Marx-Engels Correspondence 1870
Published: Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.
I have read the first 150 pages of Flerovsky's book[a] (they are taken up by Siberia, North Russia and Astrakhan). This is the first work to tell the truth about Russian economic conditions. The man is a determined enemy of what he calls "Russian optimism." I never held very rosy views of this communistic Eldorado, but Flerovsky surpasses all expectations. In fact it is wonderful and undoubtedly a sign of change that such a thing could be printed in Petersburg at all.
"Our proletariat is small in number but the mass of our working class consists entirely of workers whose lot is worse than the lot of all other proletarians."[b]
The method of presentation is quite original, at times it reminds one most of Monteil[b]. One can see that the man has travelled around everywhere and seen everything for himself. A glowing hatred of landlords, capitalists and officials. No socialist doctrine, no mysticism about the land (although in favour of the communal form of ownership), no nihilistic extravagance. Here and there a certain amount or well-meaning twaddle, which, however, is suited to the stage of development reached by the people for whom the book is intended. In any case this is the most important book which has appeared since your Condition of the Working Class. The family life of the Russian peasants--the awful beating to death of wives, the vodka and the concubines--is also well described. It will therefore come quite opportunely if you would now send me the imaginative lies of Citizen Herzen.
a N. Flerovsky, The Condition of the Working Class in Russia.—Ed.
b In the letter the quotation is given in Russian.—Ed.
c Monteil, Amans Alexis (1769-1850) French historian who defended the ideas of the great French Revolution. His chief work was his Histoire des Francais des divers Etats. [History of the French in their Different Orders.)—Ed.