4 1 4 D O C . 2 7 7 O P I N I O N O N E N G E L S
277. Opinion on Engels’ “Dialectics of Nature”
Herr Eduard
Bernstein[1]
hat mir ein Manuskript von Engels, naturwissenschaft-
lichen Inhaltes,
übergeben,[2]
mit dem
Auftrage[3]
, darüber meine Ansicht auszu-
sprechen, ob dieses Manuskript gedruckt werden solle. Meine Ansicht ist folgende:
Wenn dieses Manuskript von einem Autor
herrührte[4]
, der als historische Persön-
lichkeit nicht interessierte, würde ich zu einer Drucklegung nicht raten; denn der
Inhalt ist weder vom Standpunkt der heutigen Physik noch auch für die Geschichte
der Physik von besonderem Interesse. Dagegen kann ich mir denken, daß diese
Schrift für eine Publikation insofern in Betracht käme, als sie einen interessanten
Beitrag für die Beleuchtung von Engels’ geistiger
Persönlichkeit[5]
bildet.
gez: A. Einstein.
30. Juni 1924
PD. Engels 1985, p. 597; Marx-Engels-Archiv 2 (1927): 141. [94 975].
[1]Bernstein (1850–1932), a Social Democrat politician, member of the Reichstag.
[2]Einstein’s opinion on Friedrich Engels’ manuscripts entitled “Dialectics of Nature” exists in two
versions. David Borisovich Riazanov quotes the opinion in his introduction to the publication of
Engels 1927, and the editors of Engels 1985 quote from a typed copy, extant at RuMoIML, of the orig-
inal. The editors of Engels 1985 state that they did not find the original (Engels 1985, p. 597).
After Engels’s death, the party executive committee of the German Social Democratic Party had
entrusted Leo Arons with the task of assessing whether Engels’ manuscripts on science and natural
philosophy (as well as Marx’ mathematical manuscripts) were worth publishing. In 1897, Arons—
about whom Einstein wrote an obituary (Einstein 1919e [Vol. 7, Doc. 24]) but whom he never met in
person—came to a negative assessment throughout; according to Arons, those works would be out-
dated (Engels 1985, pp. 595–596).
Eduard Bernstein, one of the executors of the literary estate of Marx and Engels, had published
from the manuscript bundles that were later published as Engels 1927, or Engels 1985, respectively,
the essays Engels 1896 and Engels 1898. He had also published correspondence between Karl Marx
and Engels in 1913 but had not published anything else from Engels’ manuscripts on science and nat-
ural philosophy. When Riazanov, who became the first director of the Marx-Engels-Institute in Mos-
cow in 1921, obtained the manuscript bundles from Bernstein and made copies of them in 1923,
Bernstein apparently reconsidered earlier decisions about whether more of Engels’ notes should be
published and asked Einstein for an opinion.
It is unclear which parts of Engels’ manuscripts were sent to Einstein for his assessment. Most
likely (Engels 1985, p. 596), Einstein saw only one of four Konvolute, the one which Bernstein con-
sidered for publication and the one which was entitled by Engels himself “Dialectics of Nature” (“Di-
alektik der Natur”). It contains the manuscripts “Basic Forms of Motion” (“Grundformen der
Bewegung”), “The Measure of Motion—Work” (“Mass der Bewegung—Arbeit”), “Electricity”
(“Electricität”), “Tidal Friction. Kant and Thomson-Tait” (“Flutreibung. Kant und Thomson-Tait”),
“Natural Science and the Spirit World” (“Die Naturforschung in der Geisterwelt”), and “Introduc-
tion” (“Einleitung”) (Engels 1985, pp. 155–164, 187–201, 202–214, 236–283, 220–224, 288). For
further discussion of the publication history of Engels’ manuscripts, see Griese and Pawelzig 1995.
[3]The version in Marx-Engels-Archiv has “der Anfrage” instead of “dem Auftrage.”
[4]The version in Marx-Engels-Archiv has “herrührt” instead of “herrührte.”
[5]The version in Marx-Engels-Archiv has “Bedeutung” instead of “Persönlichkeit.”
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