The State and the Ruling Class: An Anthology of Key Works of Libertarian/Classical Liberal Class Analysis

Compiled by David M. Hart
Table of Contents of the Anthology: <>

[Created: 16 August, 2016]
[Updated: 7 January, 2017 ]


Karl Marx, "Letter to Joseph Weydemeyer (5 March 1852)

Editing History

  • Item added: 29 Nov. 2016
  • 1st Edit:
  • Word count: 1453 (extract 43 words)


MECW Volume 39, p. 58; First published in full in Jungsozialistische Blätter, 1930.

Editor's Intro

Use quote as fronticepiece to anthology.


London, 5 March 1852, 28 Dean Street, Soho

Dear Weywy,

I am afraid there has been a bit of a muddle because, having misunderstood thy last letter, I addressed the last 2 packages to: Office of the Revolution 7 Chambers Street, Box 1817. What caused the confusion was that damned ‘Box 1817’, since you had written telling me to append this to the ‘old address’ without drawing any distinction between the first address and the second. But I hope the matter will have resolved itself before this letter arrives, the more so since last Friday’s letter contained the very detailed fifth instalment of my article. This week I was prevented from finishing the sixth, which is also the last one. If your paper is appearing again, this delay will not prove an obstacle since you have an ample supply of material.

Your article against Heinzen, unfortunately sent to me too late by Engels, is very good, at once coarse and fine, and this is the right combination for any polemic worthy of the name. I have shown this article to Ernest Jones and enclosed you will find a letter from him addressed to you, intended for publication. Since Jones writes very illegibly and with abbreviations, and since I assume that you are not yet an out-and-out Englishman, I am sending you, along with the original, a copy made by my wife, together with the German translation; you should print them both, the original and the translation, side by side. Below Jones’ letter you might add the following comment: As to George Julian Harney, likewise one of Mr Heinzen’s authorities, he published our Communist Manifesto in English in his Red Republican with a marginal note describing it as ‘The most revolutionary document ever given to the world’, and in his Democratic Review he translated the words of ‘wisdom brushed aside’ by Heinzen, namely my articles on the French Revolution from the Revue der N. Rh. Z, and in a paper on Louis Blanc he refers his readers to these articles as being the ‘true critical examination’ of the French affair. By the way, in England there is no need to have recourse only to ‘extremists’. If, in England, a Member of Parliament becomes a minister, he must have himself re-elected. Thus Disraeli, the new Chancellor, Lord of the Exchequer, writes to his constituents on 1 March:

We shall endeavour to terminate that strife of classes which, of late years, has exercised so pernicious an influence over the welfare of this kingdom.

Whereupon The Times of 2 March comments:

If anything would ever divide classes in this country beyond reconciliation, and leave no chance of a just and honourable peace, it would be a tax on foreign corn.

And lest some ignorant ‘man of character’ like Heinzen should suppose that the aristocrats are for and the bourgeois against the Corn Laws because the former want ‘monopoly’ and the latter ‘freedom’ — your worthy citizen sees opposites only in this ideological form — we shall content ourselves with saying that, in England, in the eighteenth century, the aristocrats were for ‘freedom’ (of trade) and the bourgeois for ‘monopoly’, — precisely the same attitude as is adopted by the two classes in present-day ‘Prussia’ towards the ‘Corn Laws’. There is no more rabid free trader than the Neue Pr. Z.

Finally, if I were you, I should tell the democratic gents en général that they would do better to acquaint themselves with bourgeois literature before they venture to yap at its opponents. For instance they should study the historical works of Thierry, Guizot, John Wade and so forth, in order to enlighten themselves as to the past ‘history of the classes’. They should acquaint themselves with the fundamentals of political economy before attempting to criticise the critique of political economy. For example, one need only open Ricardo’s magnum opus to find, on the first page, the words with which he begins his preface:

The produce of the earth — all that is derived from its surface by the united application of labour, machinery, and capital, is divided among three classes of the community; namely the proprietor of the land, the owner of the stock or capital necessary for its cultivation, and the labourers by whose industry it is cultivated.

Now, in the United States bourgeois society is still far too immature for the class struggle to be made perceptible and comprehensible; striking proof of this is provided by C. H. Carey (of Philadelphia), the only North American economist of any note. He attacks Ricardo, the most classic representative of the bourgeoisie and the most stoical opponent of the proletariat, as a man whose works are an arsenal for anarchists and socialists, for all enemies of the bourgeois order. He accuses not only him, but also Malthus, Mill, Say, Torrens, Wakefield, MacCulloch, Senior, Whately, R. Jones, etc. — those who lead the economic dance in Europe — of tearing society apart, and of paving the way for civil war by showing that the economic bases of the various classes are such that they will inevitably give rise to a necessary and ever-growing antagonism between the latter. He tries to refute them, not, it is true, like the fatuous Heinzen, by relating the existence of classes to the existence of political privileges and monopolies but by seeking to demonstrate that economic conditions: rent (landed property), profit (capital) and wages (wage labour), rather than being conditions of struggle and antagonism, are conditions of association and harmony. All he proves, of course, is that the ‘undeveloped’ relations in the United States are, to him, ‘normal relations.’

Now as for myself, I do not claim to have discovered either the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me, bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this struggle between the classes, as had bourgeois economists their economic anatomy. My own contribution was 1. to show that the existence of classes is merely bound up with certain historical phases in the development of production; 2. that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; 3. that this dictatorship itself constitutes no more than a transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society. Ignorant louts such as Heinzen, who deny not only the struggle but the very existence of classes, only demonstrate that, for all their bloodthirsty, mock-humanist yelping, they regard the social conditions in which the bourgeoisie is dominant as the final product, the non plus ultra of history, and that they themselves are simply the servants of the bourgeoisie, a servitude which is the more revolting, the less capable are the louts of grasping the very greatness and transient necessity of the bourgeois regime itself.

Select from the above notes whatever you think fit. By the way, Heinzen has adopted our ‘centralisation’ in place of his ‘federative republic’, etc. When the views on classes we are now disseminating have become familiar objects of ‘sound common sense’ then the scoundrel will proclaim them aloud as the latest product of his ‘own sagacity’ and yap his opposition to our onward progress. Thus, in the light of his ‘own sagacity’, he yapped at Hegelian philosophy so long as it was progressive. Now he feeds on its stale scraps, spat out undigested by Ruge.

Herewith also the end of the Hungarian article. It is all the more essential that you should try to make some use of this — assuming your paper exists — because Szemere, the erstwhile prime minister of Hungary, now in Paris, has promised me to write a long article for you, signed with his own name.

If your paper has come into being, send more copies so that it can he distributed more widely.

K. Marx

Kind regards to you and your wife from all your friends here, especially my wife.

Apropos. I am sending you the Notes to the People and a few copies of my Assizes speech (this last for Cluss, to whom I promised it) by the hand of the ex-Montagnard Hochstuhl (an Alsatian). There’s nothing to the fellow.

Herewith the Rules. I would advise you to arrange them in more logical order. London is designated as the district responsible for the United States. Hitherto we have been able to exercise our authority only in partibus.

If you have not already done so, do not accept ‘Hirsch’s’ statement. He’s an unsavoury individual, although in the right where Schapper and Willich are concerned.