Marx, Journalism and his Handwriting

Submitted by Vijay Prashad on Mon, 05/08/2017 - 01:49
Marx, Journalism and his Handwriting


Marx - impoverished - relied on handouts from his family and from his best friend Engels. But even that rankled him. In 1862, when the New York Tribune decided to concentrate on the US Civil War and not on European news, Marx - the journalist - found his income dry up. He wrote to Engels on 20 August 1862,

Say what you will, dear boy. It is really embarrassing to have to bother you as I do with my miseries! If only I knew how to start some sort of business! All theory, dear friend, is grey, and only business green. Unfortunately, I have come to realise this too late.

It is common in the correspondence between Marx and Engels to read the following, which is from 30 December 1862,

On Friday I sent you a registered letter containing 10 pounds, £5 in a Bank of England note and £5 in a Country Note of the Boston Bank payable at Masterman & Co., Bankers, London. Having heard nothing from you since, I feel a little uneasy.

That year, Marx decided to go get a job. He applied to the railways, but was denied a post. They found his handwriting to be abysmal and could not even read his job application.

Marx returned to the British Library to work on Capital.

Journalism continued to provided Marx with his modest income. For all the grey of theory, Marx admired the work of the hack, the red-hot copy that zipped off to press. Marx's description of Engels to Adolf Cluss is the perfect description of a good journalist,

Engels really has too much work, but being a veritable walking encyclopaedia, he's capable, drunk or sober, of working at any hour of the day or night, is a fast writer and devilish quick on the uptake.

Might be useful to point out that Cluss, the German American Communist, was one of Washington, DC's most important architects - known at the time as the Red Architect. Go see his Franklin School, his Sumner School and his Calvary Baptist Church. There lies the hand of a Communist architect.