vol.6, no.1, (March 2000)


Marx-Proudhon: Their Exchange of Letters in 1846; On an episode of world-historical importance*

Lutz Roemheld


Abstract: In 1846, Marx and Engels, in the framework of a short exchange of letters, made an attempt to establish a co-operation with Proudhon. The object of this article is to show that an analysis of this correspondence reveals the first signs of a bifurcation of Socialism, giving birth, on the one hand, to a (Marxian) statist and authoritarian variant and, on the other, to a (Proudhonian) libertarian variant. The beginning of this development is characterised by the clear intention of Marx, Engels and their followers to create a type of Socialism with clearly identifiable programmatic contents and power-centered organisational structures. Proudhon, on the contrary, pleaded in favour of a continual public debate as an unavoidable prerequisite for the organisation of an enlightened egalitarian type of society. In connection with this outcome, the question is raised whether the collapse of European communist States might ultimately be traced back to this development.


Against the background of the political failure - in the widest sense - of the statist type of socialism, the fundamental question arises whether this failure may be traced back to the very beginning of the development of this socialist model—a question of world-historical importance.[1] To pose the question more precisely: were there any causes, at the time of the development of the Marxist conception of socialism that was introduced to domestic and international politics in the second half of the 19th century, which, overall, had effects that in retrospective can be interpreted as an undesirable development becoming less and less correctable in the course of time?[2]

Questions like this are based on the supposition that there is a more or less precisely describable historical and political original situation giving birth to the statist type of socialism which should be examined for elements that perhaps did not allow any other but the actual, ascertainable historical development of socialism, as conceived by Marx and Engels. Such an examination ought to comprise treatises on objectively given facts of such an original situation, as well as on characteristics that were tied to personalities, who were influenced by this situation but were also influencing these characteristics themselves.[3]

Chronologically seen, the first half of the 1840's can be called the period of the original situation mentioned above. In content, this period is characterised by efforts, which were mainly supported by Marx and Engels, to work out a concept of socialism that could be clearly identified and also put into political practice. Both of them regarded France as a country that was of major importance for the achievement of this aim - not least with regard to the possibility of being supported by the early socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who then was well-known in and beyond France, his home country, because of his political thinking and his politically effective writing.

Several talks in Paris between Marx and Proudhon resulted in an exchange of letters in 1846 on the topic of an eventual cooperation concerning the above mentioned aim. As it is well known, the correspondence did not bring forth the result Marx and Engels had hoped for. As far as I know there does not yet exist any examination of the reasons for this failure in connection with the questions asked at the beginning. Therefore it is right to consider whether, apart from any differences of opinion concerning the day-to-day politics of that time, there existed any substantial disagreements between Proudhon and Marx about the objectives of such a collaboration, the ways to achieve those objectives and maybe even concerning their respective world views and politics. Although, therefore, the exchange of ideas between Marx and Proudhon merely had the character of a historical episode, still, this episode, with hindsight, was possibly more important than people have been assuming so far.

Therefore it could be interesting to focus the attention on the short exchange of letters between Marx and Proudhon in the spring of 1846. For, it brings to light Proudhon's efforts, in the course of his general reflections on the ideas advocated by the protagonists of a strategy oriented towards totalitarian and ideological supremacy, to achieve a kind of rationality free of ideologies, always, of course, in the framework of the crucial question that was being debated around the middle of the 19th century: which type of socialism would be most suitable for the economic and social emancipation of the proletariat, in theory as well as in political practice?

However, before examining this exchange of letters I have to make some remarks with regard to the understanding of the word "ideology", which I will use in the following part of this paper. I shall use this term as a category employed in the field of political science which simply implies that the actual interests of single persons, groups, organisations etc. are disguised under the pretext that a special way of acting seemingly results from an objective necessity, or that special interests reflect superior public interests or that ethic-normative motives are beyond all criticism.[4] This way of employing the term "ideology" seems to me to be appropriate concerning the political character of the episode that will be dealt with in the following part of this paper, an episode of crucial importance after all.    

But, before examining this episode in detail one should make some introductory remarks on the ideological-political situation of the time to highlight the background of this event:

In France, this situation was characterised by the existence of several versions of the basic model of  centralistic socialism (e. g. Saint-Simon, Etienne Cabet, Auguste Blanqui, Louis Blanc), as well as of a federalistic socialism that was intended to be mainly for small groups  (e. g. Charles Fourier and his numerous –at the time--and influential followers).[5] In the course of his analyses of the theories developed by representatives of these different movements, Proudhon, as early as the beginning of the 1840’s,  started developing his own conception of a libertarian-socialist kind of federalism.[6] This concept was ultimately founded on the basic idea, which subsequently became more apparent, that the necessary institutions had to be created in the economic, social but also in the governmental sector, to encourage human beings to develop, according to their abilities, into autonomous individuals, as well as into responsible and fully committed citizens.

Marx, during his stay in Paris from October 1843 to February 1845, was confronted with a variety of views regarding the general aim of a socialist society and the strategies to bring it about. In view of this situation, it is not surprising that he and Engels came to the conclusion that it was necessary to work towards a political-philosophical, as well as economic and social-theoretical conception of socialism or communism, that could be identified clearly. Marx and Engels wanted to materialise this project with the help of the European workers’ movement, which was organizing itself ever more effectively at that time, with the objective to develop and implement a strategy that was as uniform as possible.[7]

This, so to speak, two-track – theoretical/practical – reorientation was pursued by Marx and Engels because they felt that such an orientation was under considerable threat in France, or Paris, respectively. This was so because German emigrants, as well as organisations of French workers, were influenced by an "idealistic-"atheistic social humanism, which had originated in Feuerbach's work and was particularly promoted by Karl Grün. In the course of time, this influence developed into an increasingly unbridgeable opposition to the historical-materialistic and economic thinking that was already developing in Marx's mind (cf. his treatise "Zur Kritik der Nationalökonomie – ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte" [On the criticism of national economics – economic-philosophical manuscripts] written in Paris in 1844)[8].

On the basis of the published sources, It is not possible to determine unequivocally whether, or to what extent, Proudhon knew of this fundamental reorientation of Marx's and Engels' thinking, when he received the letter dated 5 May 1846 written by Marx, who lived in Brussels since his expulsion from France in 1845. Neither in his diary notes, nor in his letters written in the first half of the 1840's and especially during the short period of intensive discussions with Marx in Paris, between the end of September 1844 and 1 February 1845,[9] one can find references that could prove that Proudhon knew something about this development. At that time, Proudhon's analysis of the theories of Marx and of a group of Hegelian followers who called themselves "Young Hegelians" (Junghegelianer) seems to have concentrated mainly on doctrinal problems.[10] To find an answer to the question whether the political-strategic dimension of their common ideas, concerning the economic and social changes that had to be carried out in the interest of the European proletariat, played a role in the relationship between Proudhon and Marx – and if yes, how important was this role – it is necessary to examine the letter of Marx to Proudhon and Proudhon's reply dated 17 May 1846.

Following the project "Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher" [German-French Yearbooks], an attempt to create and encourage a discussion between German and French socialists on important doctrinal questions[11], Marx developed the notion, that was also accepted by Engels after they got to know each other in Paris in 1844, that the means to achieve the above mentioned strategic aim  was an international publication in which doctrinal questions would be discussed while at the same time information would be provided on political activities in general.[12] Marx's decision to turn to Proudhon perhaps was influenced by the impression gained especially in the years 1844 and 1845, that the man from the Franche Comté were a philosophically thinking "proletarian" who was interested in political action.[13]

This is why Marx informs Proudhon, in his letter from Brussels dating 5 May 1846,[14] that he, Engels and Philippe Gigot, the secretary of the "communistic correspondence committee" in Brussels, have organised "a continuous correspondence with the German communists and socialists" aiming at both the "discussion of scientific questions and the supervision of popular publications as well as socialist propaganda which can be carried out on in Germany by this means."[15] "The chief aim" of this correspondence, however, is "to put the German socialists in contact with the French and English socialists” as well as keeping the latter informed about the "socialist movement" in Germany; in Germany it shall "inform about the progress of socialism in France and England". "In this way it will be possible to air differences of opinion (se faire jour); an exchange of ideas will ensue and impartial criticism be secured." According to Marx, this is a step which the "social movement" should take in its literary expression in order to free itself of its national limitations. And when the time for action has come ("et au moment de l'action"), Marx writes, it is of "great benefit" for everyone "to be enlightened" on the "state of affairs" abroad as well as at home.

Marx stresses that the correspondence shall also include German socialists in Paris and London. He claims that contacts with England have already been established;[16] "as for France, we are all of the opinion that we cannot find a better correspondent there than you: as you know, the English and Germans have up to the present appreciated you more than your own fellow countrymen". "So, you see, it is only a question of initiating a regular correspondence and of assuring it the facilities for following the social movement in the various countries, a question of making it interesting, meaty and varied (d'arriver à un intérêt riche et varié)";[17] Marx goes on writing that a single person can not achieve this. The costs of this correspondence will be paid with money raised by collections in Germany, he says. He suggests that Proudhon write ("vous écrirez") to Philippe Gigot in Brussels; Gigot has the right to sign letters from Brussels (“He is also the one to sign the letters from Brussells”).

In a postscript Marx warns Proudhon of the "parasite" Karl Grün, an "individual" who, among other things, is "dangerous" since he compromises "well-known authors" (whose names Marx does not mention) in the eyes of the German public and also dares to call himself "in his book on the French socialists"[18] "(“Privatdocent”)   “Proudhon’s tutor”.[19]

In view of this article’s topic it is striking that the aim of a comprehensive communication across national borders is connected to the issue  of intellectual leadership. This connection may not look controversial at a first sight  but it does very much so when, after an explicit reference to this  connection has been made in the beginning, the last part of the letter uses formulations – he writes the correspondence would "only" serve as an international exchange of information and opinions which were "the main objective" of this correspondence -- which can be interpreted as the attempt to belittle the political-strategic dimension of the plans explained before. All the more odd appear the final statements on financial and organisational aspects of this project, as the political-strategic dimension mentioned above is brought once more to the mind of the reader – but this time not with regard to the goals that Marx was aiming at but concerning some active headquarters at a single location which shall control all informational processes.

The published sources do not allow to draw any conclusions concerning Proudhon's reactions after he received the letter from Marx until he writes a reply[20] in Lyon on 17 May 1846. The basic ideas that are expressed in this letter indicate that Proudhon thought Marx's letter, or rather the wish for cooperation, to be of such an importance that he decided to react to it with a well thought-out reply.[21]

After declaring that he is generally interested in taking part in the planned correspondence Proudhon feels obliged to comment on a number of passages in Marx's letter:

In the first place he points out that it is the "duty of every socialist" to maintain for some time yet an attitude of criticism and doubt; he says he professes with the public an almost total “anti-dogmatism in economics."[22] He goes on as follows: "By all means let us work together to discover the  laws of society, the ways in which these laws are realised and the process by which we are able to discover them; but, for God´s sake! (sic!), when we have demolished all a priori dogmas, do not let us think of indoctrinating the people in our turn"; Proudhon points out that he does not want to act like Luther, who replaced the catholic theology by a "protestant theology". Proudhon "wholeheartedly" consents to presenting all opinions, "let us have a good and honest polemic; let us set the world an example of wise and faresighted tolerance, but, simply because we are the avant-garde of a movement, let us not instigate a new intolerance, let us not set ourselves up as the apostles of a new religion, even if it be the religion of logic, or of  reason. Let us welcome and encourage all protests, let us get rid of all exclusiveness and all mysticism. Let us never consider any question exhausted, and when we have used our very last argument, let us begin again, if necessary, with eloquence and irony. On this condition I will join your association with pleasure, otherwise I will not!"[23]

In the following Proudhon assumes, referring to the phrase "when the time for action has come" ("au moment de l'action"), that Marx does not seem to think that a reform is possible "without a coup de main", i.e. without what used to be called a revolution but which is quite simply a jolt. Though, Proudhon continues, he himself has been of the same opinion in the past, he now thinks that, according to his latest studies, something like that was not necessary for the success of the reform. Consequently, "revolutionary" action cannot be presented as a means of "social reform", since this supposed means would simply be an appeal to force and arbitrariness, in short, a contradiction (i. e. to the reform – the author).[24] With reference to his latest, half-finished book – Philosophie de la Misère – Proudhon only vaguely suggests his idea of a liberal and egalitarian society that is based on the socialisation (not  nationalisation!) of property.

After he has pointed out a possible misapprehension and has declared himself willing to face the criticism he expects from Marx, Proudhon describes his impression that "the working class in France" takes a similar position as he does,[25] and goes on: "Our proletarians are so thirsty for knowledge that they would receive us very badly if all we could give them to drink  were blood. In short, it would, in my opinion be very bad policy to use the language of extermination.  Rigorous measures will come right enough; in this the people are in no need of exhortation."[26]

Most striking in this reply[27] is that Proudhon refers to the intention of an exchange of information, ideas or rather scholarly opinions expressed in Marx's letter and even extends it in content by stressing the necessity of sociological research to be done in connection with an unrestricted discussion of this theme. At the same time – probably referring to Marx's idea of the supervision of publications meant for the masses – he strongly warns against indoctrinating "the people". In contrast to Marx's idea of an already politically oriented activity of informing and disputing – a "discussion about which course ought to be chosen", as Hans Pelger describes it in the "comment" given in his edition of Marx's Elend der Philosophie [Misery of Philosophy][28] – Proudhon sets the focal point on enlightenment of the inner circle of the militants as well as of the public, that should be as numerous as possible, as the main target of the correspondence-plans, the basis of which should be a continual and unlimited process of discussion.

This difference in orientation is developed further in the passages of Proudhon's reply in which he – explicitly referring to Marx's words: "au moment de l'action" – turns against any notion of a revolutionary enforcement of social "reform", that in his opinion can only be understood as a call for violence and arbitrariness, which finally is a "contradiction" to the aim of a liberal and egalitarian society he, Proudhon, is striving for; unmistakably, though only by insinuation, he contrasts the "communauté", the communist[29] social order German socialists were heading for in his opinion, with the social order based on "liberté" and "égalité" he was imagining.[30]

In his reply Proudhon expresses doctrinal as well as politico-strategic differences in regard to the concepts of Marx and his followers. These incompatibilities seem to have admitted, according to Marx's and Engels' assessment, no possibility of a collaboration with Proudhon.[31]

Pierre Haubtmann[32] interprets Proudhon's pointed refusal to collaborate in compliance with Marx's wishes as understandable, if one takes into account that he in his talks with Marx probably detected Marx's "inclination to dominate" ("tempérament dominateur"). Moreover, Haubtmann mentions the possibility that Proudhon perhaps had learned something about "his [Marx's] intentions" ("ses intentions") from Karl Grün and Hermann Ewerbeck. Haubtmann does not specify these intentions, but the context of this formulation suggests that he had in mind the ideas expressed in Marx's letter, which also implies his politico-strategic intentions.[33] Finally Proudhon, according to Haubtmann, possibly wanted to work against the (mis)judgement on the part of Marx, that he, Proudhon, were a militant activist, which was possibly imparted to him after the publication of Die heilige Familie [The holy family] (1845), written jointly by Marx and Engels. This interpretation which focusses on individual, personal aspects of the relationship between Proudhon and Marx seems to me a necessary, but not a sufficient prerequisite for a correct assessment of the relationship between the two men during the time of their correspondence. Actually, Haubtmann's account does not take into consideration the general political dimension of this relationship to a sufficient degree, which especially has to be taken into account regarding the fact that Marx in his letter orients his statements concerning a "discussion about which course ought to be chosen" (Pelger) across the borders discernibly on activities that aim at the enforcement of a special – namely his own and Engels' communistic[34] – concept of socialism. In this context one should point out that during the time of the exchange of letters under consideration, in addition to a similar institution that already was being founded in London, a kind of nerve centre had been established in Brussels that was used for the organisation of the correspondence-project; this implies that, as Proudhon would have heard of from Marx's letter at the latest,  already the foundations for a centre of power[35] existed, that had been laid with the help of Marx, and contained a political potential for development that could hardly be underestimated by a man who already at that time was thinking in federalist categories[36].

As a summary, the relationship between Proudhon and Marx at the time of their short exchange of letters can be characterised as follows:

Marx was beginning – in conjunction with the development of his thinking in historical-materialistic or rather political-economic categories – to orient himself, in cooperation with Engels, beyond his theoretical work, increasingly towards the development and enforcement  of a special – communistic – concept of socialism[37], that corresponded to his development in thinking mentioned above, which included  the building up of a leading position for himself within the organised workers' movement of that time.[38] His letter to Proudhon displays these intentions only inadequately. Proudhon's reply on the other hand permits the justified supposition that he has seen through the (in this context ideologically camouflaging) character of Marx's letter. This is why Proudhon was even more plain in selecting his formulations, as one should be permitted to conclude, which he used in his letter to Marx  (possibly because of background information concerning political plans and intentions of the other side) with regard to the explanation of his own starting point for a fruitful collaboration: discursive rationality – not for the sake of itself, but as a (in a general sense of the word) political prerequisite for a comprehensive and continual process of the enlightenment of society.

In Marx's letter, a rough outline of the authoritarian-centralistic strategy of revolution is already visible; a strategy that a little later was to be clearly expressed in the Manifesto of the Communistic Party of 1848 with the aim of the realisation of a statist conception of socialism. In Proudhon's reply, on the other hand, emerges the possibility of a libertarian conception of socialism that actually was not destined to be introduced into political reality by a leading elite, but rather, to an ever increasing degree, by "our proletarians" ("nos prolétaires")[39] themselves. The "correspondence-episode" between Marx and Proudhon shows quite explicitly the basically unbridgeable differences between a hegemonic and power-centered strategy of revolution on the one hand and a participatory-emancipatory strategy of revolution on the other.[40] Thus the episode, at the end, marks more or less exactly the point of time in which the bifurcation of socialism into a dictatorial communism on the one hand and an egalitarian-libertarian conception of socialism on the other hand has become an irrevocable historical fact.

By pointing out these fundamental differences in thought and action between Proudhon and Marx maybe a first step has been taken in the search for an answer to the question asked at the beginning of this paper. No doubt,  more steps have to be taken on this way to develop the hypothesis, that is tied to this question, as regards the verifiable result that the ultimate failure of statist socialism originating in Marx's and Engels' ideas was already rooted in the very beginnings of its development. This way, it is perhaps  possible to gain insight into the question whether the realisation of the concept of socialism, (drafted by Marx and Engels and developed further by Lenin and Stalin), was not only  influenced by the special characters of Lenin and Stalin and the respective general historical-political circumstances under which both were supposed to act, but was also inevitably tied to a kind of mental similarity between these four men with regard to their thinking and actions oriented towards political power – a mental similarity characterised from the very beginning, not least, by a tendency to use more or less ideologically moulded behavioural patterns, as consciously employed instruments of power politics.     


*This article was translated from the original German manuscript by Bianca de Loryn.





[1] Werner Thümmler asks a similar question in: Der Zerfall des "realen" Sozialismus - das Werk von Marx und Engels? [The ruin of the "actual" socialism - a fault of Marx and Engels?] (Köln: GNN-Verlag, 1991) and answers in essence that the process of the breakdown of the "actual" socialism finally commenced with the statist and bureaucratic realisation of the (originally non-statist) thinking of Marx and Engels as effected by Stalin; but Thümmler in my opinion does not consider  the role which Leninism played in this context.

[2] Cf. Johannes Hilmer,  'Philosophie de la Misère' oder 'Misère de la Philosophie'? - die Marxsche Polemik im Kampf um die Führung der internationalen Arbeiterbewegung als Beginn der weltpolitischen Durchsetzung des etatistischen Sozialimus ['Philosophie de la Misère' or 'Misère de la Philosophie'? - Marx's polemics in the fight for the leadership of the international workers' movement as the beginning of the establishment of the statist socialism in world politics] (Frankfurt/Main: Lang, 1997) and the works cited by Hilmer.

[3] Concerning an analysis of the causes regarding this topic on the basis of the criticism on the opinions of Marx, especially concerning industrial productivism and a "holistic" understanding of society as well as his limited appreciation of the necessity of an "institutionalisation of liberty" cf. Jürgen Habermas, "Nachholende Revolution und linker Revisionsbedarf - Was heißt Sozialimus heute?" [Catching up on the revolution and the need for a leftist revision - what does socialism mean today?] in Die nachholende Revolution, Kleine politische Schriften [Catching up on the revolution, short political writings], vol. VII (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1990), pp. 179-204 (especially pp.188-191).

[4] Cf. Kurt Lenk, "Ideologie und Selbstkritik" [Ideology and self-criticism], in Dieter Nohlen (ed.), Wörterbuch Staat und Politik [Dictionary of government and politics], (Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 1995), pp. 263-265;  Erwin Häckel: "Ideologie und Außenpolitik" [Ideology and foreign politics], in Wichard Woyke (ed.), Handwörterbuch Internationale Politik [Dictionary of international politics], rev. repr. of the 5th ed. (Opladen: Leske u. Budrich, 1994).

[5] Maxime Leroy, "Histoire des idées sociales en France" in vol. III: D'Auguste Comte à P.-J. Proudhon,  (n.p., Gallimard, 1954); Edouard Dolléans, Histoire du mouvement ouvrier, vol. I (1830-1871), 6th ed. (Paris: Armand Colin, 1967); cf. also "Proudhon et ses contemporains", in Actes du Colloque de la Société P.-J. Proudhon, Paris 20-21 novembre 1992 (Paris: Société P.-J. Proudhon, 1993), pp. 142-149.

[6]  Cf. Bernard Voyenne, "Histoire de l'idée fédéraliste", vol. II: Le fédéralisme de P. J. Proudhon, (Paris and Nice: Presses d'Europe, 1973), ch. I.

[7] Hans Pelger, "Theorie und Praxis der sozialen Revolution bei Marx und Engels (1842-1847)" [Theory and practice of the social revolution according to Marx and Engels] in Heinz Monz et al., Der unbekannte junge Marx – neue Studien zur Entwicklung des Marxschen Denkens 1835-1847 [The unknown young Marx – new studies on the development of Marx's thinking ] (Mainz: v. Hase und Koehler, 1973), pp. 263-270; Hans Pelger (ed.),  Das Elend der Philosophie – Antwort auf Proudhons "Philosophie des Elends", [The misery of philosophy – answers to Proudhon's Philosophy of  Misery ], 11th ed. (Berlin and Bonn: Dietz, 1979), pp. LXII-LXIII, see also pp. LXV-LXVI. On the development of Marx's political and philosophical ideas on the proletarian revolution cf. also Karl-Hugo Breuer, Der junge Marx – sein Weg zum Kommunismus [The young Marx – on the road  to communism] (Köln: thesis, Universität Köln, 1954), pp. 121-130.  That Proudhon was also aware of the confusing variety of socialist concepts being under discussion in the years 1845 and 1846 is described in Pierre Haubtmann, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – sa vie et sa pensée 1809-1849 (Paris: Beauchesne 1982), pp. 522-523. Similar statements can be found in Edward Hyams´s book who cites Proudhon's letter to his friend Paul Ackermann dated 4 October 1844 (without reference!) in: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – His Revolutionary Life, Mind and Works (London: Murray 1979), pp. 74-75; cf. also J.-A. Langlois (ed.), Correspondance de P.-J. Proudhon, vol. II (Genève: Slatkine Reprints, 1971), pp. 154-161.

[8] Hans Pelger, "Theorie und Praxis", pp. 271-273; Pierre Haubtmann, P. J. Proudhon - sa vie et sa pensée, pp. 618-620.

[9] Pierre Haubtmann, P. J. Proudhon - sa vie et sa pensée, p. 448.

[10] Pierre Haubtmann, P. J. Proudhon - sa vie et sa pensée, ch. 14, 16; cf. also Hans Pelger (ed.),  Das Elend der Philosophie, p. XVI: "in the beginning" Marx only wanted to "polemise with Proudhon in a philosophico-methodical way"; cf. also ibid.,  p. XVII: the treatise "Misery of Philosophy" is "in the first place a pamphlet that is meant for the French socialist environment"; Pierre Ansart, "La polémique des deux 'Misères' ", in Société P.-J. Proudhon, Proudhon et ses contemporains, pp. 21-32, p. 21.

[11] There was only one publication of such a yearbook which only contained contributions by German authors and appeared in France and Germany in February 1844; cf. Pierre Haubtmann, P. J. Proudhon - sa vie et sa pensée, p. 441.

[12] Hans Pelger, "Theorie und Praxis", p. 263; according to Pelger organisational plans were not made before 1846/47.

[13] Pierre Haubtmann, P. J. Proudhon - sa vie et sa pensée, pp. 477-478; Hans Pelger (ed.),  Das Elend der Philosophie, p. LXII; idem, "Theorie und Praxis", p. 268f.

[14]  The text of this letter has been published in the following books: Karl Marx – Friedrich Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA), vol. III ([East-]Berlin: Dietz, 1979), pp. 7-8; Pierre Haubtmann, P. J. Proudhon - sa vie et sa pensée, pp. 622-623;  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Philosophie de la Misère' – Karl Marx 'Misère de la Philosophie (annotée par P.-J. Proudhon), vol. III (n.p., Le Groupe Fresnes-Antony de la Fédération anarchiste, n. d.), pp. 323-325.

[15] Emphasis added by the author.

[16] At the time of the writing of this letter the London correspondence committee was being founded; Hans Pelger (ed.),  Das Elend der Philosophie, pp. 265f.

[17] Emphasis added by the author.

[18] Die soziale Bewegung in Belgien und Frankreich [The social movement in Belgium and France] (Darmstadt: Leske, 1845).

[19] The postscript concerning Karl Grün displays a surprising tactical clumsiness in view of the well known friendship between Proudhon and Grün, especially because Marx misjudged its effect on Proudhon who was not interested in schemes. I will not talk further about this postscript since it is of rather secondary importance for the context dealt with here. About the personal, but by no means unpolitical, element of the conflict between Proudhon and Marx cf. Pierre Haubtmann, P. J. Proudhon - sa vie et sa pensée, pp. 624-626.

[20]  The text of the reply is published in J.-A. Langlois (ed.), Correspondance de P.-J. Proudhon, pp. 198-202; Pierre Haubtmann, P. J. Proudhon - sa vie et sa pensée, pp. 626-627, 629-630 (one line at the end of the third paragraph is missing); Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Philosophie de la Misère' – Karl Marx 'Misère de la Philosophie, (...), éd. par le groupe Fresnes-Antony, t. III, pp. 325-328.

[21] Although his state of health was impaired by an eye disease and general exhaustion; cf. his letter to the publisher Gilbert-Urbain Guillaumin dated 18 May 1846; Correspondance de P.-J. Proudhon, pp. 203-205.

[22] This is a remark that, according to Pierre Haubtmann, P. J. Proudhon - sa vie et sa pensée, p. 628, can only be explained by certain "éléments d'information" not specified by Haubtmann ; one can only suppose that they refer to Marx's verbal or written statements, respectively, that show that Marx then was developing his thinking in terms of historical-materialistic or political-economic categories, respectively.

[23] Emphasis added by the author.

[24] These formulations can only be interpreted correctly if one assumes that Proudhon was informed about plans on the part of Marx's followers concerning a revolutionary enforcement of socialist aims that was to be carried out, should the occasion arise; cf. also footnote 26.

[25] According to Maxime Leroy in vol. III: D'Auguste Comte à P.-J. Proudhon, p. 285, Proudhon was  "le plus proche de l'état d'esprit de(s?) gens, ouvriers et artisans" after the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, in which the decimated working class had lost any trust in boastful leaders.

[26] If Hans Pelger (ed.), Das Elend der Philosophie, p. LXIV – based on a somewhat shortened interpretation – imputes to Proudhon, that Proudhon himself imputes to Marx a "call for violence" and implicitly expresses incomprehension of this statement, one can assume that already then a latent readiness for violence existed, which possibly Proudhon also knew of; Engels for example in a gathering of the Bund  der Gerechten in Paris speaks of the "necessary 'forcible democratic revolution' " (ibid., p. LXVI).

[27] I will not talk further about the concluding passage of the reply that includes Marx's attacks against Grün, since this is of only secondary importance for the topic I'm dealing with here.

[28] p. LXIII.

[29] Rüdiger Thomas, Karl Marx – Theorie und Methode in: in Heinz Monz et al., Der unbekannte junge Marx, p. 294: Marx uses the term "communism" since 1844, though at that time not as a political slogan but rather as an anthropological category that replaces the term "real humanism".

[30] J.-A. Langlois (ed.), Correspondance de P.-J. Proudhon, p. 200.

[31] Hans Pelger (ed.),  Das Elend der Philosophie, p. LXIV.

[32] Pierre Haubtmann, P. J. Proudhon - sa vie et sa pensée, p. 628.

[33] Hans Pelger (ed.),  Das Elend der Philosophie, p. LXIV: Pelger is of the opinion that Proudhon had been "informed" by Karl Grün and Hermann Ewerbeck on "Marx's and Engels' activities in the communistic correspondence committee” as well as on the state of affairs in the Paris communities of the "Bund der Gerechten".

[34] Hans Pelger, "Theorie und Praxis", pp. 266-268.

[35] ... though still "without a fixed organisational structure", cf. Hans Pelger (ed.),  Das Elend der Philosophie, pp. LXVII-LXVIII.

[36] Bernard Voyenne, Le fédéralisme de P.-J. Proudhon, ch. I.

[37] Hans Pelger (ed.),  Das Elend der Philosophie, p. CIX: according to Pelger Marx has developed in Misère de la Philosophie a "perspective towards the classless society".

[38] About the individual steps concerning the growing political engagement cf. Hans Pelger (ed.),  Das Elend der Philosophie, pp. LXVIII, LXXVI, CIV, CV, CX-CXI; cf. also p. CV: In October 1847 Engels says to Louis Blanc that Marx is "chef de notre parti (i. e. de la fraction la plus avancée de la démocratie allemande)".

[39] J.-A. Langlois (ed.), Correspondance de P.-J. Proudhon, p. 200; cf. also Pierre Ansart, Sociologie de Proudhon (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1967), p. 194: "Dès 1838, Proudhon définit son intention de constituer une connaissance critique politiquement engagée et formant un instrument de défense et d'attaque pour les classes ouvrières..."  

[40] Pierre Ansart, Sociologie, pp. 206-215.