In 1861, Marx was dismissed as a correspondent for the New York Tribune, but also undertook a journey to Germany in February 1861 and arrived in Berlin on 18 March, in order to attempt to organise with Lassalle a new radical newspaper in Germany that he could edit (Sperber 2014: 343–344). He visited Trier at this time and saw his mother, but the visit did not go well and she broke off contact (Sperber 2014: 343). Marx arrived back in England in May 1861, but decided not to move back to Germany (Sperber 2014: 346).
Between 1862 and 1864 Marx was once again hit by severe financial problems (Sperber 2014: 347). By 1862 this was so bad that Marx sought a job in a railway company but was turned down for bad handwriting (Sperber 2014: 348).
On 7 January 1863, Engels’ mistress Mary Burns died and Engels was grief-stricken since he was greatly attached to her. Marx, who cared more for his money problems, wrote a money-grubbing letter to Engels as follows:
Dear Engels,Engels was infuriated, and one can see why. It was the worst crisis of Marx and Engels’ friendship (Wheen 2001: 262–263).
The news of Mary’s death surprised no less than it dismayed me. She was so good-natured, witty and closely attached to you.
The devil alone knows why nothing but ill-luck should dog everyone in our circle just now. I no longer know which way to turn either. My attempts to raise money in France and Germany have come to nought, and it might, of course, have been foreseen that £15 couldn’t help me to stem the avalanche for more than a couple of weeks. Aside from the fact that no one will let us have anything on credit — save for the butcher and baker — which will also cease at the end of this week — I am being dunned for the school fees, the rent, and by the whole gang of them. Those who got a few pounds on account cunningly pocketed them, only to fall upon me with redoubled vigour. On top of that, the children have no clothes or shoes in which to go out. In short, all hell is let loose, as I clearly foresaw when I came up to Manchester and despatched my wife to Paris as a last coup de désespoir. If I don’t succeed in raising a largish sum through a loan society or life assurance (and of that I can see no prospect; in the case of the former society I tried everything I could think of, but in vain. They demand guarantors, and want me to produce receipts for rent and rates, which I can’t do), then the household here has barely another two weeks to go.
It is dreadfully selfish of me to tell you about these horreurs at this time. But it’s a homeopathic remedy. One calamity is a distraction from the other. And, au bout du compte, what else can I do? In the whole of London there’s not a single person to whom I can so much as speak my mind, and in my own home I play the silent stoic to counterbalance the outbursts from the other side. It’s becoming virtually impossible to work under such circumstances. Instead of Mary, ought it not to have been my mother, who is in any case a prey to physical ailments and has had her fair share of life ... ? You can see what strange notions come into the heads of ‘civilised men’ under the pressure of certain circumstances.
Marx was only saved by (1) an inheritance of £580 from his mother (who died on 30 November, 1863) and he journeyed to Trier to claim it, and (2) after 9 May, 1864 one from his friend Wilhelm Wolff of £700 (Sperber 2014: 349–350). Marx paid all his debts and in March 1864 moved to 1 Modena Villas in North London (Sperber 2014: 350; Wheen 2001: 266).
From 1863 Marx had severe health problems involving carbuncles, which may have been caused by an autoimmune disease (Sperber 2014: 350–351). He took the Victorian remedy of arsenic but it just poisoned him.
In 1863, Ferdinand Lassalle (1825–1864) created the General German Workers’ Association, but in private Marx was critical of Lassalle mostly because of personal differences (Sperber 2014: 354). After Lassalle was killed in 1864 Marx declined to take over leadership of the party.
From 28 September 1864, Marx was involved with the International Workingmen’s Association or the First International (1864–1876), which was founded in a workmen’s meeting held in Saint Martin’s Hall, London (Sperber 2014: 355). The First International was not a purely Marxist organisation by any means, but a loose association of different socialist, communist and working class movements. The core of the First International was a group of 23 English trade unions (Sperber 2014: 355).
Marx was only one of the 20–25 members of the General Council of the First International but exerted a considerable influence behind the scenes (Sperber 2014: 360). The Council met most Tuesdays on Greek Street, Soho (Wheen 2001: 280).
In Germany, however, the General German Workers’ Association refused to join the First International and Marx lost influence in Germany (Sperber 2014: 364). It was only in 1869 that the newly-formed Social Democratic Labour Party led by Wilhelm Liebknecht and August Bebel affiliated itself with the First International (Sperber 2014: 369).
In 1865, Marx’s work on the first volume of Capital was interrupted by one of his many episodes of bad health (Wheen 2001: 290), and he was able to finally publish it in 1867.
After Engels’ father died in March 1860 Engels became a partner in Ermen & Engels and sold his interest in the business in 1868 with enough money to retire on, and Marx received £350 a year from this point, which gave him a reasonable financial security (Sperber 2014: 370, 484). Engels also moved to London in 1870 (Wheen 2001: 280), and lived with Lydia “Lizzie” Burns, Mary Burns’s sister.
Marx published volume 1 of Capital in German in 1867, but there were a number of drafts of Capital and other manuscripts in these years as follows:
(1) Marx, Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie (Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy), manuscript, 1857–1858.There was no real response to the first edition of Capital in 1867 in England, though in Germany it did have some limited interest. Werner Sombart, a younger German Historical School economist, briefly had admiration for Marx, but other Historical School economists like Hermann Roesler had serious criticisms (Sperber 2014: 457, 458; Wheen 2001: 312). Marx and Engels had to arrange for anonymous reviews in Germany in their desperation to attract attention to Capital (Sperber 2014: 458).
About 800 manuscript pages by Marx on political economy which were not even published until 1939 (Wheen 2001: 227). This formed the basis of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) (Sperber 2014: 421).
(2) Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859).
This was Marx’s initial, long-awaited work on political economy, but was a great disappointment to most of his followers (Wheen 2001: 237–238). Much of it was incorporated into the first volume of Capital.
(3) Manuscript of 1861–1863
A large manuscript of 1,500 pages (Wheen 2001: 258) which included Marx’s analysis of the history of economy thought which later appeared as Theories of Surplus Value.
(4) First Draft of Capital:
Manuscript of 1863–1865
A first draft of Capital. Marx took the first 40% and revised it and published the first German edition of Capital from it in 1867 (Sperber 2014: 421).
(5) volume 1 of Capital in German published in a first edition of 1867.
(6) Second Draft of Capital:
Manuscript II for Book II (1868–1870)
Manuscripts for Books II and III (1867–1871)
(7) volume 1 of Capital in German published in a second edition of 1872–1873 and volume 1 of Capital in a French translation (1872–1875)
There were a number of changes to and corrections of the first German edition in these editions.
(8) third Draft of Capital:
Manuscripts for Book III (1874–1878)
Manuscripts for Book II (1877–1881)
(9) Theories of Surplus Value, part of the Manuscript of 1861–1863 but which was first published in 1905–1910 and which is considered Volume 4 of Capital.
Michael Heinrich, 2013. “Crisis Theory, the Law of the Tendency of the Profit Rate to Fall, and Marx’s Studies in the 1870s,” Monthly Review 64.11 (April).
Importantly, the first English translation of volume 1 of Capital only appeared in 1887 after Marx’s death in this edition:
Marx, Karl. 1887. Capital. A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production. Volume I (trans. from 3rd German edn. by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling). Swan Sonnenschein, Lowrey & Co., London.When Marx died in 1883 the vast majority of his proposed work in political economy was unpublished (Sperber 2014: 421).
As Sperber (2014: 388–389) points out, Marx’s Capital was very much a development of pessimistic Ricardian economics, and adopted the labour theory of value from Classical economics (Sperber 2014: 419). Marx thought that Capital was the best and highest form of Classical economics (Sperber 2014: 462). In that respect, Marx was not such a radical in economics while Classical Political Economy was the dominant school of thought in the mid-19th century. With the marginal revolution of the 1870s, however, Marx’s ideas already seemed obsolete to neoclassical economists of the 1890s (Sperber 2014: 461–462).
While Engels by his last years was clearly a positivist (Sperber 2014: 415), Marx’s attitude to empiricism/positivism in Capital and in his general thinking was contradictory: on the one hand he was willing to accept the empirical discoveries of late 19th century science where these seemed to support his worldview (such as Darwinism), but persisted in a Hegelian habit of dismissing empirical realities in economic life as mere “surface” phenomena to be understood by a mysterious hidden inner logic, inner connections, or secret form (Sperber 2014: 391–409, 414, 425). This Hegelian method is evident in Capital and is plainly anti-scientific and a serious methodological flaw in the work. Marx, then, remained halfway along a line from Hegelian philosophy to modern positivism (Sperber 2014: 417–418).
Sperber, Jonathan. 2014. Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life. Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York.
Wheen, Francis. 2001. Karl Marx: A Life. W. W. Norton & Company, New York and London.