The Meme Spreads… Backwards in Time

Apparently Karl and Fred were no strangers to the splendid / rubbish / nonsense triad:

Paris, 18 September 1846
11, rue de l’arbre secDear Marx,

A whole lot of things I wanted to write about privately have found their way into the business letter because that was the one I wrote first. No matter if the others read the rubbish for once.

Hitherto I have rather dreaded setting to work on the extracts from Feuerbach. Here in Paris the stuff strikes one as utterly insipid. But now that I’ve got the book [Feuerbach, Das Wesen der Religion] at home, I shall apply myself to it at the earliest opportunity. Weydemeyer�s sweet nonsense is touching. The fellow first declares that he wants to draft a manifesto in which he pronounces us blackguards and then expresses the hope that this won�t give rise to personal differences. Even in Germany such a thing would only be possible on the Hanoverian-Prussian border…

But L�ning�s rubbish is the most ludicrous of all. One can almost visualise the fellow as he daringly looses a hypocritical turd into his trousers…

Yesterday evening, when I was with the workers here, I read the �London Address� already in print. Trash. They address themselves to the �people�, i.e. the presumed proletarians in Schleswig-Holstein which is haunted exclusively by loutish, Low-German peasants and guildish Straubingers. They have learnt from the English this nonsense, this total disregard for actual circumstances, this inability to comprehend an historical development. Instead of answering the question, they want the �people� � who, in their sense of the word, don�t exist at all there � to disregard it and behave peacefully and passively; it doesn�t occur to them that the bourgeoisie continues to do as it likes…

I did Proudhon a really crying injustice in my business letter. Since there was no room in this last letter, I must make amends here. For I believed he had perpetrated a trifling nonsense, a nonsense within the bounds of sense. Yesterday the matter came up again and was discussed at great length, and it was then I learned that this new nonsense is in truth wholly unbounded nonsense. [Marx explains why this is nonsense in a few lines, and then summarises:] By dint of proletarian savings, and by waiving the profit and interest on their capital, these people intend, for the present, to buy up the whole of France, no more nor less, and later, perhaps, the rest of the world as well. Was ever more splendid plan devised, and if you want to perform a tour de force, what quicker way than to coin five franc pieces out of silver moonshine? And the workers here, fools that they are � the Germans, I mean � believe this rubbish, they who can�t keep six sous in their pockets to visit a marchand de vin on the evenings of their meetings, propose to buy up toute la belle France with their savings. Rothschild and company are mere dabblers compared with these accapareurs. Gr�n has so confused the fellows that the most nonsensical platitude makes more sense to them than the simplest fact adduced for the purpose of economic argument. It is disgraceful that one should still have to pit oneself against such barbaric nonsense… But one must be patient, and I shall not let the fellows go until I have driven Gr�n from the field and have swept the cobwebs from their brains. The only fellow clear-headed enough to see through the whole nonsense is our Junge who was in Brussels. …

What is everyone doing there?


Yes, that’s Fred to Karl, 18 September 1846, full text available here. And for those of you without internet access, it’s also in Vol.38 of the Marx-Engels Collected Works, pp.67-73.

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