ENGLISH

Frederick Engels

LETTERS TO AUGUST BEBEL


 

 

Engels to August Bebel
In Zwickau

Written: London, March 18-28, 1875;
A. Bebel, Aus meinem Leben, Part 2, Stuttgart, 1911;

 

London, March 18-28, 1875

Dear Bebel,

I have received your letter of February 23 and am glad to hear that you are in such good bodily health.

You ask me what we think of the unification affair. We are, unfortunately, in exactly the same boat as yourself. Neither Liebknecht nor anyone else has let us have any kind of information, and hence we too know only what is in the papers — not that there was anything in them until a week or so ago, when the draft programme appeared. That astonished us not a little, I must say.

Our party had so often held out a conciliatory hand to the Lassalleans, or at least proffered co-operation, only to be rebuffed so often and so contemptuously by the Hasenclevers, Hasselmanns and Tolckes as to lead any child to the conclusion that, should these gentlemen now come and themselves proffer conciliation, they must be in a hell of a dilemma. Knowing full well what these people are like, however, it behoves us to make the most of that dilemma and insist on every conceivable guarantee that might prevent these people from restoring, at our party’s expense, their shattered reputation in general working-class opinion. They should be given an exceedingly cool and cautious reception, and union be made dependent on the degree of their readiness to abandon their sectarian slogans and their state aid, [2] and to accept in its essentials the Eisenach Programme of 1869 [3] or an improved edition of it adapted to the present day. Our party has absolutely nothing to learn from the Lassalleans in the theoretical sphere, i.e. the crux of the matter where the programme is concerned, but the Lassalleans doubtless have something to learn from the party; the first prerequisite for union was that they cease to be sectarians, Lassalleans, i.e. that, first and foremost, they should, if not wholly relinquish the universal panacea of state aid, at least admit it to be a secondary provisional measure alongside and amongst many others recognised as possible. The draft programme shows that our people, while infinitely superior to the Lassallean leaders in matters of theory, are far from being a match for them where political guile is concerned; once again the “honest men” [4] have been cruelly done in the eye by the dishonest.

To begin with, they adopt the high-sounding but historically false Lassallean dictum: in relation to the working class all other classes are only one reactionary mass. This proposition is true only in certain exceptional instances, for example in the case of a revolution by the proletariat, e.g. the Commune, or in a country in which not only has the bourgeoisie constructed state and society after its own image but the democratic petty bourgeoisie, in its wake, has already carried that reconstruction to its logical conclusion. If, for instance, in Germany, the democratic petty bourgeoisie were part of this reactionary mass, then how could the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party have gone hand in hand with it, with the People’s Party, [5] for years on end? How could the Volksstaat derive virtually all its political content from the petty-bourgeois democratic Frankfurter Zeitung? And how can one explain the adoption in this same programme of no less than seven demands that coincide exactly and word for word with the programme of the People’s Party and of petty-bourgeois democracy? I mean the seven political demands, 1 to 5 and 1 to 2, of which there is not one that is not bourgeois-democratic. [6]

Secondly, the principle that the workers’ movement is an international one is, to all intents and purposes, utterly denied in respect of the present, and this by men who, for the space of five years and under the most difficult conditions, upheld that principle in the most laudable manner. The German workers’ position in the van of the European movement rests essentially on their genuinely international attitude during the war [7]; no other proletariat would have behaved so well. And now this principle is to be denied by them at a moment when, everywhere abroad, workers are stressing it all the more by reason of the efforts made by governments to suppress every attempt at its practical application in an organisation! And what is left of the internationalism of the workers’ movement? The dim prospect — not even of subsequent co-operation among European workers with a view to their liberation — nay, but of a future “international brotherhood of peoples” — of your Peace League bourgeois “United States of Europe"! [8]

There was, of course, no need whatever to mention the International as such. But at the very least there should have been no going back on the programme of 1869, and some sort of statement to the effect that, though first of all the German workers’ party is acting within the limits set by its political frontiers (it has no right to speak in the name of the European proletariat, especially when what it says is wrong), it is nevertheless conscious of its solidarity with the workers of all other countries and will, as before, always be ready to meet the obligations that solidarity entails. Such obligations, even if one does not definitely proclaim or regard oneself as part of the “International,” consist for example in aid, abstention from blacklegging during strikes, making sure that the party organs keep German workers informed of the movement abroad, agitation against impending or incipient dynastic wars and, during such wars, an attitude such as was exemplarily maintained in 1870 and 1871, etc.

Thirdly, our people have allowed themselves to be saddled with the Lassallean “iron law of wages” which is based on a completely outmoded economic view, namely that on average the workers receive only the minimum wage because, according to the Malthusian theory of population, there are always too many workers (such was Lassalle’s reasoning). Now in Capital Marx has amply demonstrated that the laws governing wages are very complex, that, according to circumstances, now this law, now that, holds sway, that they are therefore by no means iron but are, on the contrary, exceedingly elastic, and that the subject really cannot be dismissed in a few words, as Lassalle imagined. Malthus’ argument, upon which the law Lassalle derived from him and Ricardo (whom he misinterpreted) is based, as that argument appears, for instance, on p. 5 of the Arbeiterlesebuch, where it is quoted from another pamphlet of Lassalle’s, [9] is exhaustively refuted by Marx in the section on “Accumulation of Capital.” Thus, by adopting the Lassallean “iron law” one commits oneself to a false proposition and false reasoning in support of the same.

Fourthly, as its one and only social demand, the programme puts forward — Lassallean state aid in its starkest form, as stolen by Lassalle from Buchez. [10] And this, after Bracke has so ably demonstrated the sheer futility of that demand; after almost all if not all, of our party speakers have, in their struggle against the Lassalleans, been compelled to make a stand against this “state aid"! Our party could hardly demean itself further. Internationalism sunk to the level of Amand Goegg, socialism to that of the bourgeois republican Buchez, who confronted the socialists with this demand in order to supplant them!

But “state aid” in the Lassallean sense of the word is, after all, at most only one measure among many others for the attainment of an end here lamely described as “paving the way for the solution of the social question,” as though in our case there were still a social question that remained unsolved in theory! Thus, if you were to say: The German workers’ party strives to abolish wage labour and hence class distinctions by introducing co-operative production into industry and agriculture, and on a national scale; it is in favour of any measure calculated to attain that end! — then no Lassallean could possibly object.

Fifthly, there is absolutely no mention of the organisation of the working class as a class through the medium of trade unions. And that is a point of the utmost importance, this being the proletariat’s true class organisation in which it fights its daily battles with capital, in which it trains itself and which nowadays can no longer simply be smashed, even with reaction at its worst (as presently in Paris). Considering the importance this organisation is likewise assuming in Germany, it would in our view be indispensable to accord it some mention in the programme and, possibly, to leave some room for it in the organisation of the party.

All these things have been done by our people to oblige the Lassalleans. And what have the others conceded? That a host of somewhat muddled and purely democratic demands should figure in the programme, some of them being of a purely fashionable nature — for instance “legislation by the people” such as exists in Switzerland and does more harm than good, if it can be said to do anything at all. Administration by the people — that would at least be something. Similarly omitted is the first prerequisite of all liberty — that all officials be responsible for all their official actions to every citizen before the ordinary courts and in accordance with common law. That demands such as freedom of science and freedom of conscience figure in every liberal bourgeois programme and seem a trifle out of place here is something I shall not enlarge upon.

The free people’s state is transformed into the free state. Grammatically speaking, a free state is one in which the state is free vis-à-vis its citizens, a state, that is, with a despotic government. All the palaver about the state ought to be dropped, especially after the Commune, which had ceased to be a state in the true sense of the term. The people’s state has been flung in our teeth ad nauseam by the anarchists, although Marx’s anti-Proudhon piece and after it the Communist Manifesto declare outright that, with the introduction of the socialist order of society, the state will dissolve of itself and disappear. Now, since the state is merely a transitional institution of which use is made in the struggle, in the revolution, to keep down one’s enemies by force, it is utter nonsense to speak of a free people’s state; so long as the proletariat still makes use of the state, it makes use of it, not for the purpose of freedom, but of keeping down its enemies and, as soon as there can be any question of freedom, the state as such ceases to exist. We would therefore suggest that Gemeinwesen ["commonalty"] be universally substituted for state; it is a good old German word that can very well do service for the French “Commune.”

"The elimination of all social and political inequality,” rather than “the abolition of all class distinctions,” is similarly a most dubious expression. As between one country, one province and even one place and another, living conditions will always evince a certain inequality which may be reduced to a minimum but never wholly eliminated. The living conditions of Alpine dwellers will always be different from those of the plainsmen. The concept of a socialist society as a realm of equality is a one-sided French concept deriving from the old “liberty, equality, fraternity,” a concept which was justified in that, in its own time and place, it signified a phase of development, but which, like all the one-sided ideas of earlier socialist schools, ought now to be superseded, since they produce nothing but mental confusion, and more accurate ways of presenting the matter have been discovered.

I shall desist, although almost every word in this programme, a programme which is, moreover, insipidly written, lays itself open to criticism. It is such that, should it be adopted, Marx and I could never recognise a new party set up on that basis and shall have to consider most seriously what attitude — public as well as private — we should adopt towards it. [11] Remember that abroad we are held responsible for any and every statement and action of the German Social-Democratic Workers’ Party. E.g. by Bakunin in his work Statehood and Anarchy, in which we are made to answer for every injudicious word spoken or written by Liebknecht since the inception of the Demokratisches Wochenblatt. People imagine that we run the whole show from here, whereas you know as well as I do that we have hardly ever interfered in the least with internal party affairs, and then only in an attempt to make good, as far as possible, what we considered to have been blunders — and only theoretical blunders at that. But, as you yourself will realise, this programme marks a turning-point which may very well force us to renounce any kind of responsibility in regard to the party that adopts it.

Generally speaking, less importance attaches to the official programme of a party than to what it does. But a new programme is after all a banner planted in public, and the outside world judges the party by it. Hence, whatever happens there should be no going-back, as there is here, on the Eisenach programme. It should further be considered what the workers of other countries will think of this programme; what impression will be created by this genuflection on the part of the entire German socialist proletariat before Lassalleanism.

I am, moreover, convinced that a union on this basis would not last a year. Are the best minds of our party to descend to repeating, parrot-fashion, Lassallean maxims concerning the iron law of wages and state aid? I’d like to see you, for one, thus employed! And were they to do so, their audiences would hiss them off the stage. And I feel sure that it is precisely on these bits of the programme that the Lassalleans are insisting, like Shylock the Jew on his pound of flesh. The split will come; but we shall have “made honest men” again of Hasselmann, Hasenclever and Tolcke and Co.; we shall emerge from the split weaker and the Lassalleans stronger; our party will have lost its political virginity and will never again be able to come out whole-heartedly against the Lassallean maxims which for a time it inscribed on its own banner; and then, should the Lassalleans again declare themselves to be the sole and most genuine workers’ party and our people to be bourgeois, the programme would be there to prove it. All the socialist measures in it are theirs, and our party has introduced nothing save the demands of that petty-bourgeois democracy which it has itself described in that same programme as part of the “reactionary mass"!

I had held this letter back in view of the fact that you would only be released on April 1, in honour of Bismarck’s birthday, [12] not wanting to expose it to the risk of interception in the course of an attempt to smuggle it in. Well, I have just had a letter from Bracke, who has also felt grave doubts about the programme and asks for our opinion. I shall therefore send this letter to him for forwarding, so that he can read it without my having to write the whole thing over again. I have, by the way, also spoken my mind to Ramm; to Liebknecht I wrote but briefly. I cannot forgive his not having told us a single word about the whole business (whereas Ramm and others believed he had given us exact information) until it was, in a manner of speaking, too late. True, this has always been his wont — hence the large amount of disagreeable correspondence which we, both Marx and myself, have had with him, but this time it really is too bad, and we definitely shan’t act in concert with him.

Do see that you manage to come here in the summer; you would, of course, stay with me and, if the weather is fine, we might spend a day or two taking sea baths, which would really do you good after your long spell in jail.

Ever your friend,

F. E.

Marx has just moved house. He is living at 41 Maitland Park Crescent, NW London.

 

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Footnotes

1.

Engels’ letter to August Bebel written between March 18 and 28, 1875 is closely connected with Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme and is traditionally published together with the latter work. It conveyed the joint opinion of Marx and Engels concerning the fusion of two German workers’ parties, the Eisenachers and the Lassalleans, scheduled for early 1875. The immediate reason for the letter was the publication of the draft programme of the future united Social-Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany (Programm der deutschen Arbeiterpartei) in Der Volksstaat (the organ of the Eisenachers) and the Neuer Social-Demokrat (the organ of the Lassalleans) on March 7, 1875. The draft programme was approved with slight changes by the unity congress at Gotha on May 22-27, 1875, and came to be known as the Gotha Programme.

This letter was first published by Bebel, after the lapse of 36 years, in his Aus meinem Leben, Zweiter Teil, Stuttgart, 1911. In the present edition the letter is printed according to this book.

It was published in English for the first time in: K. Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, Lawrence, London [1933], pp. 51-62.

 

2.

A reference to one of Lassalle’s programme theses on the establishment of workers’ producer associations with the aid of the state. Lassalle and his followers repeatedly emphasised that what they had in mind was a state in which power would pass into the hands of the working people through universal suffrage.

 

3.

Engels is referring to the Programm und Statuten der sozial-demokratischen Arbeiter-Partei, adopted at the general German workers’ congress in Eisenach in August 1869 and published in the Demokratisches Wochenblatt on August 14, 1869. The congress founded the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany. By and large the programme complied with the principles of the International Working Men’s Association.

 

4.

The "honest men” — nickname of the members of the Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (the Eisenachers), as distinct from the members of the General Association of German Workers (the Lassalleans), the “dishonest men.”

 

5.

The German People’s Party, established in September 1868, embraced the democratic section of the bourgeoisie, mostly in the South-German states. The party opposed the establishment of Prussian hegemony in Germany and advocated the idea of a federative German state.

 

6.

A reference to the following articles of the draft Gotha Programme:

"The German workers’ party demands as the free basis of the state:

"1. Universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot for all males who have reached the age of 21, for all elections in the state and in the community. 2. Direct legislation by the people with the right to initiate and to reject bills. 3. Universal military training. A people’s militia in place of the standing army. Decisions regarding war and peace to be taken by a representative assembly of the people. 4. Abolition of all exceptional laws, in particular the laws on the press, associations and assembly. 5. Jurisdiction by the people. Administration of justice without fees.

"The German workers’ party demands as the intellectual and moral basis of the state:

"1. Universal and equal education of the people by the state. Compulsory school attendance. Free instruction. 2. Freedom of science. Freedom of conscience."

 

7.

The reference is to the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71.

 

8.

The League of Peace and Freedom — A pacifist organisation set up in Switzerland in 1867 with the active participation of Victor Hugo, Giuseppe Garibaldi and other democrats. The League asserted that it was possible to prevent wars by creating the “United States of Europe.” Its leaders did not disclose the social sources of wars and often confined anti-militarist activity to mere declarations. At the General Council meeting of August 13, 1867 Marx spoke against the International’s official participation in the League’s Inaugural Congress, since this would have meant solidarity with its bourgeois programme, but recommended that some members of the International should attend the Congress in their personal capacity in order to support revolutionary-democratic decisions (see Marx’s letter to Engels of September 4, 1867).

 

9.

On page 5 of his Arbeiterlesebuch Lassalle quotes a passage about the “iron law of wages” from his pamphlet Offnes Antwortschreiben an das Central-Comite zur Berufung eines Allgemeinen Deutschen Arbeitercongresses zu Leipzig, Zurich, 1863, pp. 15-16.

 

10.

Philippe Joseph Buchez, one of the first ideologists of the so-called Christian socialism, advanced a plan for the establishment of workers’ producer associations with the aid of the state.

 

11.

On October 12, 1875 Engels wrote to Bebel concerning this programme that, since both workers and their political opponents “interpreted it communistically,” “it is this circumstance alone which has made it possible for Marx and myself not to disassociate ourselves publicly from a programme such as this. So long as our opponents as well as the workers continue to read our views into that programme, we are justified in saying nothing about it.”

 

12.

In March 1872 August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht were sentenced to two years’ confinement in a fortress for their adhesion to the International Working Men’s Association and their socialist views. In April Bebel was sentenced, in addition, to nine months’ imprisonment and deprived of his mandate as a Reichstag member for “insulting His Majesty.” Liebknecht was released on April 15, 1874, while Bebel was freed on April 1, 1875.

 


Friedrich Engels to August Bebel in Leipzig, 12 October 1875

Source: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975).

 

Dear Bebel

Your letter fully confirms our view that the unification was precipitate on our part and bears within itself the germ of future disunion. It would be well if this disunion could be postponed until after the next Reichstag elections... [1]

The programme [2] as it is now, consists of three parts:

1) Of Lassallean propositions and slogans, the adoption of which remains a disgrace to our Party. When two factions want to agree on a joint programme they include the points on which they concur and do not touch upon those they are unable to agree. True, Lassallean state assistance was in the Eisenach programme, but as one of many transitional measures and, according to all I have heard, it would almost certainly have been thrown overboard, on Bracke’s [3] motion, at this year’s Congress had it not been for the unification. Now it figures as the sole and infallible panacea for all social ailments. It was an immense moral defeat for our Party to allow the ‘iron law of wages’ and other Lassallean phrases to be foisted upon it. It became converted to the Lassallean creed. That simply cannot be argued away. This part of the programme is the Caudine yoke [4] under which our Party crawled to the greater glory of the holy Lassalle.

2) Of democratic demands which have been drawn up wholly in the spirit and style of the People’s Party. [5]

3) Of demands made on the ‘present-day state’ (it is not clear on whom the other ‘demands’ are made), which are very confused and illogical.

4) Of general principles, mostly borrowed from the Communist Manifesto and the Rules of the International, but which have been so re-edited that they contain either utterly false propositions or pure nonsense, as Marx has shown in detail in the essay known to you. [6]

The whole thing is untidy, confused, disconnected, illogical and discreditable. If the bourgeois press possessed a single person of critical mind, he would have taken this programme apart phrase by phrase, investigated the real content of each phrase, demonstrated its nonsense with the utmost clarity, revealed its contradictions and economic howlers (for instance, that the instruments of labour are today ‘the monopoly of the capitalist class’, as if there were no owners of land; the talk about ‘the freeing of labour’ instead of the freeing of the working class, for labour itself is much too free nowadays!) and made our whole Party look frightfully ridiculous. Instead of that the asinine bourgeois papers took this programme quite seriously, read into it what it does not contain and interpreted it communistically. The workers seem to be doing the same. It is this circumstance alone that made it possible for Marx and me not to dissociate ourselves publicly from such a programme. So long as our opponents and likewise the workers view this programme as embodying our intentions we can afford to keep quiet about it.

If you are satisfied with the result achieved in the question of personal composition we must have greatly reduced our demands. Two of ours and three Lassalleans! So here too ours are not allies enjoying equal rights but the vanquished, who are outvoted from the very start. The activities of the Committee, [7] as far as we know them, are also not edifying: 1) Decision not to include in the list of Party literature two works on Lassalleanism by Bracke and B Becker; [8] if this decision has been revoked it is not due either to the Committee or to Liebknecht; 2) Instructions to Vahlteich [9] forbidding him to accept the post of correspondent for the Frankfurter Zeitung offered him by Sonnemann. [10] Sonnemann himself had told this to Marx, who met him when he passed through Frankfurt. What surprises me even more than the arrogance of the Committee and the readiness with which Vahlteich submitted instead of letting them go whistle is the enormous stupidity of this decision. The Committee should rather have seen to it that a paper like the Frankfurter Zeitung is served everywhere only by our people...

You are quite right when you say that the whole thing is an educational experiment which even under those circumstances promises to be very successful. The unification as such will be a great success if it lasts two years. But it undoubtedly was to be had much more cheaply.

 

 

______

Notes

1.

Engels alludes to the elections that were to take place in January 1877. The German Socialist Workers Party received approximately half a million votes in these elections and twelve of its candidates were elected to the Reichstag – Progress Publishers.

 

2.

The programme of the Socialist Workers Party of Germany adopted at the Gotha Unity Congress in May 1875 – Progress Publishers.

3.

Wilhelm Bracke (1842-1880) – German Social-Democrat, a founder (1869) and leader of Social-Democratic Workers Party (Eisenachers), close associate of Marx and Engels, fought against Lassalleanism, opposed (though not consistently enough) opportunistic elements in Social-Democratic Party – Progress Publishers.

 

4.

In 321BC when a Roman army was defeated by the Samnites in the Caudine Forks it was compelled to pass under the yoke, which was considered one of the greatest humiliations that could be imposed – Progress Publishers.

 

5.

The National-Liberal Party – the party of the German, and especially the Prussian, bourgeoisie, came into being in the autumn of 1866 following the split of the Progressive Party. The principal aim of the National-Liberals was the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership. The German People’s Party formed in 1865 consisted of petty-bourgeois democrats and to some extent of bourgeois democrats, mainly from the South German states. The People’s Party, as distinct from the National-Liberals, was opposed to the hegemony of Prussia in Germany and advocated the creation of a ‘Greater Germany’ which was to include both Prussia and Austria. It favoured the establishment of a federal German state and was against the creation of a united, centralised democratic republic – Progress Publishers.

 

6.

Engels refers to the Critique of the Gotha Programme – Progress Publishers.

 

7.

The reference is to the Executive of the Socialist Workers Party of Germany – Progress Publishers.

 

8.

Bracke had informed Engels in a letter written between 28 June and 7 July 1875, that the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party had decided to remove two anti-Lassallean works – W Bracke, Der Lassalle’sche Vorschlag (Lassalle’s Proposal,Braunschweig, 1873), and B Becker, Geschichte der Arbeiter-Agitation Ferdinand Lassalles (History of Ferdinand Lassalle’s Agitation Among the Workers,Braunschweig, 1874), which had both been printed in Bracke’s publishing house – from its list of party literature. After Bracke’s vigorous protests the decision was reversed. Bernhard Becker (1826-1882) – German publicist, Chairman of General Association of German Workers (1864-65) after Lassalle’s death, later joined the Eisenachers – Progress Publishers.

 

9.

Karl Julius Vahlteich (1839-1915) – German right-wing Social-Democrat, shoemaker, one of founders and first Secretary of General Association of German Workers, later member of Eisenachers’ party, moved to USA where he took an active part in working-class movement – Progress Publishers.

 

10.

Leopold Sonnemann (1831-1909) – German democrat, founder and editor of Frankfurter Zeitung – Progress Publishers.


 

 

Engels to Bebel

Marx and Engels on the Trade Unions, Edited by Kenneth Lapides;
Additional text from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers (1975);

October 15, 1875

 

Marx seriously complained about the incomprehensible note in No. 104 to the passage in his Anti-Proudhon (“the Socialists as well as the economists condemned combinations”), saying that those were “Socialists of the Proudhon breed.” In the first place there was not a single Socialist of the Proudhon breed in existence at that time except Proudhon himself. In the second place Marx’s assertion is true of all Socialists who made their appearance up to that time (with the exception of us two, who were unknown in France) in so far as they had occasion to deal with combinations — with Robert Owen leading the procession. The same applies to the Owenists and among the French to Cabet. As there was no right of combination in France this question was little touched upon there. But since before Marx there existed only feudal, bourgeois, petty-bourgeois and utopian socialism, and socialism blended from various of these elements. It was clear that all these Socialists, each of whom claimed to possess a definite panacea and stood outside the real working-class movement, portrayed every form of the real movement, hence also combinations and strikes, as a false path which diverted the masses from the only way that leads to salvation, the way of the true faith. You see that the note was not only wrong but wholly absurd. ...

But it seems to be impossible for our people, at least a number of them, to confine themselves in their articles to what they have really grasped. In proof take the endless columns theoretically-socialist in content which have been penned by Kz, Symmachos [1] and all the rest of that crowd, whose economic blunders, erroneous views and ignorance of socialist literature furnish the best means of thoroughly destroying the theoretical superiority of the German movement up to now. Marx was on the point of issuing an explanation on account of this note.

But enough of complaints. I hope the aspirations and expectations cherished in connection with the imprudently precipitated unification will materialise, that it will be possible to bring the mass of the Lassalleans from their cult of Lassalle to a sensible conception of their real class position, and that the split, which will come as surely as 2 × 2 = 4, will take place under circumstances favourable to us. That I should also believe all this, would be asking too much.

Apart from Germany and Austria the country on which we should focus our attention remains Russia. The government there, just as in this country, is the chief ally of the movement. But a much better one than our Bismarck, Stieber and Tessendorf. [2] The Russian court party, which is now fairly firmly in the saddle, tries to take back all the concessions made during the years of the ‘new era’ that was ushered in in 1861, and with genuinely Russian methods at that. So now again only ‘sons of the upper classes’ are to be allowed to study, and in order to carry out this policy all others are made to fail in the graduation examinations. In 1873 alone this was the fate that awaited 24,000 young people whose entire careers were blocked, as they were expressly forbidden to become even elementary schoolteachers. And yet people are surprised at the spread of ‘nihilism’ in Russia. If Walster, who knows Russian, were to go through some of the pamphlets written by the liberal opposition and published by B Behr in Berlin [3] or if someone could be found with an adequate knowledge of Polish to read the Lemberg newspapers (for example, Dziennik Polski or the Gazeta Narodowa)and make excerpts of these things, the Volksstaat could become the best paper in Europe on Russian affairs. It almost looks as if the next dance is going to start in Russia. And if this happens while the inevitable war between the German-Prussian empire and Russia is in progress – which is very likely – repercussions in Germany are also inevitable.

Marx sends his best regards to you.

Sincerely yours
F Engels

Best regards to Liebknecht.

 

____

Notes

1.

A pen-name used by Karl Kautsky – Progress Publishers.

 

2.

Wilhelm Stieber (1818-1882) – Prussian police officer, Chief of Prussian Police (1850-60), an organiser of Cologne Communist Trial and principle witness at this trial (1852), head of Prussian intelligence service (1870-71); Hermann Ernst Christian Tessendorf (1831-1895) – Prussian Prosecutor, in 1873 became member of Berlin City Court, from 1885 President of Criminal Chamber of Supreme Court in Berlin, organised persecution of Social-Democrats – Progress Publishers.

 

3.

August Otto-Walster – German Social-Democrat, journalist; Behr – Berlin publisher – Progress Publishers.

 

 

 

 

 

Friedrich Engels to August Bebel in Leipzig, 14 November 1879

Source: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975).

 

... And this brings me to the Report. [1] Although the beginning is very good and the treatment of the protective tariff debate – in these circumstances – is skilful the concessions made to the German philistines in the third part are unwelcome. Why that wholly superfluous passage about the ‘civil war’, why that kowtowing to ‘public opinion’ which in Germany will always be that of the beer-house philistine? Why here the total obliteration of the class character of the movement? Why give the Anarchists this ground for rejoicing? And all these concessions moreover are wholly useless. The German philistine is cowardice incarnate; he respects only those who inspire him with fear. But anyone who wants to get into his good graces he considers one of his own kind and respects him no more than his own kind, namely not at all. And now that the beer-house philistine’s ‘storm’ of indignation, called public opinion, has, as is generally admitted, subsided again and since heavy taxation has in any case knocked the spirit out of these people, why these honeyed speeches? If you only knew how they sound abroad! It is quite a good thing that Party organs must be edited by people who are in the thick of the Party and the struggle. But if you had been only six months abroad you would think quite differently of this entirely unnecessary self-debasement of the Party deputies before the philistines. The storm that broke over the heads of the French Socialists after the Commune was after all something quite different from the outcry raised in Germany on account of the Nobiling [2] affair. And how much more proud and dignified was the bearing of the French! Where do you find among them such weakness, such paying of compliments to one’s opponents? They kept silent when they could not speak freely; they let the philistines scream as much as they liked knowing that their time would surely come again; and now it has come...

As for the rest I only want to remark about Auer’s [3] insinuations that we here underestimate neither the difficulties with which the Party has to contend in Germany nor the significance of the successes achieved nevertheless and the quite exemplary conduct up to now of the Party masses. It naturally goes without saying that every victory gained in Germany gladdens our hearts as much as one gained elsewhere, and even more so because from the very beginning the development of the German Party was associated with our theoretical statements. But for that very reason we must be particularly interested to see that the practical conduct of the German Party and especially the public utterances of the Party leadership should be in harmony with the general theory. Our criticism is certainly not pleasant for some people. But it surely must be of greater value to the Party and its leadership than all uncritical compliments to have abroad a few people who, unbiased by confusing local conditions and details of the struggle, measure happenings and utterances from time to time by the theoretical propositions valid for all modern proletarian movements, and who convey to it the impression its actions create outside Germany.

Yours in friendship
F Engels

 

_____

Notes

1.

Engels refers to the ‘Rechenschaftsbericht der sozialdemokratischen Mitglieder des deutschen Reichstages’ (’the Report of the Social-Democratic Members of the German Reichstag’), published in Der Sozialdemokrat of 12, 19 and 26 October 1879 – Progress Publishers.

 

2.

The allusion is to the attempts on the life of William I by Max Hödel on 11 May, and the anarchist Nobiling on 2 June 1878, which provided Bismarck with a convenient opportunity for introducing the Anti-Socialist Law – Progress Publishers.

 

3.

Ignaz Auer (1846-1907) – German Social-Democrat, a leader of the Social-Democratic Party, was repeatedly elected deputy to Reichstag, later a reformist – Progress Publishers.

 

 

 

 

Engels to August Bebel
In Leipzig

MECW Volume 45, p. 423;
First published: in A. Bebel, Aus meinem Leben Teil III, Stuttgart, 1914.

London, 24 November 1879

 

Dear Bebel,

I had good reasons for assuming that Auer was alluding to myself. The date proves nothing. He expressly excludes Most. So go and ask him yourself whom he meant; then we shall see what he says. I'm positive that the misunderstanding was not on my side.

Höchberg did, to be sure, make the statement in question.

I know that you were mostly away while the negotiations with Hirsch were going on and it never occurred to me to hold you personally responsible for what happened.

As regards the question of tariffs, your letter wholly corroborates what I have said. If feelings were divided, as was indeed the case, and if it was thought desirable to take those divided feelings into consideration, what was called for was, of course, abstention, no less. Otherwise it would have meant taking one side only into consideration. But why the protectionist section was more deserving of consideration than the free trade one is difficult to see. You say you cannot adopt a purely negative attitude in Parliament. But since everyone ultimately voted against the Bill, their attitude was, after all, purely negative. All I'm saying is, they ought to have known from the start how they intended to conduct themselves; they ought to have acted in conformity with the final vote.

Questions which enable Social-Democratic deputies to abandon a purely negative attitude are very narrowly circumscribed. All are questions which immediately involve the relation of workers to capitalists: factory legislation, the normal working-day, employer’s liability, payment in goods, etc. Perhaps also improvements in the purely bourgeois sense such as constitute a positive step forward: standardisation of coins and weights, freedom of movement, extension of personal freedom, etc. You're unlikely to be troubled with these for the time being. In the case of all other economic questions, such as protective tariffs, nationalisation of the railways, assurance companies, etc., Social-Democratic deputies must always uphold the vital principle of consenting to nothing that increases the power of the government vis-à-vis the people. And this is made all the easier in that feelings within the party itself will, of course, invariably be divided in such cases and hence abstention, a negative attitude, is automatically called for.

What you say about Kayser makes the matter even worse. If he speaks in favour of protective tariffs in general, why does he vote against them? If he intends voting against them why does he speak in favour of them? If, however, he has studied the subject with great diligence, how can he vote for tariffs on iron? Had his studies been worth a penny, he couldn’t fail to have discovered that there are two ironworks in Germany, the Dortmunder Union and the Königs- und Laurahütte, either of which is capable of meeting the entire domestic demand; besides these there are many smaller ones; hence that a protective tariff is utter nonsense in this case; that the only remedy in this case is the capture of the foreign market, hence unadulterated free trade or bankruptcy; also that the iron-masters themselves can only want a protective tariff if they have formed a ring, a conspiracy which imposes monopoly prices on the domestic market, so that they are better able to sell off their surplus products abroad at cut prices, which they are in fact already doing at this moment. It was in the interests of this ring, this conspiracy of monopolists that Kayser was speaking and, insofar as he voted in favour of tariffs on iron, was also voting, and Hansemann of the Dortmunder Union and Bleichröder of the Königs- und Laurahütte will be laughing in their sleeves at the stupid Social-Democrat who has, for good measure, studied the subject with diligence!

You must at all costs get hold of Rudolph Meyer’s Politische Gründer in Deutschland. Without a knowledge of the material assembled here on the swindles, the crash and the political corruption of recent years, it is impossible to form an opinion on present conditions in Germany. How is it that this store of riches was not exploited at the time for the benefit of our press? The book is banned, of course.

The passages in the report I particularly have in mind are 1. those in which so much emphasis is laid on winning over public opinion — to have this factor against you was to be hamstrung; it was a matter of life and death that ‘this hatred be turned into sympathy’, etc — sympathy! from people who just before, during the Terror had shown themselves to be dirty blackguards. There was no need to go to such lengths, especially as the Terror had long since ended; — 2. those to the effect that the party, which condemns war in any shape or form (hence also the one which it is forced to wage, which it wages notwithstanding) and whose goal is the universal fraternisation of all men (in terms of a slogan the goal of every party, in terms of immediate reality that of none, for not even we wish to fraternise with the bourgeois so long as they wish to remain bourgeois), cannot envisage civil war (hence not even in a case where civil war is the only means to the end). This proposition may also be construed as follows: that a party which condemns bloodshed in any shape or form cannot envisage either blood-letting or the amputation of gangrenous limbs, or scientific vivisection. Why all these empty phrases? I'm not asking that all your language should be ‘vigorous’, I am not reproaching the Report for saying too little — on the contrary, there is much that would have been better left unsaid. The next part is much better and so Hans Most has fortunately overlooked the few passages out of which he could have made capital.

But it was a blunder to insert a solemn announcement in the Sozialdemokrat to the effect that Liebknecht had taken the Saxon oath of allegiance. Hans won’t let that one pass by, and his anarchist friends will be sure to embroider on it. Marx and I don’t consider the matter itself to be as dangerous as, e.g., Hirsch took it to be in the heat of the moment. You people must know whether ‘Paris vaut bien une messe’, as Henri IV said when he became a Catholic, thus sparing France a thirty years’ war, and whether the advantages are of a kind to justify such inconsistency and the taking of an oath which, moreover, is the only one which cannot entail a prosecution for perjury. But once it had been taken, nothing ought to have been said about it until others had kicked up a fuss; that would have been time enough to go on to the defensive. But for the Sozialdemokrat, Hans wouldn’t have heard a word about it.

I was delighted at the lambasting you gave the notorious drunkard and wastrel. We shall see that this is spread about in Paris, though we are stumped for the French words that would convey the foregoing pithy expressions.

We are, by the way, fully aware that it is all very well, as they say, for us here to talk, and that your position is much more difficult than ours.

That the petty bourgeois and peasants should be joining us is, I grant you, a sign of the movement’s rapid progress, but it also constitutes a danger to the movement, once one forgets not only that these people have got to come, but also that they are coming simply because they have got to. Their joining us proves that the proletariat really has become the leading class. But since the ideas and ambitions they bring with them are those of the petty bourgeois and the peasant, it must not be forgotten that the proletariat would forfeit its leading historical role were it to make concessions to those ideas and ambitions.

Most cordially yours,
F. Engels

Herewith another loose postscript.

 

 

 

Friedrich Engels to August Bebel in Leipzig, 16 December 1879

Source: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975).

 

... There is no room for us in a paper in which it is possible virtually to bewail the Revolution of 1848 that for the first time opened wide the portals to Social-Democracy. It plainly appears from this article [1] and Höchberg’s [2] letter that the stellar trio claims the right to set forth in the Sozialdemokrat, alongside the proletarian views, its own petty-bourgeois socialist views first clearly enunciated in the Jahrbuch. And I fail to see how you in Leipzig can prevent this without a formal breach, once things have come to such a pass. You continue to regard these people as Party comrades. We cannot do so. The article in the Jahrbuch draws a sharp and absolutely distinct line between us. We cannot even negotiate with these people so long as they assert that they belong to the same party as we. The points in question are points that can no longer be discussed in any proletarian party. To make them a subject of discussion within the party would be to put in question the whole of proletarian socialism.

As a matter of fact it is better that under these circumstances we do not cooperate. We should have had to protest constantly and to announce publicly our withdrawal after a few weeks, which after all would not have helped matters.

We greatly regret that just at this time of suppression we are unable to support you unconditionally. As long as the Party in Germany remained true to its proletarian character we set aside all other considerations. But now, when the petty-bourgeois elements that have been admitted openly show their true colours, the situation has changed. Once they are permitted to smuggle their petty-bourgeois ideas piecemeal into the organ of the German Party, this fact simply closes that organ to us...

As for the rest, world history is taking its course, regardless of these wise and moderate philistines. In Russia matters must come to a head in a few months from now. Either absolutism is overthrown and then, after the downfall of the great reserve of reaction, a different atmosphere will at once pervade Europe. Or a European war will break out which will also bury the present German Party beneath the inevitable struggle of each people for its national existence. Such a war would be the greatest misfortune for us; it might set the movement back twenty years. But the new party that would ultimately have to emerge anyhow would in all European countries be free from a mass of objectionable and petty matters that now everywhere hamper the movement.

Yours in friendship
F Engels

 

_____

Notes

1.

This refers to an article under the title ‘Ruckblicke auf die sozialistische Bewegung in Deutschland’ (’the Socialist Movement in Germany in Retrospect’) written by Karl Höchberg, Eduard Bernstein and Karl Schramm and published in the Jahrbuch für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik. See Marx and Engels, Circular Letter to August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Wilhelm Bracke and others, September 1879 – Progress Publishers.

 

2.

Karl Höchberg (1853-1885) – German social reformist, son of a wealthy merchant, in 1876 joined Social-Democratic Party, founded and financed a number of reformist newspapers and journals – Progress Publishers.

 

 

 

Engels to August Bebel
In Leipzig

1882

Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;
Additional text from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975;

London, 28 October, 1882

 

I read [Vollmar's] second article rather hurriedly, with two or three people talking the whole time. Otherwise the way he represents the French Revolution to himself would have led me to detect the French influence and with it my Vollmar too, no doubt. You have perceived this side quite correctly. He at last is the dreamed-of realisation of the phrase about the "one reactionary mass." All the official parties united in one lump here, all the Socialists in one column there--great decisive battle. Victory all along the line at one blow. In real life things do not happen so simply. In real life, as you also remark, the revolution begins the other way round by the great majority of the people and also of the official parties massing themselves together against the government, which is thereby isolated, and overthrowing it; and it is only after those of the official parties whose existence is still possible have mutually and successively accomplished one another's destruction that Vollmar's great division takes place and with it the prospect of our rule. If, like Vollmar, we wanted to start straight off with the final act of the revolution we should be in a miserably bad way.

In France the long expected split has taken place. The original conjunction of Guesde and Lafargue with Malon and Brousse was no doubt unavoidable when the party was founded, but Marx and I never had any illusions that it could last. The issue is purely one of principle: is the struggle to be conducted as a class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, or is it to be permitted that in good opportunist (or as it is called in the Socialist translation: possibilist) style the class character of the movement, together with the programme, are everywhere to be dropped where there is a chance of winning more votes, more adherents, by this means. Malon and Brousse, by declaring themselves in favour of the latter alternative, have sacrificed the proletarian class character of the movement and made separation inevitable. All the better. The development of the proletariat proceeds everywhere amidst internal struggles and France, which is now forming a workers' party for the first time, is no exception. We in Germany have got beyond the first phase of the internal struggle, other phases still lie before us. Unity is quite a good thing so long as it is possible, but there are things which stand higher than unity. And when, like Marx and myself, one has fought harder all one's life long against the alleged Socialists than against anyone else (for we only regarded the bourgeoisie as a class and hardly ever involved ourselves in conflicts with individual bourgeois), one cannot greatly grieve that the inevitable struggle has broken out.

...

I hope this will reach you before they put you behind the bars. Hearty greetings from Marx and Tussy. Marx is rapidly recovering and if his pleurisy does not come back he will be stronger next autumn than he has been for years. If you see Liebknecht in the Käfigturm [1] (as they say in Berne), give him the best regards from all of us.

 

_____

Notes

1.

Literally ‘cage tower’; here ‘prison’.

 

Engels to August Bebel
In Borsdorf near Leipzig

1883

Published: Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;

Eastbourne, 30 August, 1883

 

The Manifesto of the Democratic Federation* in London has been issued by about twenty to thirty little societies which under different names (always the same people) have for the last twenty years at least been repeatedly trying, and always with the same lack of success, to make themselves important. All that is important is that now at last they are obliged openly to proclaim our theory, which during the period of the International seemed to them to be dictated from outside, as their own, and that a crowd of young bourgeois intelligentsia are emerging who, to the disgrace of the English workers it must be said, understand things better and take them up more passionately than the workers. For even in the Democratic Federation the workers for the most part only accept the new programme unwillingly and as a matter of form. The chief of the Democratic Federation, Hyndman, is an arch-conservative and an extremely chauvinistic but not stupid careerist, who behaved pretty shabbily to Marx (to whom he was introduced by Rudolf Meyer) and for this reason was dropped by us personally.

Do not on any account whatever let yourself be deluded into thinking there is a real proletarian movement going on here. I know Liebknecht tries to delude himself and all the world about this, but it is not the case. The elements at present active may become important since they have accepted our theoretical programme and so acquired a basis, but only if a spontaneous movement breaks out here among the workers and they succeed in getting control of it. Till then they will remain individual minds, with a hotch-potch of confused sects, remnants of the great movement of the 'forties, standing behind them and nothing more. And--apart from the unexpected--a really general workers' movement will only come into existence here when the workers are made to feel the fact that England's world monopoly is broken.

Participation in the domination of the world market was and is the basis of the political nullity of the English workers. The tail of the bourgeoisie in the economic exploitation of this monopoly but nevertheless sharing in its advantages, politically they are naturally the tail of the "great Liberal Party," which for its part pays them small attentions, recognises trade unions and strikes as legitimate factors, has relinquished the fight for an unlimited working day and has given the mass of better placed workers the vote. But once America and the united competition of the other industrial countries have made a decent breach in this monopoly (and in iron this is coming rapidly, in cotton unfortunately not as yet) you will see something here.

 

*The Manifesto of the Democratic Federation, "Socialism made Plain" (1883). The Democratic Federation (founded in 1881) took the name Social-Democratic Federation in 1881.

 

 

 

Engels to August Bebel
In Borsdorf near Leipzig

1884

Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;
Additional text from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975;

London, 18 January, 1884

 

Here too industry has taken on a different character. The ten-year cycle seems to have been broken down now that, since 1870, American and German competition have been putting an end to English monopoly in the world market. In the main branches of industry a depressed state of business has prevailed since 1868, while production has been slowly increasing, and now we seem both here and in America to be standing on the verge of a new crisis which in England has not been preceded by a period of prosperity. That is the secret of the sudden — though it has been slowly preparing for three years — but the present sudden emergence of a socialist movement here. So far the organised workers — trade unions — remain quite remote from it, the movement is proceeding among "educated" elements sprung from the bourgeoisie, who here and there seek contact with the masses and in places find it. These people are of very varying moral and intellectual value and it will take some time before they sort themselves out and the thing becomes clarified. But that it will all go entirely to sleep again is hardly likely.

Many thanks for your book, Die Frau. [1] I have read it with great interest, it contains much valuable material. Especially lucid and fine is what you say about the development of industry in Germany. I have also done some research on this subject recently, and if I had time I would write something about it for the Sozialdemokrat. [2] How strange that the philistines don’t understand that ‘the vagabond trouble’ they so lament is the necessary consequence of the rise of large-scale industry under the conditions obtaining in German agriculture and handicraft, and that the development of large-scale industry in Germany — because she arrives late everywhere — is bound to take place under the continuous pressure of adverse market conditions. For the Germans are able to compete only as a result of low wages, reduced to starvation level, and an ever increasing exploitation of the cottage industry which serves as a background to their factory production. The transformation of the handicrafts into cottage industry and the gradual transformation of the cottage industry, in so far as this is profitable, into factory and machine industry — that is the course taken in Germany. The only really big industry we have up to now is iron. The hand-loom still predominates in the textile industry, thanks to the starvation wages and the fact that the weavers have potato plots.

...

Henry George with his nationalisation of the land [3] is likely to play a meteoric role, because this point here is of importance traditionally, and also actually on account of the vast extent of big landed property. But in the long run attention will not be concentrated on this point alone in the foremost industrial country in the world. Henry George, moreover, is a genuine bourgeois and his plan of defraying all governmental expenditures out of rent of land is only a repetition of the plan of the Ricardo school, that is purely bourgeois.

______

Notes

Notes provided by the Moscow Editor.

1.

Engels is referring to the second illegal edition of Bebel’s book Die Frau und der Sozialismus (Woman and Socialism) which was published by Schabelitz of Zurich and printed in Dietz’s printing works at Stuttgart. The book came out in 1883 under the title Die Frau in der Vergangenheit, Gegenwart und Zukunft (Woman in the Past, Present and Future) .

 

2.

Der Sozialdemokrat — the central organ of the German Socialist Workers Party, founded in Zurich in September 1879. After the repeal of the Anti-Socialist Law in 1890 the paper ceased to appear and the Vorwärts again became the central organ of the party.

 

3.

The American economist Henry George came to England in 1882 and 1884 to conduct a propaganda campaign for his land nationalisation. For an evaluation of his theory see Marx’s letter to Sorge of 20 June 1881. Henry George (1839-1897) — American publicist, bourgeois economist, advocated bourgeois nationalisation of land as means to solve all social contradictions in capitalist society.

 

 

 

Friedrich Engels to August Bebel
In Leipzig

1884

Source: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975).

6 June 1884

 

... We shall never be able to pry the masses loose from the liberal parties so long as the latter are not given an opportunity of discrediting themselves in practice, of getting at the helm of state and showing that they cannot do a thing. We are still, as we were in 1848, the opposition of the future and it is therefore necessary that the most extreme of the present parties shall be at the helm before we can become a present opposition in relation to it. Political stagnation, that is, aimless and purposeless struggle among the official parties, as now, cannot be of service to us in the long run. But a progressive struggle of these parties with a gradual shifting of the centre of gravity to the left can be so. That is what is now happening in France where the political struggle is being waged as always in classical form. The governments succeeding each other are moving more and more to the left and a Clemenceau [1] Cabinet is already in sight. It will not be the most extreme bourgeois one. At each shift leftward concessions come the way of the workers (cf the last strike in Denain where for the first time the military did not intervene) and, what is more important, the field is being swept clean with increasing energy for the decisive battle and the position of the parties is becoming clearer and more distinct. I consider this slow but incessant development of the French Republic to its necessary outcome – antithesis between radical, sham-socialist bourgeois and really revolutionary workers – one of the most important events and hope it will not be interrupted; and I am glad that our people are not yet strong enough in Paris (but all the stronger in the provinces) to be misled into making putsches with the aid of revolutionary phrases.

In confused Germany developments are naturally not following the classically pure lines exhibited in France. We are much too backward for that and experience everything only after it has become obsolete elsewhere. But although our official parties are so rotten political life of any sort is much more favourable to us than the present political lifelessness with nothing afoot except intrigues in the field of foreign politics...

 

_____

Notes

1.

Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929) – French politician and publicist, leader of Radical Party from 1880s, Chairman of Council of Ministers 1906-09 and 1917-20, pursued imperialist policy – Progress Publishers.

 

 

 

Engels to August Bebel
In Plauen near Dresden

1884

Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;

London, 18 November, 1884

 

The whole of the Liberal philistines have gained such a respect for us that they are screaming with one accord: Yes, if the Social-Democrats will put themselves on a legal basis and abjure revolution then we are in favour of the immediate repeal of the Socialist Law, There is no doubt, therefore, that this suggestion will at once be made to you in the Reichstag. The answer you give to it is important--not so much for Germany, where our gallant lads have given it in the elections, as for abroad. A tame answer would at once destroy the colossal impression produced by the elections.

In my opinion the case is like this :

Throughout the whole of Europe the existing political situation is the product of revolutions. The legal basis, historic right, legitimacy, have been everywhere riddled through and through a thousand times or entirely overthrown. But it is in the nature of all parties or classes which have come to power through revolution, to demand that the new basis of right created by the revolution should also be unconditionally recognised and regarded as holy. The right to revolution did exist--otherwise the present rulers would not be rightful--but from now onwards it is to exist no more.

In Germany the existing situation rests on the revolution which began in 1848 and ended in 1866. 1866 was a complete revolution. Just as Prussia only became anything by treachery and war against the German Empire, in alliance with foreign powers (1740, 1756, 1785), so it only achieved the German-Prussian Empire by the forcible overthrow of the German Confederation and by civil war. Its assertion that the others broke the Confederation makes no difference. The others say the opposite. There has never been a revolution yet which lacked a legal pretext--as in France in 1830 when both the king and the bourgeoisie asserted they were in the right. Enough, Prussia provoked the civil war and with it the revolution. After its victory it overthrew three thrones "by God's grace" and annexed their territories, together with those of the former free city of Frankfort. If that was not revolutionary I do not know the meaning of the word. And as this was not enough it confiscated the private property of the princes who had been driven out. That this was unlawful, revolutionary therefore, it admitted by getting the action endorsed later by an assembly--the Reichstag--which had as little right to dispose of these funds as the government.

The German-Prussian Empire, as the completion of the North German Confederation which 1866 forcibly created, is a thoroughly revolutionary creation. I make no complaint about that. What I reproach the people who made it with is that they were only poor-spirited revolutionaries who did not go much further and at once annex the whole of Germany to Prussia. But those who operate with blood and iron, swallow up whole states, overthrow thrones and confiscate private property, should not condemn other people as revolutionaries. If the Party only retains the right to be no more and no less revolutionary than the Imperial Government has been, it has got all it needs.

Recently it was officially stated that the Imperial Constitution was not a contract between the princes and the people but only one between the princes and free cities, which could at any time replace the constitution by another. The government organs which laid this down demanded, therefore, that the governments should have the right to overthrow the Imperial Constitution. No Exceptional Law was enacted against them, they were not persecuted. Very well, in the most extreme case we do not demand more for ourselves than is here demanded for the governments.

The Duke of Cumberland is the legitimate and unquestioned heir to the throne of Brunswick. The right claimed by Cumberland in Brunswick is no other than that by which the King of Prussia is seated in Berlin. Whatever else may be required of Cumberland can only be claimed after he has taken possession of his lawful and legitimate throne.

But the revolutionary German Imperial Government prevents him from doing so by force. A fresh revolutionary action. What is the position of the parties?

In November 1848 the Conservative Party broke through the new legal basis created in March 1848 without a tremor. In any case it only recognises the constitutional position as a provisional one and would hail any feudal-absolutist coup d'etat with delight.

The Liberal Parties of all shades co-operated in the revolution of 1848-1866, nor would they deny themselves the right to-day to counter any forcible overthrow of the constitution by force.

The Centre recognises the church as the highest power, above the state, a power which might in a given case, therefore, make revolution a duty.

And these are the parties which demand from us that we, we alone of them all, should declare that in no circumstances will we resort to force and that we will submit to every oppression, to every act of violence, not only as soon as it is merely formally legal--legal according to the judgment of our adversaries--but also when it is directly illegal.

Indeed no party has renounced the right to armed resistance, in certain circumstances, without lying. None has ever been able to relinquish this ultimate right.

But once it comes to the question of discussing the circumstances for which a party reserves to itself this right, then the game is won. Then one can talk nineteen to the dozen. And especially a party which has been declared to have no rights, a party therefore which has had revolution directly indicated to it from above. Such a declaration of outlawry can be daily repeated in the fashion it has once occurred. To require an unconditional declaration of this kind from such a party is sheer absurdity.

For the rest, the gentlemen can keep calm. With military conditions as they are at present we shall not start our attack so long as there is still an armed force against us. We can wait until the armed force itself ceases to be a force against us. Any earlier revolution, even if victorious, would not bring us to power, but the most radical of the bourgeoisie, and of the petty bourgeoisie.

Meanwhile the elections have shown that we have nothing to expect from yielding, i.e., from concessions to our adversaries. We have only won respect and become a power by defiant resistance. Only power is respected, and only so long as we are a power shall we be respected by the philistine. Anyone who makes him concessions can no longer be a power and is despised by him. The iron hand can make itself felt in a velvet glove but it must make itself felt. The German proletariat has become a mighty party; may its representatives be worthy of it.

 

 

 

 

Engels to August Bebel
In Berlin

1884

Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;

London, 11-12 December, 1884

 

About our proletarian masses I have never been deceived. This secure progress of their movement, confident of victory and for that very reason cheerful and humorous, is a model which cannot be surpassed. No European proletariat would have stood the test of the Socialist Law so brilliantly and have responded after six years of suppression with such a proof of increased strength and consolidated organisation; no nation would have achieved this organisation in the way it has been achieved without any conspiratorial humbug. And since I have seen the election manifestoes of Darmstadt and Hanover my fear that concessions might have become necessary in the new places (constituencies) has also vanished. If it was possible to speak in such a truly revolutionary and proletarian way in these two towns, then everything is won.

Our great advantage is that with us the industrial revolution is only just in full swing, while in France and England, so far as the main point is concerned, it is closed. There the division into town and country, industrial district and agricultural district is so far concluded that it only changes slowly. The great mass of the people grow up in the conditions in which they have later to live, are accustomed to them; even the fluctuations and crises have become something they take practically for granted. Added to this is the remembrance of the unsuccessful attempts of former movements. With us, on the other hand, everything is in full flow. Remnants of the old peasant industrial production for the satisfaction of personal needs are being supplanted by capitalistic domestic industry, while in other places capitalistic domestic industry is already succumbing in its turn to machinery. And the very nature of our industry, limping behind at the very end, makes the social upheaval all the more fundamental. As the great mass production articles, both mass commodities and articles of luxury, have already been appropriated by the French and English, all that remains for our export industry is chiefly small stuff, which, however, also runs into masses all the same, and is at first produced by domestic industry and only later, when the production is on a mass scale, by machines. Domestic industry (capitalistic) is introduced by this means into much wider regions and clears its way all the more thoroughly. If I except the East Elbe district of Prussia, that is to say East Prussia, Pomerania, Posen and the greater part of Brandenburg, and further Old Bavaria, there are few districts where the peasant has not been swept more and more into domestic industry. The region industrially revolutionised, therefore, becomes larger with us than anywhere else.

Furthermore. Since for the most part the worker in domestic industry carries on his little bit of agriculture, it becomes possible to depress wages in a fashion unequalled elsewhere. What formerly constituted the happiness of the small man, the combination of agriculture and industry, now becomes the most powerful means of capitalist exploitation. The potato patch, the cow, the little bit of agriculture make it possible for the labour power to be sold below its price; they oblige this to be so by tying the worker to his piece of land, which yet only partially supports him. Hence it becomes possible to put our industry on an export basis owing to the fact that the buyer is generally presented with the whole of the surplus value, while the capitalist's profit consists in a deduction from the normal wage. This is more or less the case with all rural domestic industry, but nowhere so much as with us.

Added to this is the fact that our industrial revolution, which was set in motion by the revolution of 1848 with its bourgeois progress (feeble though this was), was enormously speeded up (1) by getting rid of internal hindrances in 1866 to 1870, and (2) by the French milliards, which were ultimately to be invested capitalistically. So we achieved an industrial revolution which is more deep and thorough and spatially more extended and comprehensive than that of the other countries, and this with a perfectly fresh and intact proletariat, undemoralised by defeats and finally--thanks to Marx--with an insight into the causes of economic and political development and into the conditions of the impending revolution such as none of our predecessors possessed. But for that very reason it is our duty to be victorious.

As to pure democracy and its role in the future I do not share your opinion. Obviously it plays a far more subordinate part in Germany than in countries with an older industrial development. But that does not prevent the possibility, when the moment of revolution comes, of its acquiring a temporary importance as the most radical bourgeois party (it has already played itself off as such in Frankfort) and as the final sheet-anchor of the whole bourgeois and even feudal regime. At such a moment the whole reactionary mass falls in behind it and strengthens it; everything which used to be reactionary behaves as democratic. Thus between March and September 1848 the whole feudal-bureaucratic mass strengthened the liberals in order to hold down the revolutionary masses, and, once this was accomplished, in order, naturally, to kick out the liberals as well. Thus from May 1848 until Bonaparte's election in France in December, the purely republican party of the National, the weakest of all the parties, was in power, simply owing to the whole collective reaction organised behind it. This has happened in every revolution: the tamest party still remaining in any way capable of government comes to power with the others just because it is only in this party that the defeated see their last possibility of salvation. Now it cannot be expected that at the moment of crisis we shall already have the majority of the electorate and therefore of the nation behind us. The whole bourgeois class and the remnants of the feudal landowning class, a large section of the petty bourgeoisie and also of the rural population will then mass themselves around the most radical bourgeois party, which will then make the most extreme revolutionary gestures, and I consider it very possible that it will be represented in the provisional government and even temporarily form its majority. How, as a minority, one should not act in that case, was demonstrated by the social-democratic minority in the Paris revolution of February 1848. However, this is still an academic question at the moment.

Now of course the thing may take a different turn in Germany, and that for military reasons. As things are at present, an impulse from outside can scarcely come from anywhere but Russia. If it does not do so, if the impulse arises from Germany, then the revolution can only start from the army. From the military point of view an unarmed nation against an army of to-day is a purely vanishing quantity. In this case--if our twenty to twenty-five-year-old reserves which have no vote but are trained, came into action--pure democracy might be leapt over. But this question is still equally academic at present, although I, as a representative, so to speak, of the great general staff of the Party, am bound to take it into consideration. In any case our sole adversary on the day of the crisis and on the day after the crisis will be the whole collective reaction which will group itself around pure democracy, and this, I think, should not be lost sight of.

If you are bringing forward motions in the Reichstag, there is one which should not be forgotten. The state lands are mostly let out to big farmers; the smallest portion of them is sold to peasants, whose holdings are, however, so small that the new peasants have to resort to working as day labourers on the big farms. The demand should be made that the great demesnes which are not yet broken up should be let out to co-operative societies of agricultural labourers for joint farming. The Imperial Government has no state lands and will therefore no doubt find a pretext for shelving such a proposition put in the form of a motion. But I think this firebrand must be thrown among the agricultural day labourers. Which can indeed be done in one of the many debates on state socialism. This and this alone is the way to get hold of the agricultural workers this is the best method of drawing their attention to the fact that later on it is to he their task to cultivate the great estates of our present gracious gentlemen for the common account. And this will give friend Bismarck, who demands positive proposals from you, enough for some time.

 

 

 

Engels to August Bebel
In Zurich

1885

Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;

London, 24 July, 1885

 

You have exactly hit off Kautsky's decisive weakness. His youthful inclination towards hasty judgment has been still more intensified by the wretched method of teaching history in the universities--especially the Austrian ones. The students there are systematically taught to do historical work with materials which they know to be inadequate but which they are supposed to treat as adequate, that is, to write things which they themselves must know to be false but which they are supposed to consider correct. That has naturally made Kautsky thoroughly cocky. Then the literary life--writing for pay and writing a lot. So that he has absolutely no idea of what really scientific work means. There he has thoroughly burnt his fingers a few times, with his history of population and later with the articles on marriage in primitive times. In all friendship I rubbed that well into him too and spare him nothing in this respect: on this side I criticise all his things mercilessly. Fortunately, however, I can comfort him with the fact that I did exactly the same in my impudent youth and only first learnt the way one has got to work from Marx. It helps quite considerably, too.

 

 

 

Engels to August Bebel
In Plauen near Dresden

1885

Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;

London, 28 October, 1885

 

The chronic depression in all the decisive branches of industry also still continues unbroken here, in France and in America. Especially in iron and cotton. It is an unheard-of situation, though entirely the inevitable result of the capitalist system: such colossal over-production that it cannot even bring things to a crisis! The over-production of disposable capital seeking investment is so great that the rate of discount here actually fluctuates between 1 and 1½ percent. per annum, and for money invested in short term credits, which can be called in or paid off from day to day (money on call) one can hardly get ½ percent. per annum. But by choosing to invest his money in this way rather than in new industrial undertakings the money capitalist is admitting how rotten the whole business looks to him. And this fear of new investments and old enterprises, which had already manifested itself in the crisis of 1867, is the main reason why things are not brought to an acute crisis.

But it will have to come in the end, all the same, and then it will make an end of the old trade unions here, let us hope. These unions have peacefully retained the craft character which clung to them from the first and which is becoming more unbearable every day. No doubt you suppose that the engineers, joiners, bricklayers, etc., will admit any worker in their branch of industry without more ado? Not at all. Whoever wants admission must be attached as an apprentice for a period of years (usually seven) to some worker belonging to the union. This was intended to keep the number of workers limited, but had otherwise no point at all except that it brought in money to the apprentice's instructor, for which he did absolutely nothing in return. This was all right up to 1848. But since then the colossal growth of industry has produced a class of workers of whom there are as many or more as there are "skilled" workers in the trade unions and who can do all that the "skilled" workers can or more, but who can never become members. These people have been regularly penalised by the craft rules of the trade unions. But do you suppose the unions ever dreamt of doing away with this silly bunk? Not in the least. I can never remember reading of a single proposal of the kind at a Trade Union Congress. The fools want to reform society to suit themselves and not to reform themselves to suit the development of society. They cling to their traditional superstition, which does them nothing but harm themselves, instead of getting quit of the rubbish and thus doubling their numbers and their power and really becoming again what at present they daily become less – associations of all the workers in a trade against the capitalists. This will I think explain many things in the behaviour of these privileged workers to you.

What is most necessary of all here is that masses of the official labour leaders should get into Parliament. Then things will soon go finely; they will expose themselves quickly enough.

The elections in November will help a lot towards this. Ten or twelve of them are certain to get in, if their Liberal friends do not play them a trick at the last moment. The first elections under a new system are always a sort of lottery and only reveal the smallest part of the revolution they have introduced. But universal suffrage – and with the absence of a peasant class and the start England had in industrialisation the new franchise here gives the workers as much power as universal suffrage would give them in Germany – universal suffrage is the best lever for a proletarian movement at the present time and will prove to be so here. That is why it is so important to break up the Social Democratic Federation as quickly as possible, its leaders being nothing but careerists, adventurers and literary people. Hyndman, their head, is doing his very best in this way; he cannot wait for the clock to strike twelve, as it says in the folk song, and in his chase after successes discredits himself more every day. He is a wretched caricature of Lassalle.

 

 

 

Engels to August Bebel
In Berlin

1886

Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;

London, 20-23 January, 1886

 

The disintegration of the German free thinkers in the economic sphere quite corresponds to what is going on among the English Radicals. The people of the old Manchester school a la John Bright are dying out and the younger generation, just like the Berliners, goes in for social patching-up reforms. Only that here the bourgeois does not want to help the industrial worker so much as the agricultural worker, who has just done him excellent service at the elections, and that in English fashion it is not so much the state as the municipality which is to intervene. For the agricultural workers, little gardens and potato plots, for the town workers sanitary improvements and the like--this is their programme. An excellent sign is that the bourgeoisie are already obliged to sacrifice their own classical economic theory, partly from political considerations but partly because they themselves, owing to the practical consequences of this theory, have begun to doubt it.

The same thing is proved by the growth of Kathedersozialismus [professorial socialism] which in one form or another is more and more supplanting classical economy in the professorial chairs both here and in France. The actual contradictions engendered by the method of production have become so crass that no theory can indeed conceal them any longer, unless it were this professorial socialist mish-mash, which however is no longer a theory but drivel.

Six weeks ago symptoms of an improvement in trade were said to be showing themselves. Now this has all faded away again, the distress is greater than ever and the lack of prospect too, added to an unusually severe winter. This is now already the eighth year of the pressure of overproduction upon the markets and instead of getting better it is always getting worse. There is no longer any doubt that the situation has essentially changed from what it was formerly; since England has got important rivals on the world market the period of crises, in the sense known hitherto, is closed. If the crises change from acute into chronic ones but at the same time lose nothing in intensity, what will be the end? A period of prosperity, even if a short one, must after all return sometime, when the accumulation of commodities has been exhausted; but how all this will occur I am eager to see. But two things are certain: we have entered upon a period incomparably more dangerous to the existence of the old society than the period of ten-yearly crises; and secondly, when prosperity returns, England will be much less affected by it than formerly, when she alone skimmed the cream off the world market. The day this becomes clear here, and not before, the socialist movement here will seriously begin.

 

 

 

 

Engels to August Bebel
In Berlin

1886

Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;

London, 15 February, 1886

 

The Social Democratic Federation which, despite all self-advertising reports, is an extremely weak organisation--containing good elements but led by literary and political adventurers--was brought to the verge of dissolution at the November elections by a stroke of genius on the part of these same leaders. Hyndman (pronounced Heindman) the head of the society, had taken money from the Tories (Conservatives) at the time, and with it put up two Social-Democratic candidates in two districts of London. As they had not even got any members in these two constituencies the way they would discredit themselves was to be foreseen (one got 27, the other 32 votes out of 4000--5000 respectively!). Hyndman, however, had no sooner got the Tory money than his head began violently to swell and he immediately set off to Birmingham, to Chamberlain, the present Minister, and offered him his "support" (which does not total 1000 votes in all England) if Chamberlain would guarantee him a seat in Birmingham by the help of the Liberals and would bring in an Eight Hour Bill. Chamberlain is no fool and showed him the door. Despite all attempts to hush it up, a great row about this in the Federation and threatened dissolution. So now something had to happen in order to get the thing going again.

In the meantime unemployment was increasing more and more. The collapse of England's monopoly on the world market has caused the crisis to continue unbroken since 1878 and to get worse rather than better. The distress, especially in the East End of the city, is appalling. The exceptionally hard winter, since January, added to the boundless indifference of the possessing classes, produced a considerable movement among the unemployed masses. As usual, political wirepullers tried to exploit this movement for their own ends. The Conservatives, who had just been superseded in the Government, put the responsibility for unemployment on to foreign competition (rightly) and foreign tariffs (for the most part wrongly) and preached "fair-trade," i.e., retaliatory tariffs. A workers' organisation also exists which believes mainly in retaliatory tariffs. This organisation summoned the meeting in Trafalgar Square on February 8. In the meantime the S.D.F. had not been idle either, had already held some small demonstrations and now wanted to utilise this meeting. Two meetings accordingly took place; the "fair traders" were round the Nelson Column while the S.D.F. people spoke at the north end of the Square, from the street opposite the National Gallery, which is about 25 feet above the square. Kautsky, who was there and went away before the row began, told me that the mass of the real workers had been around the "fair traders," whilst Hyndman and Co. had a mixed audience of people looking for a lark, some of them already merry. If Kautsky, who has hardly been here a year, noticed this, the gentlemen of the Federation must have seen it still more clearly. Nevertheless, when everybody already seemed to be scattering, they proceeded to carry out a favourite old idea of Hyndman's, namely a procession of "unemployed" through Pall Mall, the street of the big political, aristocratic and high-capitalist clubs, the centres of English political intrigue. The employed who followed them in order to hold a fresh meeting in Hyde Park, were mostly the types who do not want work anyhow, hawkers, loafers, police spies, pickpockets. When the aristocrats at the club windows sneered at them they broke the said windows, ditto the shop windows; they looted the wine dealers' shops and immediately set up a consumers' association for the contents in the street, so that in Hyde Park Hyndman and Co. had hastily to pocket their blood-thirsty phrases and go in for pacification. But the thing had now got going. During the procession, during this second little meeting and afterwards, the masses of the Lumpenproletariat, whom Hyndman had taken for the unemployed, streamed through some fashionable streets nearby, looted jewellers' and other shops, used the loaves and legs of mutton which they had looted solely to break windows with, and dispersed without meeting with any resistance. Only a remnant of them were broken up in Oxford Street by four, say four, policemen.

Otherwise the police were nowhere to be seen and their absence was so marked that we were not alone in being compelled to think it intentional. The chiefs of the police seem to be Conservatives who had no objection to seeing a bit of a row in this period of Liberal Government. However the Government at once set up a Commission of Inquiry and it may cost more than one of these gentlemen his job.

 

 

 

Engels To August Bebel
In Plauen near Dresden

1886

MECW Volume 47;
First published: in Marx-Engels Archives, Vol. I (VI), Moscow, 1932.

Eastbourne, 18 August 1886
4 Cavendish Place

 

Dear Bebel,

It is a long time since I sent you word of myself, but on the one hand nothing in particular had happened that seemed to call for an exchange of opinions and, on the other, the ms. of the translation of Capital was giving me such an immense amount of work that I had, quite literally and on principle, to let slide all correspondence that did not require immediate attention for about 10 weeks. Now that, too, has been dealt with, so that all that is pursuing me down to the seaside here are the very troublesome proofs and this means that I shall at last be able to make good my omissions, especially since various things have happened that are worth writing about.

First and foremost the Freiberg verdicts. It would seem that your German, and notably Saxon, magistrate still deems himself insufficiently depraved. His case is like that of Eccarius in the days of the International, of whom Pfänder once said: ‘You have absolutely no idea what Eccarius is like; he intends to become far worse than he already is.’ And the Saxons are no exception. In Germany everything official is corrupt, but a petty state gives rise to a particular brand of corruption. For its semi or wholly hereditary official class is so small and at the same time so jealous of its caste privileges that its judiciary, police, administration and army, all brothers and relatives, come to one another’s aid and play into one another’s hands, and to such good purpose that the legal norms, indispensable in larger countries, are completely lost to view, and what is utterly impossible becomes possible. I myself have seen what can happen in this way, not only in Germany but also in Luxembourg and, quite recently, in Jersey, not to mention Switzerland in the bad old Bonapartist days. And I am convinced that Bismarck could have achieved the same end in any other petty German state as soon as the Court, the chief of the robber band, ceased to oppose him. In the largest of the petty states, in Prussia itself, this mutual aid society is formed by the military and official elite and is capable of any infamy in the real or purported interest of the caste.

Just now the ruling clique has more than enough to do. The death of old William [I] will usher in a period of uncertainty and indecision for them — hence, or so they believe, the need to consolidate their position as much as possible beforehand. Hence, too, the sudden furious hue and cry which is raised to an even higher pitch by their fury over the complete failure of all their previous machinations against us, and their hope of [provoking] minor disturbances which would make it possible to tighten up the law. And that is why you people have got to spend nine months in jug.

I hope you will return from your travels this summer so fortified that those 9 months will not be deleterious to your health. This, your enforced retirement, will prove extremely deleterious to the party; true, the tractable members will at last be made to realise that mildness is no safeguard against imprisonment, yet they are unlikely to change their spots and their endeavour to pass themselves off as the genuine representatives of the party will be facilitated by everything that impedes the organisation, and hence the organised expression of opinion, of our masses. And once they know you're safely under lock and key, they'll really start to give themselves airs. Much will then depend on Liebknecht, but upon what will he depend? He will be coming over here in a fortnight’s time and will pass on to me a vast amount of party gossip, or as much of it as he thinks fit. But of one thing you may be sure — my view of the German movement as a whole, of the tactics it should adopt, and of its individual members including Liebknecht himself, will remain what it has always been. Come to that, I am greatly looking forward to seeing him again, although I know from experience that reasoning with him is a complete waste of time — at most he may take some account of my opinion while in America, where Tussy Aveling will be able to give him an occasional nudge and so keep him on the straight and narrow. As regards the fund-raising success of the tour, I have my doubts. Now that the American movement is acquiring reality, it is bound to become an ever less productive source of funds for Germany. This it could only be while still a completely academic proposition. But now that the Anglo-American workers have been roused from their lethargy, it is essential that in speeches and the press they be helped to take their first, still tentative steps, that a truly socialist nucleus be formed in their midst, and this costs money. Nevertheless, this time there may still be some pickings to be had.

The entry of the Americans into the movement and the revival of the French movement by the three labour deputies and by Decazeville — these are the two events of world historic importance this year. In America there’s all sorts of tomfoolery going on — here the anarchists, there the Knight of Labour — but no matter; the thing has got going and will make rapid progress. There are still many disappointments in store — the wire-pullers of the old political parties are preparing covertly to take over the leadership of the budding workers’ party — and colossal blunders will be made, but nevertheless, things will go faster there than anywhere else.

In France the 108,000 votes obtained by Roche prove that the Radicals’ spell is broken and the Paris workers are beginning to disown them, and to do so on a massive scale. To consolidate this victory, this new-won position, our men have managed to transform the temporary organisation set up for Roche’s election into a permanent one and in this way have become the theoretical teachers of the working men who are turning away from the Radicals. Though they all describe themselves as socialists, these people are learning from bitter experience that the threadbare remnants they have inherited from Proudhon and Louis Blanc are mere bourgeois and petty-bourgeois dross; hence they are proving quite accessible to Marx’s theory. This is a consequence of the Radicals being partially at the helm; once wholly so, they will lose their entire working-class following and I maintain that the victory of Radicalism, i.e. of old, threadbare French socialism, in the Chamber will spell victory for Marxism, to begin with in the Paris municipal council. Oh, had Marx but lived to see his thesis vindicated in France and America, — his thesis that today’s democratic republic is no more than the battleground upon which the decisive struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat will be fought out!

For all that, practically nothing is yet happening in this country.

In the original ‘trotz alledem und alledem’ — a line from a poem by Ferdinand Freiligrath Trotz alledem!

Not even a socialist sect, as in Owen’s day, can be said to exist. There are as many sects as there are heads. The Social Democratic Federation does at least have a programme and a certain amount of discipline, but no backing whatever from the masses. Its bosses are political adventurers of the most ambitious kind, and their paper, Justice, is one long lie about the historic power and importance of the Federation. Even the worthy Ede occasionally forgets this and inopportunely cites the paper, thus doing the genuine movement over here more harm than he can make good; from where he is it is difficult for him to assess the way in which Justice exploits this. The League is going through a crisis. Morris, a sentimental dreamer pure and simple, the personification of good will with so good an opinion of itself that it turns into ill will if ever there’s a question of learning anything, has been taken in by the catchword ‘Revolution’ and fallen victim to the anarchists. Bax is very talented and no fool but, philosopher-fashion, has concocted his own brand of socialism which he regards as true Marxian theory and with which he does a great deal of harm. However, in his case these are merely teething troubles and will soon disappear; only it’s a pity the process should have to take place in public. Nor can Aveling learn very much, taken up as he is with working for his livelihood; he is the only one I see regularly. However, the publication of Capital in English will clear the air enormously over here.

And with that I must close if I want to finish this letter. It is 6.45, tea is about to be served and the last post goes at 8. So take care of yourself and mind you don’t pay my long silence back in kind. And above all, let me assure you that any gossip that might perhaps concern you yourself will make no impression on me whatever.

Your old friend,
F. E.

I am sure to be here until the 28th of this month, after which you had better write to London.

 

 

 

 

Engels to August Bebel

1896

Marx Engels On Literature and Art, Progress Publishers, 1976;

October 8, 1886

 

Dear Bebel,

I am writing this letter on account of my conversation with old Johann Philipp Becker, who stayed with me here for ten days and will now have returned to Geneva via Paris (where he unexpectedly found his daughter dead!). I was very pleased to see the old giant again; although he has aged physically, he is still cheerful and in good fighting spirit. He is a figure out of our Rhine-Frankish saga personified in the Nibelungenlied-Volker the Fiddler, his very self.

I asked him years ago to write down his reminiscences and experiences, and now he tells me that you and others also encouraged him in this, that he himself longed to do so and even began to write on several occasions, but met little real encouragement with fragmentary publication (such was the case with the Neue Welt, to which he sent several quite splendid things some years ago; these, however, were found to be not sufficiently “novelistic,” as Liebknecht informed him through Motteler).

 

 

 

Engels To August Bebel

1890

Marx & Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971, p. 351-52;

January 23, 1890

 

I see no reason why we should not repay the Progressists for their infamous behaviour of 1887 [357] and bring it home to them that they exist by our grace only. Parnell’s decision of 1886 that the Irish in England should all vote against the Liberals, for the Tories, that is, for the first time since 1800 stop being a herd voting for the Liberals, transformed Gladstone and the Liberal chiefs into Home Rulers in a matter of six weeks. [358] If anything can still be made out of the Progressists, then only by showing them in the by-elections ad oculos that they are dependent on us.

 

_____

Notes

357.

A reference to the stand of the Progressist Party in the Reichstag elections in February 1887. During the second ballot the supporters of the Progressist Party voted for the candidates of the “cartel” — the bloc of both conservative parties and the National-Liberals — against the Social-Democrats, thereby helping that bloc, which supported Bismarck’s government, to victory.

 

358.

In April 1886, hoping to win the support of the Irish M.P.s, Gladstone tabled the Home Rule Bill providing for self-government for Ireland within the framework of the British Empire. This Bill led to a split in the Liberal Party and the break away of the Liberal Unionists. The Bill was defeated.

 

 

 

 

Engels to Bebel

1891

Marx and Engels on the Trade Unions, Edited by Kenneth Lapides;

May 1-2, 1891

 

The coal strike in the Ruhr is certainly awkward for you, but what gives? The ill-advised strike of angry passion is, as matters stand, the usual way that large new strata of workers are brought in our direction. These facts seem to me to have been given too little consideration in the treatment by Vorwärts. Liebknecht knows no shadings, he is either all black or all white; and if he thought he was duty-bound to prove to the world that our party did not egg on this strike, and even calmed it down, then God have mercy on the poor strikers — for them less than a desirable amount of concern has been shown, to see that they come to us soon.

 

 

 

Engels to August Bebel
In Berlin

1891

Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;

London, 29 September, 1891

 

You are right; if it comes to war we must demand the general arming of the people. But in conjunction with the already existing organisation or that specially prepared in case of war. Enlistment, therefore, of the hitherto untrained in supplementary reserves and Landsturm and above all immediate emergency training besides arming and organisation into fixed cadres.

The proclamation to the French will have to come out rather differently in form. The Russian diplomats are not so stupid as to provoke a war in face of the whole of Europe. On the contrary, things will be so operated that either France appears as the provoking party or – one of the Triple Alliance countries. Russia always has dozens of casus belli [occasions for war] of this kind to hand; the special answer to be given depends on the pretext for war put forward. In any case we must declare that since 1871 we have always been ready for a peaceful understanding with France, that as soon as our Party comes to power it will be unable to exercise that power unless Alsace-Lorraine freely determines its own future, but that if war is forced upon us, and moreover a war in alliance with Russia, we must regard this as an attack on our existence and defend ourselves by every method, utilising all positions at our disposal and therefore Metz and Strasbourg also.

As to the conduct of the war itself, two aspects are immediately decisive: Russia is weak in attack but strong in defensive man-power. A stab in the heart is impossible. France is strong in attack but rendered incapable of attack, innocuous, after a few defeats. I do not give much either for Austrians as generals or for Italians as soldiers, so our army will have to lead and sustain the main push. The war will have to begin with the holding back of the Russians but the defeat of the French. When the French offensive has been rendered innocuous things may get as far as the conquest of Poland up to the Dvina and Dnieper, but hardly before. This must be carried out by revolutionary methods and if necessary by giving up a piece of Prussian Poland and the whole of Galicia to the Poland to be established. If this goes well revolution will doubtless follow in France. At the same time we must press for at least Metz and Lorraine to be offered as a peace offering to France.

Probably, however, it will not go so well. The French will not allow themselves to be so easily defeated, their army is very good and better armed than ours, and what we achieve in the way of generalship does not look as if very much would come of it either. That the French have learnt how to mobilise has been shown this summer. And also that they have enough officers for their first field army – which is stronger than ours. Our superiority in officers will only be proved with the troops brought up later into the line. Moreover the direct line between Berlin and Paris is strongly defended by fortifications on both sides. In short, in the most favourable case it will probably turn out a fluctuating war which will be carried on with constant drawing in of fresh reinforcements by both sides until one party is exhausted, or until the active intervention of England, who, by simply blockading corn imports can, under the then existing conditions, starve out whichever party she decides against, Germany or France, and force it to make peace. In the meantime what happens on the Russian frontier mainly depends on the way the Austrians conduct the war and is therefore incalculable.

So much seems certain to me: if we are beaten, every barrier to chauvinism and a war of revenge in Europe will be thrown down for years hence. If we are victorious our Party will come into power. The victory of Germany is therefore the victory of the revolution, and if it comes to war we must not only desire victory but further it by every means....

What should have been categorically stated [by Bernstein] was that if France formally represents the revolution in relation to Germany, Germany, through its workers' Party, stands materially at the head of the revolution, and this is bound to come to light in the war – in which we, and with us the revolution, will either be crushed or else come to power.

 

 

 

Engels to August Bebel
In Berlin

1891

Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;

London, 24-26 October, 1891

 

As I considered it necessary to tell the French the unvarnished truth about our position if it comes to war – a damned difficult task, certainly – I wrote a French article and sent it to Laura [Lafargue]. She writes to me to-day that both she and Paul [Lafargue] are quite enchanted with the article, that it is just what the French need, etc. If Guesde shares this opinion – he is still in Lille, where he is representing Lafargue with the electors – the article is to be published. It was originally written for the French Socialist Calendar but is possibly (I should say probably) too strong for the mishmash people who have to do with that, in which case it will be put in the Socialiste, which I hope you see. I say to the people: we have the almost absolute certainty of coming to power within ten years; we could neither seize power nor retain it without making good the crimes committed by our predecessors towards other nationalities and therefore (1) opening the way for the reconstitution of Poland, (2) putting the North Schleswig population and Alsace-Lorraine in a position freely to decide where they shall belong. Between a Socialist France and a ditto Germany an Alsace-Lorraine problem has no existence at all. Hence there is no reason whatever for a war on account of Alsace-Lorraine. If, however, the French bourgeoisie begin such a war nevertheless, and for this purpose place themselves in the service of the Russian tsar, who is also the enemy of the bourgeoisie of the whole of Western Europe, this will be the renunciation of France's revolutionary mission. We German Socialists, on the other hand, who if peace is preserved will come to power in ten years, have the duty of maintaining the position won by us in the van of the workers' movement, not only against the internal but against the external foe. If Russia is victorious we shall be crushed. Therefore if Russia begins war – Go for her! go for the Russians and their allies, whoever they may be. Then we have to see to it that the war is conducted by every revolutionary method and that things are made impossible for any government which refuses to adopt such methods; also at a given moment to take the lead ourselves. We have not yet forgotten the glorious example of the French in 1793 and, if we are driven to it, it may come about that we celebrate the centenary of 1793 by showing that the German workers of 1893 are not unworthy of the Sans culottes of those days and that if French soldiers cross our frontiers then they will be greeted with the cry:

Quoi ces cohortes étrangères
Feraient le loi dans nos foyers? [Marseillaise]

This is the general sequence of thought. As soon as the text is finally settled (I am of course expecting proposals for small alterations of detail) and the printing taken in hand I will translate the article into German and then we will see what can be done with it. I am not sure if your press conditions will allow of its being printed in Germany; perhaps if you make some reservations it can be all the same – this will be seen. My articles do not in any case tie the Party – very fortunate for us both, although Liebknecht imagines I regard it as unfortunate for myself, which never occurs to me.

According to the reports, you said that I had prophesied the collapse of bourgeois society in 1898. There is a slight error there somewhere. All I said was that we might possibly come to power by 1898. If this does not happen, the old bourgeois society might still vegetate on for a while, so long as a shove from outside does not bring the whole ramshackle old building crashing down. A rotten old casing like this can survive its inner essential death for a few decades, if the atmosphere is undisturbed. So I should be very cautious about prophesying such a thing. Our arrival at the possibility of power, on the other hand, is a pure calculation of probability according to mathematical laws.

For all that, I hope peace remains unbroken. In our present position we do not need to risk everything – -but war would force us to do so. And then in another ten years we shall be quite differently prepared. And for the following reason.

In order to take possession of and set in motion the means of production, we need people with technical training, and masses of them. These we have not got, and up till now we have even been rather glad that we have been largely spared the "educated" people. Now things are different. Now we are strong enough to stand any quantity of educated Quarcks and to digest them, and I foresee that in the next eight or ten years we shall recruit enough young technicians, doctors, lawyers and schoolmasters to enable us to have the factories and big estates administered on behalf of the nation by Party comrades. Then, therefore, our entry into power will be quite natural and will be settled up quickly – relatively, if, on the other hand, a war brings us to power prematurely, the technicians will be our chief enemies; they will deceive and betray us wherever they can and we shall have to use terror against them but shall get cheated all the same. It is what always happened, on a small scale, to the French revolutionaries; even in the ordinary administration they had to leave the subordinate posts, where real work is done, in the possession of old reactionaries who obstructed and paralysed everything. Therefore I hope and desire that our splendid and secure development, which is advancing with the calm and inevitability of a process of nature, may remain on its natural lines.

 

 

 

Friedrich Engels to August Bebel
In Berlin

1892

Source: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975).

19 February 1892

 

... The situation in Germany is indeed becoming acute. Things must have gone far if oppositional tendencies repeatedly appear among the National Liberals [1] and Richter [2] can dream of a German ‘great Liberal Party’. Capitalist society, which formally has not yet subordinated the state to itself, is compelled to leave the actual rule to a hereditary monarchist-bureaucratic-squirearchal caste and content itself with the idea that by and large its own interests decide matters in the end. This society, in view of its situation in Germany, wobbles between two trends. On the one hand an alliance of all official and possessing strata of society against the proletariat. This trend leads in the long run to ‘one reactionary mass’ and, in a tranquil development, finally retains the upper hand. On the other hand there is a trend which continually places on the agenda that old conflict which out of cowardice has never been fought out, the conflict between the monarchy with its absolutist relics, the landed aristocracy, and the bureaucracy, which deems itself superior to all parties, and, opposed to all of them, the industrial bourgeoisie, whose material interests are suffering every day and hour at the hands of these obsolete elements. Such contingencies as personality, locality and the like determine which of these trends has the upper hand at any given moment. At the present moment the ascendency of the second one seems about to start, in which event the industrial barons à la Stumm [3] and the shareholders of the industrial companies will naturally side in the main with the decrepit reaction. But this rehash of the old conflict of 1848 that has been dished up an infinite number of times can become very serious only if the government and the landed aristocracy, flushed with their successes so far, should commit some monstrous imbecilities. I do not consider that impossible as the strange personal desires in top quarters are finding support in the increasing conviction of the Junkers that in the end industry will be unable to stand the taxes on raw materials and foodstuffs. What point this conflict will reach depends, as I have said, on the fortuitousness of the personal element.

A characteristic feature in this context is that the old way of doing things is being used. They hit the bag but mean to hit the donkey (or rather both). They give it to the Social-Democracy but incidentally the bourgeoisie gets a good dose too; at first politically, with regard to its liberal principles, which it has been lavishly displaying for the past sixty years, and with regard to the tiny share it has directly in the government; but later on, if things fare well, also economically, sacrificing its interests to those of landed property.

A sharp turn to the right seems therefore to be in preparation, its pretext being the need to halt our advance...

 

_____

Notes

1.

The National Liberal Party – the party of the German, and especially the Prussian, bourgeoisie, came into being in the autumn of 1866 following the split of the Progressive Party. The principle aim of the National Liberals was the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership – Progress Publishers.

 

2.

Eugen Richter (1838-1906) – a leader of the German ‘party of free thinkers’, expressing views of liberal bourgeoisie, advocated possibility of reconciling class interests of proletariat and bourgeoisie – Progress Publishers.

 

3.

Karl Stumm (1836-1901) – big German manufacturer, Conservative, rabid enemy of working-class movement – Progress Publishers.

 

 

 

Friedrich Engels to August Bebel
In Berlin

1892

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975).

8 March 1892

 

... I am very glad that the disturbances in Berlin have blown over and that our people have so firmly kept out of them. There was always the possibility that some shooting might occur, and that would have served as a sufficient reason to cause us all sorts of trouble. If shooting had taken place in Berlin the National-Liberals might have gladly voted the elementary-school law and finally turn against us the sporadic fits of anger of certain people. The one reactionary mass which is gradually coming into being is from our point of view at present undesirable; as long as we are unable to participate actively in the making of history it is not in our interest that historical development should cease and to that end the brawls between the bourgeois parties come in useful. In this respect the present regime is priceless, for it helps to create this situation. If, however, shooting starts too early, that is before the old parties are tightly locked in combat with one another, they will be induced to come to terms and form a united front against us. That is as certain as twice two is four. If this happens when we are twice as strong as now, it won’t do us any harm. And even if it were to happen now, the personal regime would surely see to it that squabbles start again among our opponents. But it is best to be on the safe side. At present things are going so well that we can only hope that nothing will interfere with their further progress.

As regards unemployment, it is indeed possible that this will become worse next year. Protectionism has had exactly the same consequences as Free Trade, namely to glut individual national markets – and in fact it has done so almost everywhere – except that it is so far not as bad here as in your parts. But even here, where since 1867 we have experienced two or three lingering minor crises, it seems that an acute crisis is in the offing. The colossal cotton harvests of the last two or three years, reaching over nine million bales per year, have brought down prices to as low a level as during the worst period of the 1846 crisis and are, moreover, exerting an enormous pressure on industry so that the manufacturers here must over-produce because the American planters have produced too much. In doing so they constantly lose money, because, as a result of the falling prices of raw material, their products that are being made from expensive cotton depreciate before they reach the market. This is also the cause of the cries of distress uttered by the German and Alsatian spinners; but this is passed over in silence in the Imperial Diet. Other branches of industry too are no longer in a particularly good state; railway revenues and the export of industrial commodities have been certainly declining during the past 15 months, so that next winter things may become rather difficult here as well. An improvement in the continental protectionist states can hardly be expected, trade agreements may bring some temporary relief, but their effect will be counterbalanced within a year. If next winter a similar row, on a larger scale, begins in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Madrid, and is re-echoed from London and New York it can become serious. In that case it is good that at least Paris and London have town councillors who know only too well their dependence on the workers’ votes, and who will therefore not be inclined to offer serious resistance to demands that can be put into operation immediately, such as employment on public works, short working hours, wages in accordance with trade-union demands – since they realise this is the best and only way of saving the masses from worse socialist – really socialist – heresies. We will then see whether the town councillors in Vienna and Berlin, elected on the basis of a system of class voting and of electoral qualification, will have to follow them willy-nilly...

 

 

 

Engels to Bebel

1892

Marx Engels On Britain, Progress Publishers 1953;

London, June 20, 1892

 

Electioneering is already in full swing here and money in plenty is being offered by Tories and Liberal Unionists to equip working-class candidates financially for them to draw votes away from the Liberals. Champion, one of the Tories’ chief agents in this respect, has offered Aveling the means of running against Labouchere in Northampton, but Aveling of course declined. Tremendous excitement prevails among the leaders of the workers on account of these money baits. These good fellows, who believe they can snap up something, are having a hard time trying to convince their consciences that perhaps there really is an honest way of accepting Tory money without having to blush — with most of them the blushing being naturally due to their fear that in the end it may do them more harm than good. One who knows how deeply parliamentary corruption has penetrated political life here can only feel surprised that people still retain this minimum sense of shame.

 

 

 

Engels to Bebel

1892

Marx Engels On Britain, Progress Publishers 1953;

London, July 5, 1892

 

The England of the Vorwärts exists only in the imagination of the author. The opinion that the Tories to-day are more favourable to the workers than the Liberals is in contradiction to the facts. Quite the contrary is true. All the Manchester prejudices of the Liberals of 1850 are to-day articles of faith only with the Tories, while the Liberals know full well that for them it is a question of catching the labour vote if they intend to continue their existence as a party. The Tories, because they are asses, can be induced by some outstanding personality, like Disraeli, to strike out boldly from time to time, which the Liberals are incapable of doing. But when no outstanding personality is available they fall under the sway of asses, as is the case just now. The Tories are no longer the mere tail of the big landowners as they were until 1850; the sons of the Cobdens, Brights, etc., of the big bourgeoisie and anti-Corn Law people all went over to the Tory camp between 1855 and 1870, and the Liberals derive their strength now from the non-conformist petty- and middle-bourgeoisie. And since Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill of 1886 the last remnants also of the Whigs and the old Liberals (bourgeois and intellectuals) have gone over to the Tory camp (as dissentient or Unionist Liberals).

Hence the need of the Liberals to make sham or real concessions to the workers, especially the former. Despite all this they are too stupid to know where to begin and many are still too strongly committed by their antecedents.

So far the elections are proceeding as if made to our order. The Liberals are getting a slight majority; in many constituencies they are even losing votes in comparison with the last elections so that the tremendous Liberal landslide that was to overwhelm England has as yet not been noticeable. To-day is very important as its results will probably be decisive. If the Liberals are conspicuously victorious to-day the vacillating philistines — a very populous herd — will be driven to side with them, and then they will be on top. What we need is a moderate Liberal majority (including the Irish) so that Gladstone will be dependent here on the Irish, because if he can get along without them he is sure to cheat them.

What is very fine, however, is that in West Ham, in the East End of London, Keir Hardie, the workers’ candidate — one of the few who did not accept any Liberal money and gave no pledges to the Liberals — is so far the only one who has succeeded in changing a Conservative majority (of over 300 in the last elections) into an anti-Conservative one (of over 1,200). It is also very good that elsewhere, too, as for instance in Aberdeen, etc., workers’ candidates who come out against both the Liberals and Conservatives have received as many as 1,000 votes. An independent labour party is casting its shadow before.

There are three kinds of workers’ candidates here:

1. Those paid by the Tories to draw votes away from the Liberals. Most of these lose and know it.

2. Those who take money from the Liberals and must show obedience to them. These are mostly put up in places where there is no chance of winning. People who, like the miners’ candidates, are Liberal by nature must also be included here.

3. The real working-class candidates who are campaigning on their own account and do not ask themselves whether they are coming out against Liberals or Tories. Of these the Liberals accept those that they must (Keir Hardie and Burns) and work against the others. In Scotland there are many such candidates. What chances they have it is hard to say.

 

 

 

 

Engels To August Bebel

1892

Marx & Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971, p. 355;

July 7, 1892

 

In brief, the Labour Party has declared itself clearly and unequivocally [362], meaning that in the next election the two old parties will offer it alliance. The Tories are out of the question so long as they are led by the present dolts. But the Liberals must be considered, and likewise the Irish. Since the public outcry for that ridiculous business with adultery [363], Parnell has suddenly become friendly to the workers, and the Irish gentlemen in Parliament will follow suit once they see that only the workers can get them Home Rule. Then there will be compromises, and the Fabians [364], conspicuous by their absence in this election, will come forward again. But that is unavoidable in the circumstances. There is headway, as you see, and that is what matters.

 

_____

Notes

362.

Engels is referring to the success of the workers and socialists in the Parliamentary elections in England in the summer of 1892. The English workers’ and socialist organisations nominated a large number of candidates, three of whom — Keir Hardie, John Burns and J. H. Wilson — were elected to Parliament. The elections were won by the Liberals.

 

363.

Engels is referring to the persecution by English and Irish reactionaries of C.S. Parnell, the leader of the Irish national movement. At the end of 1889, the Liberal Unionists (former members of the Liberal Party, who left it in 1886 because they opposed Home Rule) had Parnell brought to court on a charge of adultery. The court (November 1890) found Parnell guilty and this let loose a smear campaign against him. Both Liberal and Conservative M.P.s demanded that he be removed from the post of leader of the Irish Parliamentary faction. The attacks against Parnell, which played on bourgeois hypocrisy in questions of morals, pursued the aim of removing him from the political scene and weakening the Irish national movement. The smear campaign against Parnell was supported by the Right wing of the Irish faction and the Irish Catholic clergy, who feared his influence and did not share his aspirations for Home Rule. All this led to a split of the Irish Parliamentary faction and weakened the Irish national movement. The campaign was largely responsible for Parnell’s early death in 1891.

 

364.

The Fabian Society was founded in 1884. The name was derived from Quintus Fabius Maximus, a Roman general of the 3rd century B.C., nicknamed the “Cunctator” (or Delayer) because he achieved success in the second Punic war against Hannibal by avoiding direct battle and using dilatory tactics. Most of the Fabians were bourgeois intellectuals, chief among whom were Sidney and Beatrice Webb. They rejected Marx’s teaching on the class struggle of the proletariat and the socialist revolution and maintained that a transition from capitalism to socialism could be effected by petty reforms and the gradual transformation of society, through so-called municipal socialism. The Fabian Society diffused bourgeois influence among the working class and propagated reformist ideas in the English labour movement. Lenin defined Fabianism as “the most consummate expression of opportunism and of liberal-labour policy.” In 1900 the Fabian Society was incorporated in the Labour Party. “Fabian socialism” is still one of the sources of the ideology of class conciliation.

 

 

 

 

Engels To August Bebel

1893

Marx & Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971, p. 355-56;

January 24, 1893

 

What Aveling told me confirms the suspicion I already had, namely, that Keir Hardie secretly cherishes the wish to lead the new party in a dictatorial way, just as Parnell led the Irish, and that moreover he tends to sympathise with the Conservative Party rather than the Liberal opposition. He publicly declares that Parnell’s experiment, which compelled Gladstone to give in, ought to be repeated at the next election and where it is impossible to nominate a Labour candidate one should vote for the Conservatives, in order to show the Liberals the power of the party. Now this is a policy which under definite circumstances I myself recommended to the English; however, if at the very outset one does not announce it as a possible tactical move but proclaims it as tactics to be followed under any circumstances, then it smells strongly of Champion.

...

... I am very anxious to see the stenographic copy of Singer’s [1] speech on the stock exchange; it read very well indeed in the Vorwärts. But one point of this topic is easily overlooked by all our people: the stock exchange is an institution where the bourgeoisie exploit not the workers but one another. The surplus value which changes hands on the Exchange is surplus value already in existence, the product of past exploitation of labour. Only when that process is finished can the surplus value serve the ends of stock exchange swindling. The stock exchange interests us in the first place only indirectly just as its influence, its repercussion on the capitalist exploitation of the workers, is felt only indirectly, and in a roundabout way. To ask that the workers should take a direct interest and wax indignant over the way the landlords, manufacturers and petty bourgeois are fleeced on the stock exchange means demanding that the workers should take to arms in order to protect their direct exploiters so that they can remain in possession of the surplus value which they had filched from these self-same workers. No, thank you. But as the finest fruit of bourgeois society, as the hearth of extreme corruption, as the hothouse of the Panama [2] and other scandals — and therefore also as an excellent medium for the concentration of capitals, the disintegration and dissolution of the last remnants of naturally formed interconnections in bourgeois society and at the same time for the annihilation of all orthodox moral concepts and their perversion into their opposites, as an incomparable means of destruction and as a most powerful accelerator of the impending revolution — in this historical sense the stock exchange is also of direct interest to us...

 

_____

Notes

Notes provided by the Moscow Editor.

1.

Paul Singer (1844-1911) — prominent leader of German working-class movement, from 1887 member of Executive, from 1890 Chairman of Executive of Social-Democratic Party of Germany, waged active struggle against opportunism and revisionism.

 

2.

The limited company formed in France in 1879 to build a canal across the Panama isthmus failed in 1888, ruining numerous small shareholders and causing many bankruptcies. The public was scandalised when, in the course of the ensuing legal proceedings, it became known that a large number of journalists, Members of Parliament and leading French politicians were involved in the underhand dealings and financial speculations and that many of them had accepted bribes.

 


 

Marx - Engels