Marx & Engels on Joseph Dietzgen

Joseph Dietzgen, Letter to Karl Marx, 7 November 1867: Tribute to Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy & lengthy statement of Dietzgen’s philosophical outlook

Karl Marx to Ludwig Kugelmann, 7 December 1867: Allusion to Dietzgen [refers to Joseph Dietzgen, Letter to Karl Marx, 7 November 1867]

I am enclosing a letter (please return it) from a German-Russian worker (a tanner). Engels remarks, quite rightly, that the autodidactic philosophy – pursued by workers themselves – has made great progress in the case of this tanner in comparison with the cobbler Jakob Böhm; also that only ‘German workers’ are capable of such cerebral work.

Marx to Dietzgen, 9 May 1868 [not extant in full], in MECW 43, p. 31: On capital, dialectics. [Text on this site]

Marx to Engels in Manchester, London, 29 June 1868, in MECW 43, p. 54: PS on Dietzgen’s visit to Petersburg

Marx to Engels in Manchester, London, 11 July 1868, in MECW 43, p. 65: Enclosed a letter from Dietzgen

Marx to Ludwig Kugelmann in Hanover, London, 11 July 1868, in MECW 43, p. 70: Mentions receipt by Dietzgen of an article on Marx’s book

Marx to Engels in Manchester, London, 4 October 1868, in MECW 43, p. 120: Sending package with ms & letter from Dietzgen.

My view is that J. Dietzgen would do best if he condensed all his ideas into 2 printed sheets and had them printed in his name as a tanner. If he publishes them at the intended length, he will make a fool of himself because of the lack of dialectical development and the running in circles. Read it through and write your opinion. [P. 121]

Engels to Marx in London, Manchester, 8 October 1868, in MECW 43, p. 126: “I have not yet been able to look at the manuscript by Dietzgen.” [Das Wesen der menschlichen Kopfarbeit = The Essence of Human Brainwork]

Marx to Sigfrid Meyer and August Vogt in New York, London, 28 October 1868, in MECW 43, p. 149: PS: Dietzgen a gifted worker

Engels to Marx in London, Manchester, 6 November 1868: On Dietzgen as philosopher (Full text also offsite)

Marx to Engels in Manchester, London, 7 November 1868: On Dietzgen, Hegel, Feuerbach, originality

I regard Dietzgen’s exposition, in so far as Feuerbach, etc., in short his sources, do not peep through, as entirely his own independent achievement. For the rest, I agree with everything you say. I shall have something to say to him about the repetitions; it is his bad luck that it was precisely Hegel that he did not study.

Marx to Ludwig Kugelmann in Hanover, London, 5 December 1868, in MECW 43, p. 173: Excerpt:

Have you got Dietzgen’s address? Quite a while ago he sent me a fragment of a manuscript on ‘intellectual capacity’, [The Essence of Human Brainwork] which, despite a certain confusion and too frequent repetitions, contained much that was excellent, and—as the independent product of a worker—even admirable. I did not reply immediately after reading it through, since I wanted to hear Engels’ opinion. So I sent him the manuscript. A long time passed before I got it back.

And now I cannot find Dietzgen’s letter with his new address. He wrote me, to wit, in his last letter from Petersburg, that he would return to the Rhine and settle there. Have you perhaps received his address from him? If so, be so kind as to send it to me by return. My conscience—one never becomes completely free of this sort of thing—is pricking me for leaving Dietzgen so long without a reply. You also promised to tell me something about his personality.

I have received Büchner’s lectures on Darwinism. He is obviously a ‘book-maker’ and probably for this reason is called ‘Büchner’. His superficial babble about the history of materialism is obviously copied from Lange. The way such a whipper-snapper disposes of, e.g., Aristotle—quite a different sort of natural philosopher from Büchner—is really astonishing. It is also very naive of him to say, referring to Cabanis, ‘you might almost be listening to Karl Vogt’. As if Cabanis copied Vogt!

Marx to Ludwig Kugelmann in Hanover, London, 12 December 1868: On Dietzgen’s portrait, biography, & leisure to do philosophy

Marx to Engels in Manchester, London, 29 March 1869, in MECW 43,p. 249: Mention of receipt of letter from Dietzgen, Dietzgen’s publication plans for [titled in manuscript] Die Kopfarbeit, dargestellt von einem Handarbeiter usw

Marx to Engels in Manchester, Hanover, 25 September 1869, in MECW 43, p. 353: Mentions visit to Dietzgen

Engels to Marx in Hanover, Manchester, 27 September 1869, in MECW 43, p. 357: Mentions impossibility of a visit to Dietzgen this trip due to road out

Karl Marx. Capital. Volume One (1873). Afterword to the Second German Edition (London, January 24, 1873): Mention of Dietzgen’s articles in the Volksstaat

Engels to Joseph Dietzgen in New York, from London, 31 December 1884 [Excerpt], in MECW, Volume 47 (Letters, 1883-86), p. 246: Engels states that he is unable to contribute to Dietzgen’s paper

Engels to Sorge, London, April 29, 1886: Dietzgen and labor politics

Engels to Sorge, London, September 16, 1886: Dietzgen on anarchists

Frederick Engels. Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy (1886), Part 4: Marx: Materialist dialectic independently discovered by Dietzgen

And this materialist dialectic, which for years has been our best working tool and our sharpest weapon, was, remarkably enough, discovered not only by us but also, independently of us and even of Hegel, by a German worker, Joseph Dietzgen.  [The Nature of Human Brainwork]


MECW 43 = Marx Engels Collected Works, Vol. 43, 1868-1870 (Letters, April 1868-July 1870).  Footnotes are omitted above.

Boldfaced items above are of philosophical interest. Quotes from the texts are indented.

Marx to Joseph Dietzgen, 9 May 1868 (Letter)

Engels to Marx, 6 November 1868 (Letter)

Marx and Marxism Web Guide

Intellectual Life in Society, Conventional and Unconventional: A Bibliography in Progress: Proletarian Philosophy


Joseph Dietzgen - Wkipedia, the free encyclopedia

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