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KARL MARX ON HENRY GEORGE.
To the Editor.
Sir-It is some considerable time now since Mr. W. Clark Russell compiled and issued a most fascinating work entitled "The Book of Authors," in which was gathered together specimens of some of the smart and piquant things that have been said by distinguished literary men and women of one another. I should dearly love to see this book, or one upon similar lines brought up to our own time. In view of some person of good taste and judgment taking upon himself this literary task, or pleasure, I herewith enclose a copy of a letter by Karl Marx. It ap- peared in the German paper "Neue Zeit," in an article on "The 'Labor Movement in the United States," in June, 1892. Karl Marx wrote a notable book on "Capital," which earned for its author a world-wide reputation. In Germany especially the book has been called "the Bible of the Working Classes," while at the same time it has been the means of conferring upon Marx the title of the "Father of Scientific Socialism." Henry George, on the other hand, was an American economical writer, whose reputation chiefly rests upon his work, "Progress and Poverty," first pub- lished in 1879, two years before Marx
wrote the enclosed letter. I shall only add that in social philosophy Marx was an uncompromising collectivist, George
was an out-and-out individualist.—I am,
London, June 20, 1881.
Dear Sir—Before your copy of Henry George's book reached me I had received two others. I shall here limit myself to a very short expres- sion of opinion. In point of theory George is a back number. He has no inkling of surplus value. Following the example of English writers he takes up his time with speculations upon the component parts of surplus value—profit, rent interest, &c His fundamental dogma is that order would prevail were ground rent paid to the State. You will find allusions to that scheme in the communistic manifesto among
the transitional steps therein mentioned. Apart from similar propositions advanced towards the end of the 18th century it was first brought forth by the radical followers of Ricardo imme- diately after his death. In 1847, in my book against the anarchist principles of Proudhon, I said upon that subject—"We can conceive how economists, such as Mill and many others, have de manded that rent be turned over to the State to the end of removing taxation. This is the frank expression of hatred which the industrial capita list entertains for the land owner, who seems to him a useless and superfluous entity in the scheme of capitalist production." We incor- porated this appropriation of ground rents by the State among numerous other transitional mea- sures all of which, as stated in the "Manifesto," are and must be full of contradictions. To turn this desideratum of English bourgeois economists in a socialist panacea, to explain the procedure whereby the contradictions were to be solved that work was first undertaken by Collins, a Bel gian by birth. He issued from Paris several thick volumes upon his "discovery." His anti private property in land theory has been preached for years and his followers style themselves "rational collectivists." These so-called social- ists have this point in common—they allow wage labor and the capitalist system of production to continue, and by juggling with words fool them- selves into the notion that by conversion of ground rent into a State tax all the ills of the capitalist system would vanish. In other words, the whole thing is simply an attempt to rescue the rule of capitalism and to rear it anew upon a firmer basis. This proof, together with the donkey's ears peeps out of the declamations of Henry George, only that with him it is all the less pardonable, seeing that he should have turned the question round, and asked himself—''How did it happen that in the United States, when the land was and is, relatively speaking, accessible to the masses, the capitalist system and its cor- relative enslavement of the working class have rapidly and more shamelessly developed than in any other country?" On the other hand, George's book, together with the sensation it seems to be creating among you, has this sig- nificance, that it is the first, though abortive, attempt at emancipation from orthodox political economy. For the rest, Henry George seems to be wholly ignorant of the early American anti-renters, who were rather practical than theo retical. Otherwise he is a talented writer; but there is about him that presumptuousness and boastfulness which are the unmistakable characteristics of the hucksters of panaceas.—Fra
ternally Karl Marx.