1930s >> 1934 >> no-359-july-1934

Book Review: Another “Life” of Marx

Karl Marx: A Study in Fanaticism by E. H. Carr (Dent)
It has generally been accepted when quoting from a book—or books—containing a considerable number of letters, to give the date, number of the letter, the page and volume from which it or they are taken. This facilitates verification. The author of any book, provided he has faith in his ability to present an accurate survey of his subject, would disdain to make assertions unsupported by evidence. When an author undertakes to write a “life” of a man like Karl Marx, he should at least pay a tribute to the well-known sincerity of Marx, who always gave the source of his information, and was punctilious to the extreme. His painstaking sincerity is patent. It is well known that Eleanor Marx, in verifying the quotations in the first volume of “Capital,” was unable in only one single instance to discover the origin. Marx’s assertions were rightly always backed up by evidence. These preliminary observations are necessary because a Mr. E. H. Carr has recently written a “ life ” of Marx, published by Dent’s (“Karl Marx: A Study in Fanaticism.” 327 pages. 12/6). In this book innumerable quotations are made and attributed to Marx and others, but in no instance has Mr. Carr given page, date or volume, to indicate the origin of the quotation. No documentation whatsoever is provided to guide the reader to the source of the information. This is procedure of an ignoble character, because in the progress of the book Mr. Carr has misinterpreted not only the words of Marx, but the sense, too. He has been disingenuous and has violated the principles of good taste. His interpretations are derived—so says the writer—from the volumes recently issued and sponsored by the Marx-Engels Institute, of Moscow. These four volumes contain the original letters that passed between Marx and Engels. Most of the letters are in German, but there are numerous digressions into French, English and Italian. These volumes form the basis of Mr. Carr’s “life” of Marx.
In the book there is an unending series of quotations, but whatever the nature of these quotations, on no occasion is the specific source given to allow an opportunity for verification. In my view there can only be one reason for this policy. It is that Mr. Carr has not read the four volumes: or if he has, is totally unfamiliar with the contents. Even before one reads a word of the preface, one is confronted with a piece of false information. Opposite the title page a photograph of Marx is inset, under which appears the following note: —

From an unpublished photograph.

Actually the same photograph was published in an official work issued some time ago by the Marx- Engels Institute, of Moscow. On page 304 of his book, Mr. Carr informs the reader, when dealing with the volumes issued by the Marx-Engels Institute, that—

  The first version, the so-called Gesamtausgabe, prints the works in the languages in which they were written, and was, until March, 1933, in course of publication at Berlin. The second version is a Russian translation published at Moscow.

On page 305, Mr. Carr adds—

    In a few passages originally written in English, I have been compelled by the inaccessibility of the English originals to re-translate from German or Russian versions.

But had Mr. Carr read the Gesamtausgabe, the German original version, he would know that there was no necessity to retranslate into English, because an English passage written by either Marx or Engels—or anyone else—is retained in its original form, therefore needing no retranslation. Thus, for example, a passage of 11 words taken from a letter from Marx to Engels (line 33, letter 143, dated January 20th, 1852, on page 308 of Vol. I) appears as follows, written in German, English and French!—

   Louis kann den Louis Philippe by no means nachmachen. Et alors ?

In some letters there are additional phrases from other languages. The statement re “inaccessibility” is mere bluff and pretence, for though Mr. Carr later informs us of letters which are written in English, three of which will be specified later, in no instance has Mr. Carr given an accurate reproduction of these letters, though in the Gesamtausgabe they are printed in English..
One essential factor for a clear insight into, and an appreciation of, the correspondence between Marx and Engels, is a knowledge of its chronology and history. One must know that there have been two versions of this series of correspondence. The’ previous issue was—

   Der Briefwechsel zwischen Friedrich Engels und Karl Marx. Herausgegeben von A. Bebel und Ed. Bernstein. Bd. I-IV Stuttgart, J. H. W. Dietz, 1913.

Engels made Edward Bernstein his literary executor, on whom devolved the responsibility for issuing the works of both Marx and Engels. (Engels had long begun to arrange and edit the literary works of Marx.)
Bernstein manipulated the correspondence, expunging passages at his discretion, and leaving letters entirely unmentioned. Many of the passages are momentous in the history of Marxism, as we shall see later.
That Mr. Carr makes no reference to the early version is surprising, for it appears to indicate his ignorance of its existence, and, what is more interesting, that he has not read the four volumes issued by the Marx-Engels Institute, of Moscow. All Mr. Carr’s protestations are unavailing, for there are scores of instances that prove his ignorance of the letters he is supposed to have read, and upon which he has written this “biography” of Marx. Mr. Carr’s sublime silence about the two versions is interesting. If his “life” of Marx is based upon the correspondence issued by the Marx-Engels Institute, what are we to make of the mysterious fact that there are no less than 110 pages of valuable introductory material in the correspondence—yet Mr. Carr has not made the slightest reference to it!
Moreover, it is difficult to accept assurance from a “biographer” who gives neither page, date, letter, nor volume, when writing of correspondence between Marx and Engels—dating from October 8th—10th, 1844, to January 10th, 1883— in which there are no less than 1,569 letters.
Mr. Carr gives words incorrectly and inserts others not in the original version. Take page 97 of his book, for example. On this page Mr. Carr refers to the letter written by Engels to Marx announcing the death of his sweetheart, Mary Burns. Mr. Carr does not inform the reader that Engels wrote the letter on January 7th, 1863. If he had read it he would have discovered that Engels forgot the turn of the year, and inserted 1862.
Marx replied on the following day (letter 814, page 117, of Vol. 3) in a curt manner. Engels was rather upset, and, on January 13th, sent Marx a severe letter, the ONLY one of its kind that ever passed between the two friends. Let us read Mr. Carr’s account. He says:—

   This “frosty” letter, received before Mary was in her grave, struck Engels dumb for four days.
All my friends (he wrote at length), including bourgeois acquaintances. . . .

Mr. Carr puts the word “bourgeois” in italics. The word “bourgeois” is NOT in italics in the correspondence. The words are in letter 816, second paragraph, page 118, of Vol 3. They begin on line 21, and are as follows: —

   Alle meine Freunde, einschliesslich Philisterbekannte. . . .

In the Marx-Engels Institute version the words are as above. If italics had been used by Engels (or Marx), this is the way it would have been printed—P h i 1 i s t e rbekannte.
So much for Mr. Carr’s literary rectitude!!Perhaps the survey of another episode may help in elucidating the mysteries of Mr. Carr’s qualifications to write as an “authority” on Marx. On page 67, Mr. Carr indulges speculatively anent the activities of Marx in Paris, and the decision to go to England. As usual, he displays his ignorance of the correspondence, and makes statements that are the reverse of fact. In the last paragraph Mr. Carr states that the decision to emigrate was “the most important landmark in Marx’s career.”

If this decision is the most important landmark in Marx’s career, such observation, interpretation, and justification should be sustained by evidence. But Mr. Carr tenders nothing to prove the great landmark. There are reasons for the serious omission—for Mr. Carr again evidently knows little or nothing of the correspondence of this period. His review on page 67 is deficient in that the exact relations between Marx and the French police are not clearly detailed, and Mr. Carr’s “disclosures” are inadequate. In letter No. 40, dated June 7th, 1849 (page 107, Vol. 1), Marx wrote to Engels that his [Marx’s] correspondence was being tampered with, and advised Engels to write to him under the pseudonym of Monsieur Ramboz, 45, Rue de Lille. In the letter No. 43, pp. 111-2, Vol. 1, dated August 17th, Marx again refers to the pseudonym.
In the next letter, No. 44, dated August 23rd 1849, p. 113, Vol. 1, Marx makes the vital and final decision concerning his future, which Mr. Carr calls the “most important landmark of Marx’s career.” But once more we discover that Mr. Carr is ignorant of the full contents of these letters. Actually, Marx’s decision did not involve him, alone, for it changed the whole course of Engel’s life, too.. “The most important landmark” referred to by Mr. Carr, depended entirely upon the letters referred to above. In the August 23rd letter (No. 44), Marx writes to Engels in Lausanne to inform him that he will not submit to the surveillance of the French police, who desire him to take up residence in the isolated Department of Mobihan (Brittany).
In his fulsome ignorance, Mr. Carr states that “Marx thought of joining Engels in Switzerland.” This is a piece of invincible ignorance on the part of Mr. Carr for had he read Marx’s letter, he would have found that Marx says (line 14, paragraph 2): —

   Nach der Schweiz gibt man mir keinen Pass. (I can get no passport for Switzerland.)

Marx impresses upon Engels to leave Lausanne and go right through to London, where he will join him. Marx is certain of being able to start a literary journal, for which one portion of the money is already available. He tells Engels it seems impossible for him to remain in Switzerland any longer.

    Du kannst nicht in der Schweiz bleiben. In London werden wir Geschäfte maen. . (You cannot remain in Switzerland. We will do business in London.)

This last sentence is of the utmost importance, for, along with the letter No. 43, dated August 17th, 1849, it showed that Marx was certain that the starting of a journal would provide a living for both Marx and Engels. But the sting is in the tail. Marx appends a footnote to the letter, showing that he had no thought of going to Switzerland. He writes—

   Lupus ist bei Dr. Lüning, Zürich. Schreib ihm auch von meinem Plan. (Lupus is with Dr. Lüning in Zurich. Write him also about my plan.)
(Lupus was the famous Wilhelm Wolff to whom Marx dedicated the first volume of “Capital.”)

Not one word of this is tendered, explained, or referred to by Mr. Carr on page 67 of his book. Obviously, Mr. Carr does not know of its existence. But there is more than that to it. It suggests the source of Mr. Carr’s information, too, i.e., the 1913 edition. In his preface, on page VIII, Mr. Carr tenders thanks “to a friend who desires to remain anonymous, but who, while differing from many of my conclusions, has generously placed at my disposal a rich stock of Marxist lore.” It was in the 1913 edition of the letters that the passage in letter 43, and the sentence from letter 44, “In London werden wir Geschäfte machen,” were deliberately omitted. Specific attention is called thereto in the 50-page introduction to Vol 1 of the correspondence issued by the Marx-Engels Institute.
If Mr. Carr had regard for the truth, nothing could have deterred him from giving the page, date, number, and volume from which he was quoting. Let us test Mr. Carr’s credentials once more. It concerns an episode of which he writes with exceeding enthusiasm, for which he tenders Marx a surprising encomium. The very instance arouses suspicion. It provides more evidence of Mr. Carr’s patent superficiality, and invincible shallowness. On page 109 he refers to Marx’s “Eighteenth Brumaire,” and says that it

   demands quotations not so much for its political importance as for its literary merits. The contorted antithetical style of Marx’s early period has been left behind. The “Eighteenth Brumaire” contains some of the simplest and raciest of Marx’s writing; and the fierceness of the invective (for Marx always shines at invective) gives it a high place among political broadsides. It may be heartily recommended to anyone who thinks Marx is a dull writer.

Then follows the opening section of the first paragraph of the “Brumaire.” Once again his bluff is exposed. For had Mr. Carr read letter No. 134, which Engels wrote to Marx from Manchester on December 3rd, 1851, he would have seen the origin of the passage which was afterwards incorporated into the “Brumaire” by Marx. It is on page 292 of Vol 1. Let any reader examine the opening of the “Brumaire,” and he can easily follow the quotation.

   alles sich zweimal anspinnen liesse, einmal als grosse Tragödie, und das zweite Mai als lausige Farce, Caussidiere für Danton, L. Blanc für Robespierre, Barthelemy für Saint-Just, Flocon für Carnot, . . etc. (these things occur twice, first as great tragedy and secondly as paltry farce . . . etc.)

Now, Engels wrote that note to Marx within 24 hours of the coup d’état, and yet later accorded the credit to Marx for the analysis. Knowing the miserable proclivities of Mr. Carr in traducing and reviling Marx on the slightest provocation, he missed here his greatest opportunity of calling Marx a plagiarist, etc. But his lost opportunity is entirely due to Mr. Carr not having read the correspondence; an opportunity he surely would have used to bolster his case against Marx; if he had known of it.
The International.
The importance of the “International” is recognised by Mr. Carr, who uses about a quarter of the space of his book to expatiate upon this interesting aspect of Marx’s activities.
On page 184 he bursts forth with this serious diatribe: —

   The origin of the momentous decision to invite Marx—a decision which determined the whole course of the International from its inception to its death— is wrapped in strange obscurity. It is a depressing commentary on the nature of the evidence on which history is based that, in this comparatively straightforward matter, the historian has before him two mutually contradictory accounts from persons who participated, or purport to have participated, in the transaction. Each of these accounts is demonstrably, or almost demonstrably, false: and each has clearly been distorted by the desire of the narrator to exaggerate the importance of his own role.

If it is demonstrably false, why does Mr. Carr use the curious qualification “almost.” If it is “almost” demonstrably false, it isn’t quite false. And if it isn’t quite false, why worry? The fact is, Mr. Carr has not quite relished his job, and he was in a position of mental suspense in dealing with the matter. Besides, it is clear that he did not appreciate the whole story attributed to Marx. Had Mr. Carr quoted from Marx’s letter (No. 876) he might have understood the matter. Had he read the correspondence, he might have quoted the facts, for, in this case, opposite page 196 of Vol 3, Marx’s letter is produced in facsimile. Marx tells Engels that a young Frenchman, Le Lubez, about 30 years of age, brought up in Jersey and London, asked Marx if he would care to represent the German workers at the first meeting of the International. Mr. Carr suggests that this story is “demonstrably, or almost demonstrably, false.”
If it is demonstrably false, where is the evidence? Mr. Carr produces none. He produces the other version, this time by Marx’s old friend, Frederick Lessner.
We will leave it to our readers as to whether there are contradictions. Mr. Carr quotes Lessner, but from what book or pamphlet, he declines to say. Let us, however, quote from Lessner’s “Sixty Years of the Social Democratic Movement” (p. 33):

  The English committee invited also the “Communistische Arbeiterbildungsverein” to this meeting, and at the same time expressed a wish that Marx should attend this international fraternisation of the working men. The “Communistische Arbeiterbildungsverein” sent me to Marx. I informed him of the wish of the English workmen, and after some inquiries as to the conveners and the object of the meeting, Marx consented to come.

Is that contradictory? What authority Le Lubez had to approach Marx is not discussed by Mr. Carr. Mr. Carr’s method of presenting material which cannot be immediately identified from its source, ill-befits him to accuse any person, and then submit no evidence to substantiate the accusations.
Not only is there no contradiction, but there is overwhelming evidence that shows how much Marx’s presence was desired and required at the first meeting of the International. Both the Marx version and that of Lessner suggest that steps were being taken by various parties to have Marx’s assistance. It is clear there is no mystery at all about Marx’s presence. There is no “strange obscurity” regarding the decision to invite him. True, it is obscure and mysterious to Mr. Carr. Despite all his own trumpetings regarding his firsthand information, in this respect he succeeds in displaying his woeful ignorance and utter unfamiliarity with the accurate sources of information. Mr. Carr does not know that Marx received an official invitation to the first meeting. It proves once more that he has no great knowledge of the literature issued by the Marx-Engels Institute of Moscow, for on page 146 of “Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels,” by D. Riazanov, the story is given officially. There it is asked:—

   How did he [Marx] happen to be there? A little note found among Marx’s miscellaneous papers supplies the answer. It reads:—
Mr. Marx,
Dear Sir,
The committee who have organised the meeting as announced in the enclosed bill respectfully request the favour of your attendance. The production of this will admit you to the Committee Room where the Committee will meet at half past 7.
Yours respectfully,

(Signed) W. R. CREMER.
W. R. Cremer was the Organising Secretary for the first meeting of the International. He invited Marx. So the statement on page 184 of Carr’s book is only “wrapped in strange obscurity” because of the inadequate qualifications possessed by Mr. Carr. In matters historical, Mr. Carr is woefully and abysmally ignorant. Take for example the statement he makes on page 185, concerning Lessner, of whom he writes: —

Lessner had lived in London since the early fifties. . . .

What has Mr. Carr read of the activities of Lessner? He pretends to have quoted from a book of Lessner, but Mr. Carr is as ignorant as an unborn babe of the life of Lessner. Let us deal with this “early fifties” rubbish.
Lessner left London in July, 1848, for Cologne to carry on propaganda in association with Marx and Engels in the Rhineland. After the failure of the insurrectionary movement, Lessner was expelled from Wiesbaden on June 18th, 1850, whereafter he proceeded to Mainz to organise the few revolutionary elements left in the League of Communists. For this same purpose he went to Nuremberg. In June, 1851, he was arrested in Mainz, and detained in custody until a bill of indictment was entered against him 15 months later. His trial commenced on October 4th, 1852. The verdict was given on November 12th, and Lessner was condemned to imprisonment in a fortress for three years. On January 27th, 1856, he was released, making his way to London, where he arrived in May, 1856.
THAT, dear Mr. Carr,.was how Lessner spent the ”early fifties” in London!
Another elementary example of Mr. Carr’s “authority” is the reference to Disraeli, in the first paragraph on page 201. He writes : —

   Disraeli, when he dished the Whigs, had gone a long way towards dishing the International—a body of which he had probably never heard.

That is a priceless gem from Mr. Carr, who pretends to possess something akin to universal knowledge of the working-class movement.
Mr. Carr’s assertion means that Disraeli did NOT read the “Times,” or other daily papers. But may we deal with the “Times”?
When the International Congress was held at Lausanne, Marx was able to push his friend, Eccarius, into receiving the sum of 2½ guineas per column for reporting the Congress. On Friday, September 6th, 1867, “The Times” had this head-line:—

    International Working Men’s Congress.
(From a correspondent.) Lausanne, Sept. 2nd.

Then followed the article. To suggest that Disraeli would not read this is absurd.
Because of the reports that had percolated through Lausanne, “The Times,” on September 12th, published a leading article, dealing with the International Working Men’s Association (page 6, columns 5 and 6). A year later, Wednesday, September 9th, 1868, “The Times,” in its leading article, delivered an attack upon the International (page 6, columns 3 and 4).
Disraeli, who was always pretending to be on the side of the working class, knew all about the International, and aided the organisation to deal a nasty blow at the French Government. Had Mr. Carr read the correspondence between Marx and Engels, he would have known of this, for it is to be found in Vol. 3, page 372 (Letter 1011), December 21st, 1866. In that letter Marx wrote to Engels,. pointing out that the French authorities had confiscated some letters and documents belonging to the I.W.M.A., after the Geneva Congress. These papers were obtained at the border. Many demands were made in Paris for their return, without any success. Thereupon Marx claimed them through the British Foreign Office (Lord Stanley was Minister for Foreign Affairs), as the documents were “British Property.” As Marx says in the letter, poor Napoleon, through the Foreign Office, is to return all. When action by the Cabinet is necessary it means that at least SOME of England’s greatest politicians were aware of the organisations important enough to instigate such action.
There are other cases to show Mr. Carr’s ignorance. On page 201, he refers to the Fenian activity during 1867, and that the International held two meetings., “The Dublin papers were well represented,” says Mr. Carr. What does that mean? Were the newspaper representatives at both meetings? Mr. Carr does not make it clear at all. There is a reason. Mr. Carr has obviously not read the letters that passed between Marx and Engels.
Only TWO Dublin papers were present at the FIRST meeting, i.e., “The Irishman” and the “Nation.” At the second meeting none of the Irish reporters turned up at all. At least, so Marx says, in letter 1079, dated November 30th, 1867, page 456, Vol. 3.
We had better not dismiss this Irish business without a further reference to Mr. Carr and the bluff about his translations from Marx’s works(?). On page 305 of his book, we are given an insight into the fine linguistic abilities of Mr. Carr. Says this oracle: —

   . . . In quoting from Marx’s other writings I have made my own translations. In a few passages originally written in English, I have been compelled by the inaccessibility of the English originals to re-translate from German or Russian versions.

So that’s it, is it? On page 202, when dealing with the Fenian movement, Mr. Carr writes of Jenny Marx—as usual he gives no source of origin: —

   Young Jenny Marx in the emotional enthusiasm of the early twenties “went in black since the Manchester execution and wore her Polish cross on a green ribbon.”

Mr. Carr’s quotation is clearly a “translation,” for he uses the words “went” and “wore.” The reader’s attention should be given to this important fact. The changed words predicate the “inaccessibility of the English originals.” Once more Mr. Carr proves his unfamiliarity with the Marx-Engels letters. There would have been no difficulty in printing the correct words, for the whole of the passage which Mr. Carr has had to “translate” is—and was—written by Marx in English. This can be found as a footnote to letter 1075, and is on page 453 of Vol. 3, dated November 28th, 1867. These are the words in the footnote: —

    My compliments to Mrs. Burns. Jenny goes in black since the Manchester execution, and wears her Polish cross on a green ribbon.

Had Mr. Carr seen the letter, would he have made the blunder of introducing inaccurate words?
We have noted many instances wherein he has falsified quotations. We have had abundant evidence of the meagre and deficient qualifications he possesses to adventure upon a “life” of Marx.
Mr. Carr not only persists in misquoting Marx, but, as might be expected, demonstrates that he does not understand Marxism. Space prevents dealing with other aspects of his book in detail. It may, however, be recorded that’ he misinterprets the Materialist Conception of History. In one case he expounds it in the very maimer to which both Marx and Engels took objection, and warned their “followers’’ that if their interpretation was Marxism, they (Marx and Engels) were no Marxists. Like most Marx-critics, Mr. Carr dispenses with the knowledge, efforts and abilities of those preceding him, suggesting that his work is, at last! the only correct estimate of Marx and his life. The presumptuousness of Mr. Carr is amazing. Marx’s system of political economy is brushed aside by asserting that Bohm-Bawerk’sMarx and the Close of his System” is the “classical exposure.” (I wonder if Mr. Carr has ever heard of Hilferding’s reply?) Mr. Carr shows himself incapable of understanding the purpose of Marx’s “Capital,” by stating that Marx wanted to

   demonstrate that the class-hatred of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie is explained and justified by the “exploitation” of the former by the latter.

In conclusion, it ought to be brought to the notice of the reader that not a single one of the large number of reviews of Mr. Carr’s book seen by the writer has shown any evidence of a critical faculty. Not one of these individuals has made the slightest endeavour to examine the book thoroughly. They have accepted Mr. Carr’s errors, misquotations and mistranslations without challenge. This is deplorable for one or two of the reviewers profess “to be” advocates of the proletariat, and ”advanced” thinkers! It is hard indeed to distinguish between the ignorance of the reviewers and that of Mr. Carr.
Moses Baritz