The Marxists Internet Archive has said it will delete the entirety of the Marx and Engels Collected Works on its site by 1 May, which ironically is International Workers’ Day.
The publishing company, Lawrence and Wishart, which was founded in 1936 through a merging of the Communist Party's press and a family-owned anti-fascist publisher, is claiming copyright infringement, stating that it cannot afford to have the collection still provided as a free resource.
The very material that is being removed argues against private property in such matters.
It is absurd to think that this company will continue to call itself radical, while making inaccessible resources which should be read and used by activists all over the world. It says they will make the online texts available — but only to academic libraries.
Yet, it could be argued that the Marx and Engels Collected Works has brought the company more custom by making more people aware of the printed books.
Prioritising profit over anything else is not a “left-wing” thing to do. and it stings all the more when Lawrence and Wishart are selling a hardback version of the entire MECW for a massive £1,500, around £50 for individual volumes.
It is certainly no coincidence that Lawrence and Wishart was funded for a period by the Soviet Union, and that influenced the first English-language collection of MECW.
A petition is being circulated to stop the privatisation of the writings of Marx and Engels, which at the time of publishing had over 4000 signatures.