Saturday, April 17, 2021

Letter: A Statement Challenged (1950)

Letter to the Editors from the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have received the following letter from a correspondent:—

To Secretary, Socialist Party of G.B.

Dear Sir,

In your booklet on the Centenary of Communist Manifesto you state in the preface: That in the preface to the 1872 edition Marx and Engels say: “No special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at end of Section II.”

In a debate a speaker denied the accuracy of this, and produced a book which is supposed to contain all the prefaces. The above could not be found in it.

Can you enlighten me on this point? Thanking you in anticipation of your reply, for which I enclose stamped addressed envelope.
Yours faithfully,
L. Benjamin.

The above letter relates to a passage on page 3 of the Preface to “The Communist Manifesto—and the Last Hundred Years,” published by the S.P.G.B.

In our Preface we drew attention to the statement made by Marx and Engels in their joint preface to the. 1872 edition of the Communist Manifesto. The whole statement that we quote from Marx and Engels is:
  “No special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded to-day.”
Sixteen years after Marx and Engels wrote that passage Engels, after the death of Marx in 1883, wrote
a new-preface to the 1888 edition of the Communist Manifesto, and in that 1888 preface he quoted again the words that he and Marx had written in 1872.

For confirmation of the above our correspondent can refer his critic to any of the following editions of the Communist Manifesto:—
  • The edition published by W. Reeves, London, in 1888 (see page 6). This is the authorised English translation edited by Engels himself.
  • “Modern Books” edition, London, 1929 (p. xv). “Lawrence and Wishart” Edition, London, 1939 (P. 8).
  • The “Martin Lawrence” edition, London, 1930, with an Introduction and explanatory notes by D. Ryazanoff, Director of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow (p. 260).
This last-named edition does not contain the 1888 Preface by Engels, and its version of the 1872 Joint Preface by Marx and Engels is a translation from the Russian, which was itself a translation from the German. This is doubtless the explanation of the fact that it words the passage slightly differently, as follows:
  “We therefore do not lay any special stress upon the revolutionary measures suggested at the close of the second section. In many respects the passage would have to be differently worded to-day.”
It is clear that the critic who challenged the authenticity of the statement in the S.P.G.B. edition is mistaken. It would be interesting to know what is the book from which he obtained his erroneous information.
Editorial Committee.

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