Method of work

Marx knew of course that Dana, the editor, and the owners of the widely distributed New York Daily Tribune, who had asked him to contribute articles to the paper, would not tolerate the open propagating of Communist ideas. This task had to be carried out in other ways, especially through the Communist League members who had emigrated to the USA.

But Dana had already recognised through the Neue Rheinische Zeitung that Marx was the most consistent and most capable exponent of democracy, although he was not able to perceive that this grew out of Marx’s proletarian position. What interested Dana was the strengthening of the democratic movement in the USA, and Marx was to contribute to that end.

Marx did precisely that, with all this power, since the strengthening of the democratic movement was also in the immediate interests of the proletariat of America. Here he followed his principle: to utilise  every bourgeois freedom, no matter how restricted, every facility of bourgeois society – from parliament through the press to the courts – in order to be able to speak to the people, especially the workers, and to make them conscious of their historical tasks.

Contributions to “Tribune”
Marx began his contributions to the paper in the autumn of 1851. Engels helped him, translating Marx’s manuscripts into English in the first years, since Marx at that time still felt himself to be insecure in the language. Engels wrote many articles and series, which were sent under Marx’s name to New York.

There was hardly a significant political or social development during this period that Marx and Engels did not deal with in their more than 500 articles in the Tribune. Whether the issue was the stubborn struggles of working class of England, or the changing fortunes of the Bonapartist regime in France, or the background reasons for the Crimean War, or the public and secret arms of English foreign policy, or the painful rebirth of the democratic movement in Germany – they always understood how to lay bare the crimes of the capitalist order, to expose the reactionary situation in the European States, and to lead the reader to the conclusion that only the proletariat could abolish the inhuman conditions of the old society.

Marx by no means restricted himself to Europe. He also began systematically to examine the situation in foreign lands like China and India. Marx wrote three articles on India in 1853 and he and Engels wrote 28 articles in the course of 16 months on the 1857 revolt in the Indian army. Marx pilloried the robber colonial policy of the capitalist States and with deep sympathy followed the struggle of the peoples for liberation that was developing against the colonial rulers in India and other countries.

Anti-colonial Movements
In these national, anti-colonial freedom movements he saw a support for the revolutionary movement in Europe. “The Indian,” he wrote, “will not reap the fruits of the new elements of society scattered among them by the British bourgeoisie, till in Great Britain itself the now ruling classes shall have been supplanted by the industrial proletariat, or till the Hindus themselves shall have grown strong to throw off the English yoke altogether. At all events, we may safely expect to see, at a more or less remote period, the regeneration of that great and interesting country….”

In his articles about China and India, and Ireland which was then under the colonial rule of England, Marx for the first time put forward the thesis that the revolutionary proletariat must support every movement of liberation in the colonies, because the European workers and the colonial peoples had a common enemy-the bourgeoisie.

For his articles Marx researched all the available literature, statistics and other studies, so that his work for the Tribune threatened to rob him of all his time and to keep him back from his researches in the field of political economy. Engels came to the rescue, time and again, by writing the articles, in order that they could retain in opportunity to influence public opinion, and that Marx could at the same time be certain of his fee.

The close scientific collaboration between Marx and Engels, however, was in no way exhausted by the joint journalistic work for the Tribune. Although they were forced for 20 years to live separated in different cities, their unprecedented friendship developed even further during this period. They frequently deplored the fact that they could not, as earlier, live and work in close proximity, and exchange opinions face-to-face, or test them in verbal crossfire. It was difficult to make up this lack with occasional visits.

All the more lively, however, was their correspondence. There was hardly a week in which Marx did not write to his friend, and at time the letters went daily to Manchester.

Exchange of Letters
If the physical separation made intellectual contact more difficult, it also furthered the ripening of many views of Marx and Engels precisely through the written form in which their exchange of opinions took place, allowing as it did a quiet analysis, yet demanding precise formulation. Whole passages from their letters often went almost unchanged into their publicist work.

All the scientific and political problems with which Marx was occupied were reflected in his letters to Engels. Problems of philosophy and international politics, of the natural sciences and mathematics, of history, and with unfailing regularity, of political economy, were discussed with Engels in the correspondence. New views were passed on, discussed back and forth, and in the end mutually accepted or thrown out. The letters were filled with a passionate and unflagging pursuit of scientific truth.

Division of Labour
In this process, a certain division of labour grew up between Marx and Engels in the 1850s. Marx concentrated more on the study of political economy, world history and the foreign policy of the European States, while Engels systematically pushed ahead with research in military science, the science of languages, and then with an especially deep-going study of the natural sciences.

Neither came to an important scientific conclusion, or formed a political opinion, without first getting the judgment of the other. Neither sent a manuscript to the printer-unless time prohibited it –without the other having read it and given advice, so that the ideas and conclusions of the one belonged to the other also. For some works of Engels, Marx contributed whole sections and chapters, without his name being mentioned, just as he also, time and again, called on Engels for aid.

All this went on without any fuss. Marx was not fond of any fuss. Yet once, in one of the most critical hours of his life, after the death of his son Edgar, he put into words what Engels’ friendship meant for him :   “In all the terrible torment that I have endured in these days, I have been kept upright by the thought of you and your friendship and the hope that we will yet be able to accomplish something sensible in the world together.”

To get his article ready on schedule for the Tribune, Marx had to work late into the night with increasing frequency. Liebknecht who in the 1850s was almost a daily visitor to the Marx home, later remembered with wonder: “he worked colossally. And since he was often interrupted during the day—especially in the early period of exile—he found a solution in night work. When we went home in the late evening from one meeting or another, Marx regularly still sat down to work for a few hours. And the few hours always expanded, till in the end he worked through almost whole night and slept in the morning. His wife tried earnestly to dissuade him—but he would answer with a laugh that this reflected his nature”.

But no “nature”, no matter how healthy, could endure these long years of overwork without damage. In the mid 1850s Marx began to suffer from growing, prolonged and often painful illness, the results of his constant deprivations and exertions.

Basic and Conscientious
In his scientific work, Marx was extraordinarily basic and conscientious. His guiding principle was: “The researcher has the basic duty of making the material his own down to the last detail, to analyse its various forms of development, and to track down their inner connection. Only after this work has been completed can the real movement be shown accordingly.”

In order to assemble and to study his material, Marx did not draw back from the most tedious and time-consuming drudgery. He carefully checked every bit of information in the literature. He accepted nothing at second-hand, but always sought out the original source. He even compared particulars of secondary importance with the original sources and made extra trips for the library for the purpose.

Having already mastered English and French, he also learnt Italian and Spanish, and then, as a fifty-year old, Russian—in order to be able to study the literature in the original language. He was fond of repeating the maxim: “A foreign language is a weapon in the struggle of life.”

For every one of his planned books, he piled together comprehensive extracts, tables, bibliographies, and all kinds of calculations and notes. He arranged this material by listing and summarizing the contents. He often drafted his thoughts and the results of his researches in the form of an extended study, which for the time being was only for the own clarification and not yet meant for the printer. Only then did he begin with the real working out of the book or brochure.

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