Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. I. The Process of Capitalist Production

Karl Marx
Marx, Karl
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Frederick Engels, Ernest Untermann, eds. Samuel Moore, Edward Aveling, trans.
First Pub. Date
Chicago: Charles H. Kerr and Co.
Pub. Date
Das Kapital, based on the 4th edition.

by Ernest Untermann


The original plan of Marx, as outlined in his preface to the first German edition of Capital, in 1867, was to divide his work into three volumes. Volume I was to contain Book I, The Process of Capitalist Production. Volume II was scheduled to comprise both Book II, The Process of Capitalist Circulation, and Book III, The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole. The work was to close with volume III, containing Book IV, A History of Theories of Surplus-Value.


When Marx proceeded to elaborate his work for publication, he had the essential portions of all three volumes, with a few exceptions, worked out in their main analyses and conclusions, but in a very loose and unfinished form. Owing to ill health, he completed only volume I. He died on March 14, 1883, just when a third German edition of this volume was being prepared for the printer.


Frederick Engels, the intimate friend and co-operator of Marx, stepped into the place of his dead comrade and proceeded to complete the work. In the course of the elaboration of volume II it was found that it would be wholly taken up with Book II, The Process of Capitalist Circulation. Its first German edition did not appear until May, 1885, almost 18 years after the first volume.


The publication of the third volume was delayed still longer. When the second German edition of volume II appeared, in July, 1893, Engels was still working on volume III. It was not until October, 1894, that the first German edition of volume III was published, in two separate parts, containing the subject matter of what had been originally planned as Book III of volume II, and treating of The Capitalist Process of Production as a whole.


The reasons for the delay in the publication of volumes II and III, and the difficulties encountered in solving the problem of elaborating the copious notes of Marx into a finished and connected presentation of his theories, have been fully explained by Engels in his various prefaces to these two volumes. His great modesty led him to belittle his own share in this fundamental work. As a matter of fact, a large portion of the contents of Capital is as much a creation of Engels as though he had written it independently of Marx.


Engels intended to issue the contents of the manuscripts for Book IV, originally planned as volume III, in the form of a fourth volume of Capital. But on the 6th of August, 1895, less than one year after the publication of volume III, he followed his co-worker into the grave, still leaving this work incompleted.


However, some years previous to his demise, and in anticipation of such a eventuality, he had appointed Karl Kautsky, the editor of Die Neue Zeit, the scientific organ of the German Socialist Party, as his successor and familiarized him personally with the subject matter intended for volume IV of this work. The material proved to be so voluminous, that Kautsky, instead of making a fourth volume of Capital out of it, abandoned the original plan and issued his elaboration as a separate work in three volumes under the title Theories of Surplus-value.


The first English translation of the first volume of Capital was edited by Engels and published in 1886. Marx had in the meantime made some changes in the text of the second German edition and of the French translation, both of which appeared in 1873, and he had intended to superintend personally the edition of an English version. But the state of his health interfered with this plan. Engels utilised his notes and the text of the French edition of 1873 in the preparation of a third German edition, and this served as a basis for the first edition of the English translation.


Owing to the fact that the title page of this English translation (published by Swan Sonnenschein & Co.) did not distinctly specify that this was but volume I, it has often been mistaken for the complete work, in spite of the fact that the prefaces of Marx and Engels clearly pointed to the actual condition of the matter.


In 1890, four years after the publication of the first English edition, Engels edited the proofs for a fourth German edition of volume I and enlarged it still more after repeated comparison with the French edition and with manuscript notes of Marx. But the Swan Sonnenschein edition did not adopt this new version in its subsequent English issues.


This first American edition will be the first complete English edition of the entire Marxian theories of Capitalist Production. It will contain all three volumes of Capital in full. The present volume, I, deals with The Process of Capitalist Production in the strict meaning of the term "production." Volume II will treat of The Process of Capitalist Circulation in the strict meaning of the term "circulation." Volume III will contain the final analysis of The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole, that is of Production and Circulation in their mutual interrelations.


The Theories of Surplus-Value, Kautsky's elaboration of the posthumous notes of Marx and Engels, will in due time be published in an English translation as a separate work.


This first American edition of volume I is based on the revised fourth German edition. The text of the English version of the Swan Sonnenschein edition has been compared page for page with this improved German edition, and about ten pages of new text hitherto not rendered in English are thus presented to American readers. All the footnotes have likewise been revised and brought up to date.


For all further information concerning the technical particulars of this work I refer the reader to the prefaces of Marx and Engels.

Orlando, Fla., July 18, 1906.

to the First and Second Editions,
by Karl Marx



THE work, the first volume of which I now submit to the public, forms the continuation of my "Zur Kritik der Politischen Oekonomie" (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy) published in 1859. The long pause between the first part and the continuation is due to an illness of many years' duration that again and again interrupted my work.


The substance of that earlier work is summarised in the first three chapters of this volume. This is done not merely for the sake of connection and completeness. The presentation of the subject-matter is improved. As far as circumstances in any way permit, many points only hinted at in the earlier book are here worked out more fully, whilst, conversely, points worked out fully there are only touched upon in this volume. The section on the history of the theories of value and of money are now, of course, left out altogether. The reader of the earlier work will find, however, in the notes to the first chapter additional sources of reference relative to the history of those theories.


Every beginning is difficult, holds in all sciences. To understand the first chapter, especially the section that contains the analysis of commodities, will, therefore, present the greatest difficulty. That which concerns more especially the analysis of the substance of value and the magnitude of value, I have, much as it was possible, popularised.*1 The value-form, whose fully developed shape is the money-form, is very elementary and simple. Nevertheless, the human mind has for more than 2000 years sought in vain to get to the bottom of it, whilst on the other hand, to the successful analysis of much more composite and complex forms, there has been at least an approximation. Why? Because the body, as an organic whole, is more easy of study than are the cells of that body. In the analysis of economic forms, moreover, neither microscopes nor chemical reagents are of use. The force of abstraction must replace both. But in bourgeois society the commodity-form of the product of labor—or the value-form of the commodity—is the economic cell-form. To the superficial observer, the analysis of these forms seems to turn upon minutiæ. It does in fact deal with minutiæ, but they are of the same order as those dealt with in microscopic anatomy.


With the exception of the section on value-form, therefore, this volume cannot stand accused on the score of difficulty. I pre-suppose, of course, a reader who is willing to learn something new and therefore to think for himself.


The physicist either observes physical phenomena where they occur in their most typical form and most free from disturbing influence, or, wherever possible, he makes experiments under conditions that assure the occurrence of the phenomenon in its normality. In this work I have to examine the capitalist mode of production, and the conditions of production and exchange corresponding to that mode. Up to the present time, their classic ground is England. That is the reason why England is used as the chief illustration in the development of my theoretical ideas. If, however, the German reader shrugs his shoulders at the condition of the English industrial and agricultural laborers, or in optimist fashion comforts himself with the thought that in Germany things are not nearly so bad, I must plainly tell him, "De te fabula narratur!"


Intrinsically, it is not a question of the higher or lower degree of development of the social antagonisms that result from the natural laws of capitalist production. It is a question of these laws themselves, of these tendencies working with iron necessity towards inevitable results. The country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future.


But apart from this. Where capitalist production is fully naturalised among the Germans (for instance, in the factories proper) the condition of things is much worse than in England, because the counterpoise of the Factory Acts is wanting. In all other spheres, we, like all the rest of Continental Western Europe, suffer not only from the development of capitalist production, but also from the incompleteness of that development. Alongside of modern evils, a whole series of inherited evils oppress us, arising from the passive survival of antiquated modes of production, with their inevitable train of social and political anachronisms. We suffer not only from the living, but from the dead. Le mort saisit le vif!


The social statistics of Germany and the rest of Continental Western Europe are, in comparison with those of England, wretchedly compiled. But they raise the veil just enough to let us catch a glimpse of the Medusa head behind it. We should be appalled at the state of things at home, if, as in England, our governments and parliaments appointed periodically commissions of enquiry into economic conditions; if these commissions were armed with the same plenary powers to get at the truth; if it was possible to find for this purpose men as competent, as free from partisanship and respect of persons as are the English factory-inspectors, her medical reporters on public health, her commissioners of enquiry into the exploitation of women and children, into housing and food. Perseus wore a magic cap that the monsters he hunted down might not see him. We draw the magic cap down over eyes and ears as a make-believe that there are no monsters. Let us not deceive ourselves on this. As in the 18th century, the American war of independence sounded the tocsin for the European middle-class, so in the 19th century, the American civil war sounded it for the European working-class. In England the progress of social disintegration is palpable. When it has reached a certain point, it must re-act on the continent. There it will take a form more brutal or more humane, according to the degree of development of the working-class itself. Apart from higher motives, therefore, their own most important interests dictate to the classes that are for the nonce the ruling ones, the removal of all legally removable hindrances to the free development of the working-class. For this reason, as well as others, I have given so large a space in this volume to the history, the details, and the results of English factory legislation. One nation can and should learn from others. And even when a society has got upon the right track for the discovery of the natural laws of its movement—and it is the ultimate aim of this work, to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society—it can neither clear by bold leaps; nor remove by legal enactments, the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development. But it can shorten and lessen the birth-pangs.


To prevent possible misunderstanding, a word. I paint the capitalist and the landlord in no sense couleur de rose. But here individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations and class-interests. My stand-point, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them.


In the domain of Political Economy, free scientific enquiry meets not merely the same enemies as in all other domains. The peculiar nature of the material it deals with, summons as foes into the field of battle the most violent, mean and malignant passions of the human breast, the Furies of private interest. The English Established Church, e.g., will more readily pardon an attack on 38 of its 39 articles than on 1/39 of its income. Now-a-days atheism itself is culpa levis, as compared with criticism of existing property relations. Nevertheless, there is an unmistakable advance. I refer, e.g., to the bluebook published within the last few weeks: "Correspondence with Her Majesty's Missions Abroad, regarding Industrial Questions and Trades' Unions." The representatives of the English Crown in foreign countries there declare in so many words that in Germany, in France, to be brief, in all the civilised states of the European continent, a radical change in the existing relations between capital and labor is as evident and inevitable as in England. At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Mr. Wade, vice-president of the United States, declared in public meetings that, after the abolition of slavery, a radical change of the relations of capital and of property in land is next upon the order of the day. These are signs of the times, not to be hidden by purple mantles or black cassocks. They do not signify that to-morrow a miracle will happen. They show that, within the ruling-classes themselves, a foreboding is dawning, that the present society is no solid crystal, but an organism capable of change, and is constantly changing.


The second volume of this work will treat of the process of the circulation of capital *2 (Book II.), and of the varied forms assumed by capital in the course of its development (Book III.), the third and last volume (Book IV.), the history of the theory.


Every opinion based on scientific criticism I welcome. As to the prejudices of so-called public opinion, to which I have never made concessions, now as aforetime the maxim of the great Florentine is mine:

"Segui il tuo corso, e lascia dir le genti."

LONDON, July 25, 1867.



To the present moment Political Economy, in Germany, is a foreign science. Gustav von Gülich in his "Historical description of Commerce, Industry," &c.,*3 especially in the two first volumes published in 1830, has examined at length the historical circumstances that prevented, in Germany, the development of the capitalist mode of production, and consequently the development, in that country, of modern bourgeois society. Thus the soil whence Political Economy springs was wanting. This "science" had to be imported from England and France as a ready-made article; its German professors remained schoolboys. The theoretical expression of a foreign reality was turned, in their hands, into a collection of dogmas, interpreted by them in terms of the petty trading world around them, and therefore misinterpreted. The feeling of scientific impotence, a feeling not wholly to be repressed, and the uneasy consciousness of having to touch a subject in reality foreign to them, was but imperfectly concealed, either under a parade of literary and historical erudition, or by an admixture of extraneous material, borrowed from the so-called "Kameral" sciences, a medley of smatterings, through whose purgatory the hopeless candidate for the German bureaucracy has to pass.


Since 1848 capitalist production has developed rapidly in Germany, and at the present time it is in the full bloom of speculation and swindling. But fate is still unpropitious to our professional economists. At the time when they were able to deal with Political Economy in a straightforward fashion, modern economic conditions did not actually exist in Germany. And as soon as these conditions did come into existence, they did so under circumstances that no longer allowed of their being really and impartially investigated within the bounds of the bourgeois horizon. In so far as Political Economy remains within that horizon, in so far, i.e., as the capitalist régime is looked upon as the absolutely final form of social production, instead of as a passing historical phase of its evolution, Political Economy can remain a science only so long as the class-struggle is latent or manifests itself only in isolated and sporadic phenomena.


Let us take England. Its political economy belongs to the period in which the class-struggle was as yet undeveloped. Its last great representative, Ricardo, in the end, consciously makes the antagonism of class-interests, of wages and profits, of profits and rent, the starting-point of his investigations, naïvely taking this antagonism for a social law of nature. But by this start the science of bourgeois economy had reached the limits beyond which it should not pass. Already in the lifetime of Ricardo, and in opposition to him, it was met by criticism, in the person of Sismondi.*4


The succeeding period, from 1820 to 1830, was notable in England for scientific activity in the domain of Political Economy. It was the time as well of the vulgarising and extending of Ricardo's theory, as of the contest of that theory with the old school. Splendid tournaments were held. What was done then, is little known to the Continent generally, because the polemic is for the most part scattered through articles in reviews, occasional literature and pamphlets. The unprejudiced character of this polemic—although the theory of Ricardo already serves, in exceptional cases, as a weapon of attack upon bourgeois economy—is explained by the circumstances of the time. On the one hand, modern industry itself was only just emerging from the age of childhood, as is shown by the fact that with the crisis of 1825 it for the first time opens the periodic cycle of its modern life. On the other hand, the class-struggle between capital and labor is forced into the background, politically by the discord between the governments and the feudal aristocracy gathered around the Holy Alliance on the one hand, and the popular masses, led by the bourgeoisie on the other; economically by the quarrel between industrial capital and aristocratic landed property—a quarrel that in France was concealed by the opposition between small and large landed property, and that in England broke out openly after Corn Laws. The literature of Political Economy in England at this time calls to mind the stormy forward movement in France after Dr. Quesnay's death, but only as a Saint Martin's summer reminds us of spring. With the year 1830 came the decisive crisis.


In France and in England and bourgeoisie had conquered political power. Thenceforth, the class-struggle, practically as well as theoretically, took on more and more outspoken and threatening forms. It sounded the knell of scientific bourgeois economy. It was thenceforth no longer a question, whether this theorem or that was true, but whether it was useful to capital or harmful, expedient or inexpedient, politically dangerous or not. In place of disinterested enquirers, there were hired prize-fighters; in place of genuine scientific research, the bad conscience and the evil intent of apologetic. Still, even the obtrusive pamphlets with which the Anti-Corn Law League, led by the manufacturers Cobden and Bright, deluged the world, have a historic interest, if no scientific one, on account of their polemic against the landed aristocracy. But since then the Free Trade legislation, inaugurated by Sir Robert Peel, has deprived vulgar economy of this its last sting.


The Continental revolution of 1848-9 also had its reaction in England. Men who still claimed some scientific standing and aspired to be something more than mere sophists and sycophants of the ruling-classes, tried to harmonise the Political Economy of capital with the claims, no longer to be ignored, of the proletariat. Hence a shallow syncretism, of which John Stuart Mill is the best representative. It is a declaration of bankruptcy by bourgeois economy, an event on which the great Russian scholar and critic, N. Tschernyschewsky, has thrown the light of a master mind in his "Outlines of Political Economy according to Mill."


In Germany, therefore, the capitalist mode of production came to a head, after its antagonistic character had already, in France and England, shown itself in a fierce strife of classes. And meanwhile, moreover, the German proletariat had attained a much more clear class-consciousness than the German bourgeoisie. Thus, at the very moment when a bourgeois science of political economy seemed at last possible in Germany, it had in reality again become impossible.


Under these circumstances its professors fell into two groups. The one set, prudent, practical business fold, flocked to the banner of Bastiat, the most superficial and therefore the most adequate representative of the apologetic of vulgar economy; the other, proud of the professorial dignity of their science, followed John Stuart Mill in his attempt to reconcile irreconcilables. Just as in the classical time of bourgeois economy, so also in the time of its decline, the Germans remained mere schoolboys, imitators and followers, petty retailers and hawkers in the service of the great foreign wholesale concern.


The peculiar historic development of German society therefore forbids, in that country, all original work in bourgeois economy; but not the criticism of that economy. So far as such criticism represents a class, it can only represent the class whose vocation in history is the overthrow of the capitalist mode of production and the final abolition of all classes—the proletariat.


The learned and unlearned spokesmen of the German bourgeoisie tried at first to kill "Das Kapital" by silence, as they had managed to do with my earlier writings. As soon as they found that these tactics no longer fitted in with the conditions of the time, they wrote, under pretence of criticising my book, prescriptions "for the tranquillisation of the bourgeois mind." But they found in the workers' press—see, e.g., Joseph Dietzgen's articles in the "Volksstaat"—antagonists stronger than themselves, to whom (down to this very day) they owe a reply.*5


An excellent Russian translation of "Das Kapital" appeared in the spring of 1872. The edition of 3000 copies is already nearly exhausted. As early as 1871, A. Sieber, Professor of Political Economy in the University of Kiev, in his work "David Ricardo's Theory of Value and of Capital," referred to my theory of value, of money and of capital, as in its fundamentals a necessary sequel to the teaching of Smith and Ricardo. That which astonishes the Western European in the reading of this excellent work, is the author's consistent and firm grasp of the purely theoretical position.


That the method employed in "Das Kapital" has been little understood, is shown by the various conceptions, contradictory one to another, that have been formed of it.


Thus the Paris Revue Positiviste reproaches me in that, on the one hand, I treat economics metaphysically, and on the other hand—imagine!—confine myself to the mere critical analysis of actual facts, instead of writing recipes (Comtist ones?) for the cook-shops of the future. In answer to the reproach in re metaphysics, Professor Sieber has it: "In so far as it deals with actual theory, the method of Marx is the reductive method of the whole English school, a school whose failings and virtues are common to the best theoretic economists." M. Block—"Les théoriciens du socialisme en Allemagne, Extrait du Journal des Economistes, Juillet et Aout 1872"—makes the discovery that my method is analytic and says: "Par cet ouvrage M. Marx se classe parmi les esprits analytiques les plus éminents." German reviews, of course, shriek out at "Hegelian sophistics." The European Messenger of St. Petersburg, in an article dealing exclusively with the method of "Das Kapital" (May number, 1872, pp. 427-436), finds my method of inquiry severely realistic, but my method of presentation, unfortunately, German-dialectical. It says: "At first sight, if the judgment is based on the external form of the presentation of the subject, Marx is the most ideal of ideal philosophers, always in the German, i.e., the bad sense of the word. But in point of fact he is infinitely more realistic than all his fore-runners in the work of economic criticism. He can in no sense be called an idealist." I cannot answer the writer better than by aid of a few extracts from his own criticism, which may interest some of my readers to whom the Russian original is inaccessible.


After a quotation from the preface to my "Critique of Political Economy," Berlin, 1859, pp. 11-13, where I discuss the materialistic basis of my method, the writer goes on: "The one thing which is of moment to Marx is to find the law of the phenomena with whose investigation he is concerned; and not only is that law of moment to him, which governs these phenomena, in so far as they have a definite form and mutual connection within a given historical period. Of still greater moment to him is the law of their variation, of their development, i.e., of their transition from one form into another, from one series of connections into a different one. This law once discovered, he investigates in detail the effects in which it manifests itself in social life. Consequently, Marx only troubles himself about one thing; to show, by rigid scientific investigation, the necessity of successive determinate orders of social conditions, and to establish, as impartially as possible, the facts that serve him for fundamental starting points. For this it is quite enough, if he proves, at the same time, both the necessity of the present order of things, and the necessity of another order into which the first must inevitably pass over; and this all the same, whether men believe or do not believe it, whether they are conscious or unconscious of it. Marx treats the social movement as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness and intelligence, but rather, on the contrary, determining that will, consciousness and intelligence.... If in the history of civilisation the conscious element plays a part so subordinate, then it is self-evident that a critical inquiry whose subject-matter is civilisation, can, less than anything else, have for its basis any form of, or any result of, consciousness. That is to say, that not the idea, but the material phenomenon alone can serve as its starting-point. Such an inquiry will confine itself to the confrontation and the comparison of a fact, not with ideas, but with another fact. For this inquiry, the one thing of moment is, that both facts be investigated as accurately as possible, and that they actually form, each with respect to the other, different momenta of an evolution; but most important of all is the rigid analysis of the series of successions, of the sequences and concatenations in which the different stages of such an evolution present themselves. But it will be said, the general laws of economic life are one and the same, no matter whether they are applied to the present or the past. This Marx directly denies. According to him, such abstract laws do not exist. On the contrary, in his opinion every historical period has laws of its own...As soon as society has outlived a given period of development, and is passing over from one given stage to another, it begins to be subject also to other laws. In a word, economic life offers us a phenomenon analogous to the history of evolution in other branches of biology. The old economists misunderstood the nature of economic laws when they likened them to the laws of physics and chemistry. A more thorough analysis of phenomena shows that social organisms differ among themselves as fundamentally as plants or animals. Nay, one and the same phenomenon falls under quite different laws in consequence of the different structure of those organisms as a whole, of the variations of their individual organs, of the different conditions in which those organs function, &c. Marx, e.g., denies that the law of population is the same at all times and in all places. He asserts, on the contrary, that every stage of development has its own law of population...With the varying degree of development of productive power, social conditions and the laws governing them vary too. Whilst Marx sets himself the task of following and explaining from this point of view the economic system established by the sway of capital, he is only formulating, in a strictly scientific manner, the aim that every accurate investigation into economic life must have. The scientific value of such an inquiry lies in the disclosing of the special laws that regulate the origin, existence, development, and death a given social organism and its replacement by another and higher one. And it is this value that, in point of fact, Marx's book has."


Whilst the writer pictures what he takes to be actually my method, in this striking and [as far as concerns my own application of it] generous way, what else is he picturing but the dialectic method?


Of course the method of presentation must differ in form from that of inquiry. The latter has to appropriate the material in detail, to analyse its different forms of development, to trace out their inner connection. Only after this work is done, can the actual movement be adequately described. If this is done successfully, if the life of the subject-matter is ideally reflected as in a mirror, then it may appear as if we had before us a mere a priori construction.


My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life-process of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking, which, under the name of "the Idea," he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of "the Idea." With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought.


The mystifying side of Hegelian dialectic I criticised nearly thirty years ago, at a time when it was still the fashion. But just as I was working at the first volume of "Das Kapital," it was the good pleasure of the peevish, arrogant, mediocre who now talk large in cultured Germany, to treat Hegel in the same way as the brave Moses Mendelssohn in Lessing's time treated Spinoza, i.e., as a "dead dog." I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of the mighty thinker, and even here and there, in the chapter on the theory of value, coquetted with the modes of expression peculiar to him. The mystification which dialectic suffers in Hegel's hands, by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.


It its mystified form, dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to transfigure and to glorify the existing state of things. In its rational form it is a scandal and abomination to bourgeoisdom and its doctrinaire professors, because it includes in its comprehension and affirmative recognition of the existing state of things, at the same time also, the recognition of the negation of that state, of its inevitable breaking up; because it regards every historically developed social form as in fluid movement, and therefore takes into account its transient nature not less than its momentary existence; because it lets nothing impose upon it, and is in its essence critical and revolutionary.


The contradictions inherent in the movement of capitalist society impress themselves upon the practical bourgeois most strikingly in the changes of the periodic cycle, through which modern industry runs, and whose crowning point is the universal crisis. That crisis is once again approaching, although as yet but in its preliminary stage; and by the universality of its theatre and the intensity of its action it will drum dialectics even into the heads of the mushroom-upstarts of the new, holy Prusso-German empire.

LONDON, January 24, 1873.

Notes for this chapter

This is the more necessary, as even the section of Ferdinand Lassalle's work against Schulze-Delitzsch, in which he professes to give "the intellectual quintessence" of my explanations on these subjects, contains important mistakes. If Ferdinand Lassalle has borrowed almost literally from my writings, and without any acknowledgement, all the general theoretical propositions in his economic works, e.g., those on the historical character of capital, on the connection between the conditions of production and the mode of production, &c., &c., even to the terminology created by me, this may perhaps be due to purposes of propaganda. I am here, of course, not speaking of his detailed working out and application of these propositions, with which I have nothing to do.
On p. 618 the author explains what he comprises under this head.
Geschichtliche Darstellung des Handels, der Gewerbe und des Ackerbaus, &c., von Gustav von Gülich. 5 vols., Jena, 1830-45.
See my work "Critique, &c.," p. 70.
The mealy-mouthed babblers of German vulgar economy fell foul of the style of my book. No one can feel the literary shortcomings in "Das Kapital" more strongly than I myself. Yet I will for the benefit and the enjoyment of these gentlemen and their public quote in this connection one English and one Russian notice. The "Saturday Review," always hostile to my views, said in its notice of the first edition: "The presentation of the subject invests the driest economic questions with a certain peculiar charm." The "St. Petersburg Journal" (Sankt-Peterburgskie Viedomosti), in its issue of April 20, 1872, says: "The presentation of the subject, with the exception of one or two exceptionally special parts, is distinguished by its comprehensibility by the general reader, its clearness, and in spite of the scientific intricacy of the subject, by an unusual liveliness. In this respect the author in no way resembles...the majority of German scholars who...write their books in a language so dry and obscure that the heads of ordinary mortals are cracked by it."

Editor's Preface To The First English Translation

End of Notes

to the First English Translation and Fourth German Edition
by Frederick Engels



THE publication of an English version of "Das Kapital" needs no apology. On the contrary, an explanation might be expected why this English version has been delayed until now, seeing that for some years past the theories advocated in this book have been constantly referred to, attacked and defended, interpreted and mis-interpreted, in the periodical press and the current literature of both England and America.


When, soon after the author's death in 1883, it became evident that an English edition of the work was really required, Mr. Samuel Moore, for many years a friend of Marx and of the present writer, and than whom, perhaps, no one is more conversant with the book itself, consented to undertake the translation which the literary executors of Marx were anxious to lay before the public. It was understood that I should compare the MS. with the original work, and suggest such alterations as I might deem advisable. When, by and by, it was found that Mr. Moore's professional occupations prevented him from finishing the translation as quickly as we all desired, we gladly accepted Dr. Aveling's offer to undertake a portion of the work; at the same time Mrs. Aveling, Marx's youngest daughter, offered to check the quotations and to restore the original text of the numerous passages taken from English authors and Bluebooks and translated by Marx into German. This has been done throughout, with but few unavoidable exceptions.


The following portions of the book have been translated by Dr. Aveling: (1) Chapters X. (The Working Day), and XI. (Rate and Mass of Surplus-Value); (2) Part VI. (Wages, comprising Chapters XIX. to XXII.); (3) from Chapter XXIV, Section 4 (Circumstances that &c.) to the end of the book, comprising the latter part of Chapter XXIV., Chapter XXV., and the whole of Part VIII. (Chapters XXVI. to XXXIII.); (4) the two Author's prefaces. All the rest of the book has been done by Mr. Moore. While, thus, each of the translators is responsible for his share of the work only, I bear a joint responsibility for the whole.


The third German edition, which has been made the basis of our work throughout, was prepared by me, in 1883, with the assistance of notes left by the author, indicating the passages of the second edition to be replaced by designated passages, from the French text published in 1873.*6 The alterations thus effected in the text of the second edition generally coincided with changes prescribed by Marx in a set of MS. instructions for an English translation that was planned, about ten years ago, in America, but abandoned chiefly for want of a fit and proper translator. This MS. was placed at our disposal by our old friend Mr. F. A. Sorge of Hoboken N.J. It designates some further interpolations from the French edition; but, being so many years older than the final instructions for the third edition, I did not consider myself at liberty to make use of it otherwise than sparingly, and chiefly in cases where it helped us over difficulties. In the same way, the French text has been referred to in most of the difficult passages, as an indicator of what the author himself was prepared to sacrifice wherever something of the full-import of the original had to be sacrificed in the rendering.


There is, however, one difficulty we could not spare the reader: the use of certain terms in a sense different from what they have, not only in common life, but in ordinary political economy. But this was unavoidable. Every new aspect of a science involves a revolution in the technical terms of that science. This is best shown by chemistry, where the whole of the terminology is radically changed about once in twenty years, and where you will hardly find a single organic compound that has not gone through a whole series of different names. Political Economy has generally been content to take, just as they were, the terms of commercial and industrial life, and to operate with them, entirely failing to see that by so doing, it confined itself within the narrow circle of ideas expressed by those terms. Thus, though perfectly aware that both profits and rent are but sub-divisions, fragments of that unpaid part of the product which the laborer has to supply to his employer (its first appropriator, though not its ultimate exclusive owner), yet even classical Political Economy never went beyond the received notions of profits and rent, never examined this unpaid part of the product (called by Marx surplus-product) in its integrity as a whole, and therefore never arrived at a clear comprehension, either of its origin and nature, or of the laws that regulate the subsequent distribution of its value. Similarly all industry, not agricultural or handicraft, is indiscriminately comprised in the term of manufacture, and thereby the distinction is obliterated between two great and essentially different periods of economic history: the period of manufacture proper, based on the division of manual labor, and the period of modern industry based on machinery. It is, however, self-evident that a theory which views modern capitalist production as a mere passing stage in the economic history of mankind, must make use of terms different from those habitual to writers who look upon that form of production as imperishable and final.


A word respecting the author's method of quoting may not be out of place. In the majority of cases, the quotations serve, in the usual way, as documentary evidence in support of assertions made in the text. But in many instances, passages from economic writers are quoted in order to indicate when, where, and by whom a certain proposition was for the first time clearly enunciated. This is done in cases where the proposition quoted is of importance as being a more or less adequate expression of the conditions of social production and exchange prevalent at the time, and quite irrespective of Marx's recognition, or otherwise, of its general validity. These quotations, therefore, supplement the text by a running commentary taken from the history of the science.


Our translation comprises the first book of the work only. But this first book is in a great measure a whole in itself, and has for twenty years ranked as an independent work. The second book, edited in German by me, in 1885, is decidedly incomplete without the third, which cannot be published before the end of 1887. When Book III. has been brought out in the original German, it will then be soon enough to think about preparing an English edition of both.


"Das Kapital" is often called, on the Continent, "the Bible of the working class." That the conclusions arrived at in this work are daily more and more becoming the fundamental principles of the great working class movement, not only in Germany and Switzerland, but in France, in Holland and Belgium, in America, and even in Italy and Spain; that everywhere the working class more and more recognises, in these conclusions, the most adequate expression of its condition and of its aspirations, nobody acquainted with that movement will deny. And in England, too, the theories of Marx, even at this moment, exercise a powerful influence upon the socialist movement which is spreading in the ranks of "cultured" people no less than in those of the working class. But that is not all. The time is rapidly approaching when a thorough examination of England's economic position will impose itself as an irresistible national necessity. The working of the industrial system of this country, impossible without a constant and rapid extension of production, and therefore of markets, is coming to a dead stop. Free trade has exhausted its resources; even Manchester doubts this its quondam economic gospel.*7 Foreign industry, rapidly developing, stares English production in the face everywhere, not only in protected, but also in neutral markets, and even on this side of the Channel. While the productive power increases in a geometric, the extension of markets proceeds at best in an arithmetic ratio. The decennial cycle of stagnation, prosperity, overproduction and crisis, ever recurrent from 1825 to 1867, seems indeed to have run its course; but only to land us in the slough of despond of a permanent and chronic depression. The sighed-for period of prosperity will not come; as often as we seem to perceive its heralding symptoms, so often do they again vanish into air. Meanwhile, each succeeding winter brings up afresh the great question, "what to do with the unemployed;" but while the number of the unemployed keeps swelling from year to year, there is nobody to answer that question; and we can almost calculate the moment when the unemployed, losing patience, will take their own fate into their own hands. Surely, at such a moment, the voice ought to be heard of a man whose whole theory is the result of a life-long study of the economic history and condition of England, and whom that study led to the conclusion that, at least in Europe, England is the only country where the inevitable social revolution might be effected entirely by peaceful and legal means. He certainly never forgot to add that he hardly expected the English ruling classes to submit, without a "pro-slavery rebellion," to this peaceful and legal revolution.

November 5,1886.



The fourth edition of this work required of me a revision, which should give to the text and foot notes their final form, so far as possible. The following brief hints will indicate the way in which I performed this task.


After referring once more to the French edition and to the manuscript notes of Marx, I transferred a few additional passages from the French to the German text.*8


I have also placed the long foot note concerning the mine workers, on pages 461-67, into the text, just as had already been done in the French and English editions. Other small changes are merely of a technical nature.


Furthermore I added a few explanatory notes, especially in places where changed historical conditions seemed to require it. All these additional notes are placed between brackets and marked with my initials.*9


A complete revision of the numerous quotations had become necessary, because the English edition had been published in the mean time. Marx's youngest daughter, Eleanor, had undertaken the tedious task of comparing, for this edition, all the quotations with the original works, so that the quotations from English authors, which are the overwhelming majority, are not retranslated from the German, but taken from the original texts. I had to consult the English edition for this fourth German edition. In so doing I found many small inaccuracies. There were references to wrong pages, due either to mistakes in copying, or to accumulated typographical errors of three editions. There were quotation marks, or periods indicating omissions, in wrong places, such as would easily occur in making copious quotations from notes. Now and then I came across a somewhat inappropriate choice of terms made in translating. Some passages were taken from Marx's old manuscripts written in Paris, 1843-45, when he did not yet understand English and read the works of English economists in French translations. This twofold translation carried with it a slight change of expression, for instance in the case of Steuart, Ure, and others. Now I used the English text. Such and similar little inaccuracies and inadvertences were corrected. And if this fourth edition is now compared with former editions, it will be found that this whole tedious process of verification did not change in the least any essential statement of this work. There is but one single quotation which could not be located, namely that from Richard Jones, in section 3 of chapter XXIV. Marx probably made a mistake in the title of the book. All other quotations retain their corroborative power, or even increase it in their present exact form.


In this connection I must revert to an old story.


I have heard of only one case, in which the genuineness of a quotation by Marx was questioned. Since this case was continued beyond Marx's death, I cannot well afford to ignore it.


The Berlin Concordia, the organ of the German Manufacturer's Association, published on March 7, 1872, an anonymous article, entitled: "How Marx Quotes." In it the writer asserted with a superabundant display of moral indignation and unparliamentarian expressions that the quotation from Gladstone's budget speech of April 16, 1863, (cited in the Inaugural Address of the International Workingmen's Association, 1864, and republished in Capital, volume I, chapter XXV, section 5 a) was a falsification. It was denied that the statement: "This intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power...entirely confined to classes of property," was contained in the stenographical report of Hansard, which was as good as an official report. "This statement is not found anywhere in Gladstone's speech. It says just the reverse. Marx has formally and materially lied in adding that sentence."


Marx, who received this issue of the Concordia in May of the same year, replied to the anonymous writer in the Volksstaat of June 1. As he did not remember the particular newspaper from which he had clipped this report, he contented himself with pointing out that the same quotation was contained in two English papers. Then he quoted the report of the Times, according to which Gladstone had said: "That is the state of the case as regards the wealth of this country. I must say for one, I should look almost with apprehension and with pain upon this intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power, if it were my belief that it was confined to classes who are in easy circumstances. This takes no cognizance at all of the condition of the labouring population. The augmentation I have described and which is founded, I think, upon accurate terms, is an augmentation entirely confined to classes of property."


In other words, Gladstone says here that he would be sorry if things were that way, but they are. This intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power is entirely confined to classes of property. And so far as the quasi official Hansard is concerned, Marx continues: "In the subsequent manipulation of his speech for publication Mr. Gladstone was wise enough to eliminate a passage, which was so compromising in the mouth of an English Lord of the Exchequer as that one. By the way, this is an established custom in English parliament, and not by any means a discovery made by Lasker to cheat Bebel."


The anonymous writer then became still madder. Pushing aside his second-hand sources in his reply in the Concordia, July 4, he modestly hints, that it is the "custom" to quote parliamentarian speeches from the official reports; that the report of the Times (which contained the added lie) "was materially identical" with that of Hansard (which did not contain it); that the report of the Times even said "just the reverse of what that notorious passage of the Inaugural Address implied." Of course, our anonymous friend keeps still about the fact that the report of the Times does not only contain "just the reverse" but also "that notorious passage"! Nevertheless he feels that he has been nailed down, and that only a new trick can save him. Hence he decorates his article, full of "insolent mendacity," until it bristles with pretty epithets, such as "bad faith," "dishonesty," "mendacious assertion," "that lying quotation," "insolent mendacity," "a completely spurious quotation," "this falsification," "simply infamous," etc., and he finds himself compelled to shift the discussion to another ground, promising "to explain in a second article, what interpretation we [the "veracious" anonymous] place upon the meaning of Gladstone's words." As though his individual opinion had anything to do with the matter! This second article is published in the Concordia of July 11.


Marx replied once more in the Volksstaat of August 7, quoting also the reports of this passage in the Morning Star and Morning Advertiser of April 17, 1863. Both of them agree in quoting Gladstone to the effect that he would look with apprehension, etc., upon this intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power, if it were confined to classes in easy circumstances. But this augmentation was entirely confined to classes possessed of property. Both of these papers also contain the "added lie" word for word. Marx furthermore showed, by comparing these three independent, yet identical reports of newspapers, all of them containing the actually spoken words of Gladstone, with Hansard's report, that Gladstone, in keeping with the "established custom," had "subsequently eliminated" this sentence, as Marx had said. And Marx closes with the statement, that he has no time for further controversy with the anonymous writer. It seems that this worthy had gotten all he wanted, for Marx received no more issues of the Concordia.


Thus the matter seemed to be settled. It is true, people who were in touch with the university at Cambridge once or twice dropped hints as to mysterious rumors about some unspeakable literary crime, which Marx was supposed to have committed in Capital. But nothing definite could be ascertained in spite of all inquiries. Suddenly, on November 29, 1883, eight months after the death of Marx, a letter appeared in the Times, dated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and signed by Sedley Taylor, in which this mannikin, a dabbler in the tamest of coöperative enterprises, at last took occasion to give us some light, not only on the gossip of Cambridge, but also on the anonymous of the Concordia.


"What seems very queer," says the mannikin of Trinity College, "is that it remained for professor Brentano (then in Breslau, now in Strasburg) lay bare the bad faith, which had apparently dictated that quotation from Gladstone's speech in the Inaugural Address. Mr. Karl Marx, who...tried to justify his quotation, had the temerity, in the deadly shifts to which Brentano's masterly attacks quickly reduced him, to claim that Mr. Gladstone tampered with the report of his speech in the Times of April 17, 1863, before it was published in Hansard, in order to eliminate a passage which was, indeed, compromising for the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. When Brentano demonstrated by a detailed comparison of the texts, that the reports of the Times and of Hansard agreed to the absolute exclusion of the meaning, impugned to Gladstone's words by a craftily isolated quotation, Marx retreated under the excuse of having no time."


This, then, was the kernel of the walnut! And such was the glorious reflex of Brentano's anonymous campaign, in the Concordia, in the coöperative imagination of Cambridge! Thus he lay, and thus he handled his blade in his "masterly attack," this Saint George of the German Manufacturers' Association, while the fiery dragon Marx quickly expired under his feet "in deadly shifts!"


However, this Ariostian description of the struggle serves only to cover up the shifts of our Saint George. There is no longer any mention of "added lies," of "falsification," but merely of "a craftily isolated quotation." The whole question had been shifted, and Saint George and his Cambridge Knight knew very well the reason.


Eleanor Marx replied in the monthly magazine To-day, February, 1884, because the Times refused to print her statements. She reduced the discussion to the only point, which was in question, namely: Was that sentence a lie added by Marx, or not? Whereupon Mr. Sedley Taylor retorted: "The question whether a certain sentence had occurred in Mr. Gladstone's speech or not" was, in his opinion, "of a very inferior importance" in the controversy between Marx and Brentano, "compared with the question, whether the quotation had been made with the intention of reproducing the meaning of Mr. Gladstone or distorting it." And then he admits that the report of the Times "contains indeed a contradiction in words"; but, but, interpreting the context correctly, that is, in a liberal Gladstonian sense, it is evident what Mr. Gladstone intended to say. (To-Day, March, 1884.) The comic thing about this retort is that our mannikin of Cambridge now insists on not quoting this speech from Hansard, as is the "custom" according to the anonymous Mr. Brentano, but from the report of the Times, which the same Brentano had designated as "necessarily bungling." Of course, Hansard does not contain that fatal sentence!


It was easy for Eleanor Marx to dissolve this argumentation into thin air in the same number of To-Day. Either Mr. Taylor had read the controversy of 1872. In that case he had now "lied," not only "adding," but also "subtracting." Or, he had not read it. Then it was his business to keep his mouth shut. At any rate, it was evident that he did not dare for a moment to maintain the charge of his friend Brentano to the effect that Marx had "added a lie." On he contrary, it was now claimed, that Marx, instead of adding a lie, had suppressed an important sentence. But this same sentence is quoted on page 5 of the Inaugural Address, a few lines before the alleged "added lie." And as for the "contradiction" in Gladstone's speech, isn't it precisely Marx who speaks in another foot note of that chapter in Capital of the "continual crying contradictions in Gladstone's budget speeches of 1863 and 1864"? Of course, he does not undertake to reconcile them by liberal hot air, like Sedley Taylor. And the final summing up in Eleanor Marx's reply is this: "On the contrary, Marx has neither suppressed anything essential nor added any lies. He rather has restored and rescued from oblivion a certain sentence of a Gladstonian speech, which had undoubtedly been pronounced, but which somehow found its way out of Hansard."


This was enough for Mr. Sedley Taylor. The result of this whole professorial gossip during ten years and in two great countries was that no one dared henceforth to question Marx's literary conscientiousness. In the future Mr. Sedley Taylor will probably have as little confidence in the literary fighting bulletins of Mr. Brentano, as Mr. Brentano in the papal infallibility of Hansard.

LONDON, June 25, 1890.
(Translated by Ernest Untermann.)

Notes for this chapter

"Le Capital," par Karl Marx. Traduction de M. J. Roy, entièrement revisée par l'auteur. Paris. Lachâtre." This translation, especially in the latter part of the book, contains considerable alterations in and additions to the text of the second German edition.
At the quarterly meeting of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, held this afternoon, a warm discussion took place on the subject of Free Trade. A resolution was moved to the effect that "having waited in vain 40 years for other nations to follow the Free Trade example of England, this Chamber thinks the time has now arrived to reconsider that position." The resolution was rejected by a majority of one only, the figures being 21 for, and 22 against.—Evening Standard, Nov. 1, 1886.
These were inserted by me in the English text of the Swan Sonnenschein edition, and will be found on pages 539, 640-644, 687-689, and 692 of this American edition.—E. U.
These were ten new notes, which I interested in the respective places of the Swan Sonnenschein edition.—E. U.

Part I, Chapter I.

End of Notes

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