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Books in Review

A Complete Bibliography of Marx’s Writing

(Spring 1957)

From The New International, Vol. XXIII No. 2, Spring 1957, pp. 115–120.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Bibliographie des Oeuvres de Karl Marx
by Maximilien Rubel
279 pages, Marcel Rivière, Paris, 1956. Price: 1,800 French francs

A capital contribution to the study of Marxism has just been published in France: the first complete bibliography of Marx’s work, by Maximilien Rubel, an independent Marx scholar living in Paris.

It is a sad comment on the state of Marxism as a movement and as a science that this basic working instrument should be the first of its kind, in spite of the tremendous means at the disposal of powerful countries and movements claiming a monopoly over the administration of the Marxist heritage. The performance of this author, working in isolation and deprived of access to many important sources and documents, deserves respect, not only because of its intrinsic value, but as a political act: this man has accomplished single-handed a long overdue work which neither the Stalinist empire, nor the reformist mass parties, intellectually paralyzed each in their own way, have been able to complete.

The first attempt at establishing a bibliography of Marx’s writings goes back to 1920. It was compiled by Ernst Drahn, archivist of the German Social-Democratic Party. It was simply a list of titles in chronological order, and contained many omissions. The Chronology of Marx’s Life prepared by D. Riazanov, then director of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow, and published in 1934, conformed more closely to the standards of scientific research. Unfortunately, Riazanov was no longer present to supervise the publication of his work, having been arrested and deported in 1931.

The present bibliography lists more than 900 items under four headings: books and articles published during Marx’s lifetime or posthumously; correspondence, unpublished manuscripts; dubiosa. The titles are given in the original language and are followed by a French translation. The date and place of first publication are indicated; new editions are mentioned whenever they contain important commentaries. Translations into other languages are also listed. Most items have been briefly annotated, giving an indication of contents and of their historical background.

The work is completed by a bibliography of Engels (over 150 items) and an index of names.

IN THE VIEW OF ITS AUTHOR, this bibliography is to be the first step towards a systematic edition of Marx’s collected works. He therefore recalls, in his introduction, the history of the fate of Marx’s literary heritage.

At Marx’s death, Engels assumed the task of editing and publishing the manuscripts that Marx had left behind. Between 1884 and 1894 he thus published, among other works, the second and the third volume of Capital, the Origin of the Family, the Misery of Philosophy, the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and the Theses on Feuerbach. A few months before his death, he wrote to a director of the German socialist party’s publishing house of his intent to publish a complete edition of Marx’s and his own collected works, but he was unfortunately unable to start this project.

In his testament, Engels named Eleanor Marx, Bernstein and Bebel as his and Marx’s literary executors. In fact, Bernstein and Kautsky became the real executors, but the battle over the question of revisionism soon made collaboration between them impossible. From Engels’ death to 1914, Marx’s and Engels’ work was not published according to a methodical plan. The main publications were Mehring’s four volumes Aus dem literarischen Nachlass von Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels und Ferdinand Lassalle in 1902, containing little known writings of the period between 1841 and 1850, in particular Die Heilige Familie; Kautsky’s three volumes of the Theories of Surplus Value in 1905–1910; a manuscript on Max Stirner published by Bernstein in his review Dokumente des Sozialismus; various writings published in Die Neue Zeit, and the correspondence between Marx and Engels, four volumes of 1900 pages altogether published by Bernstein and Bebel.

The victory of the Russian revolution in October 1917 seemed to open new possibilities for assembling and publishing the collected works of the two founders of scientific socialism. For the first time a socialist government, led by Marxists, disposed of the means and of the determination needed to replace the scattered efforts of isolated scholars with a systematic edition. This work was undertaken by D. Riazanov, who had already published two volumes of Collected Writings of Marx and Engels 1852–1856 in 1920. In 1928, a bibliographical note in Lenin’s Collected Writings described Riazanov in the following terms:

Riazanov, D.B. (Born 1870). One of the earliest Russian social-democrats. Participated in the organization of the first workers’ circles in Odessa, soon after 1890. After five years of prison and three years of close surveillance, he emigrated. Attempted to conciliate the tendencies of the first Iskra, and of economism; was one of the founders of the Borba (Struggle) group. During the revolution of 1905, he participated in the organization of trade-unions in Odessa and in St. Petersburg. Had to emigrate again and was active in the Western socialist movement. The German social-democracy entrusted him with the study of the literary heritage of Marx and Engels and of the history of the First International; internationalist (centrist) during the war. Returned to Russia in 1917 and joined the Bolshevik Party; participated in the preparation of the October insurrection. R. is one of the organizers of the Communist Academy in Moscow and of the Marx-Engels Institute, of which he is the director. Member of the Executive Committee of the Soviets of the USSR.

The Soviet government granted Riazanov considerable funds, and in short time the most valuable and varied documents were collected at the Marx-Engels Institute. In 1925, the Institute negotiated an agreement with the German Social-Democratic Party and the Institute of Sociology in Frankfurt, directed by Carl Grünberg, for the publication of an edition of Marx’s and Engels’ collected works according to Riazanov’s plan. The complete edition was to include 40 volumes, and was divided in three sections: 17 volumes of philosophical, economic, historical and political writings other than Capital; 13 volumes of Marx’s economic writings, including the four volumes of Capital; 10 volumes including the complete correspondence of Marx and Engels. Two supplementary volumes would have included an index of names, of subjects and of works, as well as a detailed chronology of Marx’s life and works.

By 1930 a close collaborator of Riazanov was able to declare that “today the whole heritage of Marx and Engels is deciphered and typed.” Between 1926 and 1930, Riazanov published, in Russian and in German, 5 volumes of the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA), including three volumes of correspondence, as well as two volumes of the Marx-Engels Archiv, containing historical and critical documents by Russian scholars, including Riazanov, unpublished writings and correspondence by Marx and the plan of the MEGA.

In 1931 Riazanov was arrested, without any reason being publicly given, and deported to Saratov, where he seems to have died shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.

In the course of the Stalinist counter-revolution, his work was first deformed, then destroyed. Under the supervision of the far less competent Adoratsky, seven more volumes were published from 1932 to 1935. These volumes fail to conform to the standards set by Riazanov; the introductions of the new editor are “timid ... devoid of any interest and scientific value.” In addition, Marx’s own work was censored. In volume XI of the new edition (Articles and Correspondence from 1856 to 1859), eleven articles published by Marx in the London Free Press under the title Secret Diplomatic History of the Eighteenth Century are missing. This detailed analysis of Russian foreign policy from Ivan Kalita to Peter the Great conflicted radically with the nationalist mythology resurrected by the Stalinist regime, aiming to justify the imperialist policy of the tsars as a justification of its own imperialist conquests. In 1935, all work on the MEGA was stopped by top-level decision. Various writings by Marx and Engels which should have been part of the MEGA appeared after 1935 without any relation to the complete edition. All references to Riazanov’s and his collaborator’s activity was eliminated from later publications; the volumes which had been published under Riazanov’s editorship were stamped in and disappeared from Russian and foreign libraries.

In 1947, Rubel wrote to the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute in Moscow to enquire about the fate of the MEGA, and was told that “the publication of the following volumes had been temporarily stopped.” It remains to be seen whether Stalin’s heirs, who so clamorously denounce the terror of his reign, will resume publication of the “temporarily” suspended edition, including the writings in which Marx condemns a policy that is not only Stalin’s but also their own.

The archives of German social-democracy were hurriedly sent abroad after the national-socialist regime had come to power; most of them are in the possession of the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam. However, the Institute does not possess all of the materials that Riazanov was able to assemble in Moscow. Thus, no complete edition of Marx’s and Engels’ work will be possible as long as the archives of the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute in Moscow remain inaccessible to socialist scholars.

As Rubel remarks, the problem of a complete, historical and critical edition of Marx is very different today from what it was when Riazanov undertook the work thirty years ago. However, it does not seem insoluble: Rubel’s bibliography is the first step toward a new attempt in this direction.

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