“Mikhailovski in his article rejected Zhukovskii’s coarse and primitive understanding of Marx’s theory, while at the same time questioning the application of Marx’s theory to the Russian situation. Mikhailovskii first called into question the chapter on ‘The so-called primitive accumulation’ in ‘Capital’ and considered that there Marx was expounding a ‘historico-philosophical theory of Universal Progress’. In other words, Mikhailovskii took Marx to be asserting that every country must experience exactly the same process of expropriation of the peasant from the land as had been the case in England. Mikhailovskii then questioned Footnote 9 of the first German edition of ‘Capital’ where Marx made a mockery of Herzen. (…) After reading this article by Mikhailovskii, Marx started writing the letter as he felt he should not remain silent. Since the letter was to be published in a legal journal in tsarist Russia under his own signature, Marx took the necessary precautions: he avoided talking about a revolution, chose to refer to Herzen and Chernyshevskii without explicitly mentioning their names, and on the whole talked in the ‘language of Aesop’. This is why, at first glance, this letter appears equivocal. Nevertheless, anyone who is familiar with the contents of Mikhailovskii’s article and the previous development Marx’s thought can easily understand what Marx is trying to say. In the first half of the letter, Marx comments on Mikhailovskii’s critique of the footnote in the ‘first’ edition of ‘Capital’ in which Marx ridiculed Herzen, and points out that Mikhailovskii is utterly mistaken, since ‘in no case can it serve as a key’ to Marx’s views on the efforts of the Russians to find for their country a path of development different from that of Western Europe. (…) In the second half of his letter, Marx quotes from the French edition of ‘Capital’, explains that the chapter on primitive accumulation only traces the path followed in Western Europe, and thus clarifies for the firt time what really was his motivation when he revised this chapter in 1875. Marx further maintains that if this historical sketch were to be applied to Russia, the following two points must be made: (1) If Russia attempts to become a capitalist nation, like the nations of Western Europe…it will not succeed without having first transformed a good part of its peasant into proletarians, and afterwards, (2) once it has crossed the threshold of the capitalist system, it will have to submit to the implacable laws of such a system, like the other Western nations”” [Haruki Wada, ‘Marx and revolutionary Russia’] [(in) ‘Late Marx and the Russian Road. Marx and ‘the peripheries of capitalism”, a cura di Teodor Shanin, 2009]