Marx and Engels and the 'Red Chemist'
The Forgotten Legacy of Carl Schorlemmer
Date Written: 2017-03-01
Publisher: Monthly Review
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20560
New studies of Marx’s long-unavailable notebooks, now being published in the massive Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (Marx-Engels Complete Works), decisively refute claims that Marx was uninterested in the natural sciences or considered them irrelevant to his politics.
Marx, Engels, and Schorlemmer were thus more than friends -- they shared a political commitment and social vision. Engels later recalled that when they met, the chemist was already "a complete Communist," and had been for some years: "all he had to learn from us were the economic grounds for a conviction he had gained long ago." As part of this teaching process, Engels shared with him the proofs of the first volume of Capital, before Marx’s masterpiece was published.
Schorlemmer joined the International Workingmen’s Association (the First International), and the German Social Democratic Party. When the police appeared to be opening Marx and Engels’s letters, he allowed his home address to be used for their correspondence and parcels, and during trips to scientific conferences on the continent, he helped strengthen links with socialists there. On one such visit in 1883, the police detained him and searched his family’s home, because his presence at Marx’s funeral had been mentioned in the socialist press. He was suspected of (and probably was, in fact) smuggling banned socialist literature into Germany.
But Schorlemmer's most lasting contribution was in helping Marx and Engels to understand the latest developments in the natural sciences.