [Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Introduction] are outlined. I had already finished it once but have since revised it in order to make it more generally comprehensible. I don't attribute any exceptional value to this essay but I am glad to have an opportunity of assuring you of the great respect and — if I may use the word — love, which I feel for you. Your Philosophie der Zukunft, and your Wesen des Glaubens, in spite of their small size, are certainly of greater weight than the whole of contemporary German literature put together.
In these writings you have provided — I don't know whether intentionally — a philosophical basis for socialism and the Communists have immediately understood them in this way. The unity of man with man, which is based on the real differences between men, the concept of the human species brought down from the heaven of abstraction to the real earth, what is this but the concept of society!
Two translations of your Wesen des Christenthums, one in English and one in French, are in preparation and almost ready for printing. The first will be published in Manchester (Engels has been supervising it) and the second in Paris (the Frenchman Dr. Guerrier and the German Communist Ewerbeck have translated it with the help of a French literary expert).
At present, the French will immediately pounce on the book, for both parties — priests, and Voltairians and materialists — are looking about for help from outside. It is a remarkable phenomenon that, in contrast to the eighteenth century, religiosity has now passed to the middle and upper classes while on the other hand irreligiosity — but an irreligiosity of men regarding themselves as men — has descended to the French proletariat. You would have to attend one of the meetings of the French workers to appreciate the pure freshness, the nobility which burst forth from these toil-worn men. The English proletarian is also advancing with giant strides but he lacks the cultural background of the French. But I must not forget to emphasise the theoretical merits of the German artisans in Switzerland, London and Paris. The German artisan is still however too much of an artisan.
But in any case it is among these “barbarians” of our civilised society that history is preparing the practical element for the emancipation of mankind.
For me the difference between the French character and our German character was never demonstrated so sharply and convincingly as in a Fourierist work which begins with the following sentences:
“In his passions that man reveals himself completely”. “Have you ever met a person who thought in order to think, who remembered in order to remember, who imagined in order to imagine, who wished in order to wish? Has this ever happened to you?... No, obviously not!”
The main driving force of nature as of society is, therefore, the magical, the passionate, the non-reflecting attraction and
“everything which exists, man, plant, animal or planet, has received an amount of power corresponding to its mission in the system of the universe”.
From this there follows: “The attractive powers are proportional to the destinies.”
Do not all these sentences give the impression that the Frenchman has deliberately set his passion against the pure activity of German thought? One does not think in order to think, etc.
In his critical Berlin Literatur-Zeitung, Bruno Bauer, my friend of many years standing — but now rather estranged — has provided fresh proof of how difficult it is for Germans to extricate themselves from the contrary one-sidedness. I don't know if you have read the journal. It contains much covert polemic against you.
The character of the Literatur-Zeitung can be reduced to the following: “Criticism” is transformed into a transcendental being. These Berliners do not regard themselves as men who criticise, but as critics who, incidentally, have the misfortune of being men. They therefore acknowledge only one real need, the need of theoretical criticism. People like Proudhon are therefore accused of having made some “practical” “need” their point of departure. This criticism therefore lapses into a sad and supercilious intellectualism. Consciousness or self-consciousness is regarded as the only human quality. Love, for example, is rejected, because the loved one is only an “object”. Down with the object. This criticism thus regards itself as the only active element in history. It is confronted by the whole of humanity as a mass, an inert mass, which has value only as the antithesis of intellect. It is therefore regarded as the greatest crime if the critic displays feeling or passion, he must be an ironical ice-cold sojoV. [Sage]
Thus Bauer says literally:
“The critic should participate neither in the sufferings nor in the joys of society; he should know neither friendship and love, nor hate and envy; he should be enthroned in a solitude, where only the laughter of the Olympian Gods over the topsy-turviness of the world resounds occasionally from his lips.”
The tone of Bauer's Literatur-Zeitung is therefore one of dispassionate contempt and he makes it all the easier for himself by flinging the results of your work and of our time as a whole at other people's heads. He only exposes contradictions and, satisfied with this occupation, he departs with a contemptuous “Hm”. He declares that criticism does not give anything, it is far too spiritual for that. Indeed, he plainly expresses the hope:
“the time is not distant when the whole of degenerate mankind will rally against criticism” — and criticism means Bauer and company — “they will then sort out this mass into different groups and distribute the testimonium paupertatis to all of them”.
It seems that Bauer has fought against Christ out of rivalry. I am going to publish a small booklet attacking this aberration of criticism. It would be of the greatest value to me if you would let me know in advance your opinion, and in general some speedy sign of life from you would make me happy. The German artisans in Paris, i. e., the Communists amongst them, several hundreds, have been having lectures twice a week throughout this summer on your Wesen des Christenthums from their secret leaders, and have been remarkably responsive. The short extract from the letter of a German lady which appeared in the feuilleton of Vorwärts! (No. 64) without the knowledge of the writer, is taken from a letter of my wife, who is now visiting her mother in Trier.
With best wishes for your well-being.