Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels: Werke, Artikel, Entwürfe Januar bis Dezember 1855. Hans-Jürgen Bochinski, Martin Hundt et al. (eds.), GESAMTAUSGABE (MEGA) Sec. I, Vol. 14 (Berlin: Akademie- Verlag, 2001).
Last year saw the publication of two volumes in the series Karl Marx/Frederick Engels: Collected Works (CW). These volumes contain Engels’ letters to his friends and comrades-in-arms for the period 1887-92. According to the publishers, volume 50 will be published in the course of the next year, and thus the first comprehensive publication of Marx’s and Engels’ works will be available in English. Corresponding editions are available in Russian, German, Czech, Bulgarian, Italian (not fully completed yet), and French.
Parallel with the publication of these “works editions,” a “Gesamtausgabe” (MEGA) has been published from 1975 onwards, containing all the writings and manuscripts left behind by Marx and Engels. What is the difference between a “works edition” and a “Gesamtausgabe”? A “works edition” publishes, in any given language, the known writings, manuscripts, and letters by Marx and Engels. By contrast, the “Gesamtausgabe” contains, in the original languages, all the material left behind by the two men, including all known letters written to them. The explanatory notes and the indexes-names, subjects, periodicals and literature mentioned in the letters-are much more extensive. It is a scholarly edition at a very high level-what is known in German as a “historisch-kritisch” edition.
“Historisch-kritisch” entails a very exact processing of the manuscripts, a very precise description of their genesis, and full annotation. The form chosen, together with the principle of publishing every part of the material, means that this edition will consist of 114 very comprehensive volumes-the most recent one takes up 1695 pages-and that it will not be completed for another 10 to 20 years, if at all. It goes without saying that the problem of procuring funding is due to the political tenor of the texts. Incidentally, the volume under preparation in the USA has achieved adequate funding.
This “Gesamtausgabe” constitutes the second attempt to publish all the written material left behind by Marx and Engels. The first attempt was made during the years between the two world wars, but was discontinued after the publication of volume 13. After the end of World War 2 there was a discussion lasting several years about making a second attempt, and in 1975 the publication of this new edition was begun. The publishers were the Institutes of Marxism-Leninism in Moscow and Berlin, and they submitted two test volumes to the interested public for discussion.
The original plan was to publish 100 volumes to be completed over 25 years. But the job grew along the way-at one point 180 volumes were planned. After the breakdown of the GDR and the Soviet Union, a new publisher had to be found, viz., the Internationale Marx-Engels Stiftung (IMES, the Marx-Engels Foundation), located in Amsterdam, at the International Institute for Social History (IISG). As a first step, the IMES appointed a commission to evaluate the project, the volumes published so far, and the guidelines to be observed. The commission recognized the high scholarly level achieved in the approximately 42 volumes published so far, and resolved that publication was to be continued. The number of volumes was reduced to 114 without abandoning the principle that all the material left behind by Marx and Engels would be published. The reduction was achieved by avoiding duplication of material, and by omitting any introductory assessments which, before 1990, had attempted to adjust texts to the Marxist- Leninist ideology. This was in keeping with the declared objective of depoliticizing the edition while making it more scholarly.
The early 1990s saw the publication of a number of volumes that were so near completion that they could only be published in accordance with the old guidelines (however without the introductions); after that, there was an interruption in publication which lasted for several years. Not until 1998 was a new volume published, and the years since then have seen the publication of another five volumes. This year (2002) at least two volumes will appear. Thus, publication goes on at a slow pace, but it does go on.
The edition is subdivided into four sections. The first contains all works, articles, and dissertations; the second, Capital and preparatory studies; the third, correspondence; and the fourth, excerpts from books written by other authors, notes, and other types of material. The most recent volume in the fourth section includes, for instance, the famous Theses on Feuerbach. Virtually none of the material in the 32 volumes of this section has ever been published before; so far, 10 of its volumes have appeared. As for the third section, it includes not only the roughly 4000 known letters from Marx and Engels, but also about 10,000 letters written to them. The result is that this section will become the most extensive one, with a total of 35 volumes, 10 of which are already out. This constitutes a fantastic extension of the material available, and provides for a much more profound understanding of developments than the separate publications of letters to the Italians, to individuals like August Bebel, etc. The second section covers the very extensive preparatory studies to Capital, which up to now have only been accessible in fragmented form, mostly still in manuscript. The existing 17 volumes out of the total 24 of this section have already provided the basis for extensive discussion of such matters as Engels’ adaptation of Capital vols. 2 and 3.
Half of the volumes planned for section 1, i.e. 16 volumes, have been published; these are, in the main, well known texts; however, through an intensive research effort, several new texts have been located, and others have been clarified. This apparent in the volume under review (vol. I-14), which consists of articles written in 1855 for the newspapers Neue Oder-Zeitung (NOZ) and the New York (Daily) Tribune (NYT). In addition to these approximately 200 articles, there is one somewhat lengthier article by Engels in Putnam’s Monthly, “The Armies of Europe.” The volume contains everything published in the year 1855, including 33 newly found articles. In this volume and in keeping with the principles of publication, approximately half of the texts are in English. The articles for which authorship remains uncertain or for which the NYT editors seem to have intervened notably are printed in an appendix.
Marx’s and Engels’ collaboration with the New York Tribune and its editor, Charles Anderson Dana, extended from 1851 to 1862 and led to jobs for other periodicals and to extensive contributions on their part to the New American Cyclopaedia. These were very important jobs for the two-for Marx in particular as he had no other income beyond what he and Engels earned for their writings. It appears that Engels at that time had no other way of assisting Marx financially than by writing several articles in Marx’s name. In fact, collaboration with the NYT was begun by a lengthy series of articles “Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany” (1851-52), published in Marx’s name, but actually written by Engels. This fiction was kept up throughout the period of their collaboration with the NYT, and it is only after the publication of the Marx-Engels correspondence that it has become clear which writings are attributable to Marx and which to Engels. Their cooperation was to become even more far-reaching, as it has become clear that for the year 1855 the reports and analyses that Marx wrote to the NOZ were very often pure summaries and translations of Engels’ articles in the NYT. Obviously, it was only possible for the two authors to work so closely together because of their fundamental congruity of thought-a circumstance which ought to give pause to those who have posited an inconsistency between Marx and Engels.
The following period of 11 years, during which so much of their writing was for American publications, is not without interest for the subsequent evolution of their theoretical works: it is obvious that Marx has recycled material from that period in those manuscripts that are now being published in the second section of MEGA. The material is also extremely relevant for the development of the political aspects of Marxism. For a long time, Marx worked exclusively as a journalist and editor of the Rheinische Zeitung, the Brüsseler Deutsche Zeitung, and the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, and he contributed to a number of others, such as the labor newspaper The People’s Paper, Das Volk, and also the democratic paper, the Neue Oder-Zeitung. This means that a considerable proportion of the two authors’ production consists of newspaper articles, like, for example, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, which was intended for the weekly magazine Die Revolution, published in New York.
Essential elements of Marxism were only developed through journalistic work. For example, it was only in connection with editing an article describing how “poor people” stole waste firewood, that it became clear to Marx what material necessity actually meant for the vast majority of the population. It is easy to discern that in 1855 his journalism was very much concerned with the economic implications of the political and military events taking place at the time. However, reading these articles will also reveal other lines of thought. For both Marx and Engels it was important to set out the facts on which their analyses were based. It is well known that Marx and Engels to some degree suffered from Russophobia-in part because the Czarist Empire was, in fact, the great counter-revolutionary power of the time, a regime which, in the name of “the Holy Alliance” strove to maintain the existing social order. To secure this aim, Russia was willing to deploy her troops against terrorists and rogue states. In this respect Russia was in agreement with the France of Napoleon III, and there was a long-lasting close cooperation between the two powers. Internationalization of events began to play a prominent role in Marx’s and Engels’ journalism.
However, in 1855 there was no Franco-Russian co-operation; on the contrary, at that time, the Crimean War pitted France, Great Britain, and some other allies against Russia. In the present MEGA volume, the economic and political implications are subjected to a detailed discussion, and Engels also carries out a military analysis of important battles (e.g., Sevastopol), examining the strengths and compositions of the respective armies. These analyses make for fascinating reading as they evolve over the year. Reading them in sequence provides the reader with a good understanding of events, more so than the contemporary reader would have been able to deduce.
In this volume, Marx’s multi-faceted discussion of British parliamentarism can be read in the context of his assessment of the party system, of the role of parliamentary opposition, and of the impact of the press on public opinion. Criticism of the Bonapartist system (as distinct from the Bonapartist coup described in The 18th Brumaire), and in particular of the role played by Napoleon III himself, is further developed. The volume also contains a series of articles by Engels on Pan-Slavism (from the NOZ), supplemented by a draft intended either for these articles or for a more exhaustive dissertation which he planned to write on the phenomenon of Pan-Slavism. The assessments propounded in these articles are correlated with those raised in the revolution of 1848-49. Subsequently, Engels has been criticized, most extensively by Roman Rosdolsky, for his evaluation of peoples like the Czechs, Slovenians, Croats, etc., as being “nonhistoric,” i.e., being doomed to national disappearance into the surrounding larger nations-in this case the Hungarians and the Germans-because in their (embryonic) struggle for national independence they joined forces with reactionary powers in the revolution of 1848-49 and turned against the democratic movement among Hungarians and Germans. At a later time, Engels revised his position as the emergence of an industrial working class and a labor movement within these nations made them part of the general progressive trend. Already in 1896 in the preface to the German edition of Revolution and Counter- Revolution in Germany, Kautsky (who still thought Marx was the author of the articles) explains this theoretical position. The fact that Engels’ perception of the Nation is very far removed from nationalism will be seen from a comparison with the nationalism of Napoleon III.
The present volume, together with volumes 10 to 13 of this section, volumes 3-7 of the third section and volumes 7-9 of the fourth section (covering 1849-1851), makes it possible to assess Marx’s and Engels’ development from the end of the 1848 revolutions until the mid-1850s. Until now it was not possible to follow developments with the same degree of precision. Volumes 13 and 14 of the CW, published in 1980, cover the same period as this MEGA volume; some texts, however, appear only in the MEGA volume, as they were not discovered until the mid-1980s.
In connection with the publication of MEGA, extensive research takes place: in the course of the 1980s, the University of Leipzig in the former GDR made extensive efforts to find possible articles in the three editions of the NYT (daily, semi-weekly, and weekly); these investigations were in part based on the correspondence between Marx and Engels. It is a serious difficulty that in 1855 Dana published Marx’s articles anonymously and as leading articles without any byline or other form of identification; that often he would split up one article into several, and so on. Examination has led to the identification of 20 articles attributable to Engels and another 10 that could be by Marx or Engels.
To make these partial results quickly accessible, and to disseminate the theoretical significance of the research, several publications are available. These include: an annual Marx-Engels-Jahrbuch, published jointly by the two institutes in Moscow and Berlin; a Russian bulletin was published in Moscow; and three semi-internal newsletters that were published in Leipzig, Halle, and Berlin in the GDR. Today a yearbook, Beiträge zur Marx-Engels-Forschung Neue Folge, is published by the Argument publishing house in Berlin/ Hamburg. In this series additional volumes are published; so far, three have seen the light of day, dealing with the history of the various Marx-Engels editions. The articles published in the Beiträge are mostly in German, but some are in English. The same applies to the periodical published by IMES, MEGA-Studien, which is, in principle, written in French, English, and German, but with a preponderance of German-language articles. Without any ties to the MEGA, there is a French periodical (Actuel Marx) and an English yearbook (Studies in Marxism), which both include articles of immediate relevance for this comprehensive edition. In number 31-32 (1998) of the periodical Critique, published in Glasgow, there are several articles in English on the MEGA. In any case, all the MEGA volumes are available in the Tamiment Library at New York University.
It is a significant factor in this publication odyssey that in order to promote scholarly internationalization and to preempt any one country from monopolizing this work, groups of volunteer researchers in several countries, e.g., Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and the USA, are deeply involved in the project.
Reviewed by Gerd Callesen
Arbejderbevaegelsens bibliotek og arkiv
[Labor Movement Library and Archive]