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Engels To Friedrich Adolph Sorge[186]
In Hoboken

London, 18 March 1893

Dear Sorge,

We have just spent a fortnight by the sea at Eastbourne[175] where we had magnificent weather and whence we have returned greatly refreshed. Now we can get down to work again. But in fact the visiting season is once more upon us—next Sunday (tomorrow week) there's the Brussels Conference on the Zurich Congress,[172] when Bebel will nip over here for a few days[183] the Lafargues will be coming at the same time and I am glad to have again inveigled the young man over here so that he and I can discuss French affairs at some length. All the same I ought still to have enough time left to finish off Volume II P [of Capital] since I am now over the worst.

The matter of the Socialiste has now been settled.

It would seem that a crash is the only solution to the silver business in America.[187] For Cleveland does not, it seems, have either the strength or the courage to smash this vicious circle of corruption. And it really would be a good thing if there were to be a crisis. A nation—a young nation—so proud of its 'practice' and at the same time so frightfully bone-headed in the matter of theory as America can only eradicate so ingrained an idée fixe at the cost of damage to itself. The plausible idea that, if one has no money when one needs it, this is because there is not enough money in the world at large, is a childish notion common both to the PAPER CURRENCY nonsense à la Kellogg and to the silver nonsense, and the surest cure for it is experimentation and bankruptcy which last might also prove quite beneficial to ourselves in other respects. Provided only some sort of tariff reform is achieved this autumn, there will be no need for you to repine, for the rest will surely follow. The main thing is that American industry is becoming capable of competing on the world market.

Over here things are going very well. The masses are undoubtedly on the move, and of this you will find details in Aveling's admittedly somewhat long-winded reports in the Volkszeitung. The best evidence of this is the fact that the old sects are losing ground and having to fall into line, The Social Democratic Federation[44] has actually deposed Mr Hyndman; every so often he is allowed to do a little grum bling and grousing a bout international politics in Justice, but he is finished, HIS OWN PEOPLE HAVE FOUND HIM OUT. For the space of ten years the man lost no opportunity of provoking me personally and politically, and I never did him the honour of replying, in the conviction that he himself was man enough to effect his own ruin; eventually I was proved right. After a whole decade of carping they recently invited Tussy to write reports on the international movement for Justice, an invitation she naturally declined pending the public retraction of the infamous calumnies of herself and Aveling which Justice has for years been the vehicle.

The same thing is happening where the Fabians[43] are concerned. As in the case of the Social Democratic Fede ration, their own branches in the provinces have outgrown them; in this, as in the Chartist movement, Lancashire and Yorkshire are again taking the lead. Men like Sidney Webb, Bernard Shaw, etc., who WANTED TO PERMEATE THE LIBERALS WITH SOCIALISM, must now submit to being permeated BY THE SPIRIT OF THE WORKINGMEN MEMBERS OF THEIR OWN SOCIETY. They fret and fume but IT'S NO USE—either they remain on their own, officers without soldiers, or they conform. The first seems more likely and is also more desirable.

The Independent Labour Party[114]—as the latest arrival—has brought with it fewer ingrained prejudices, contains good elements, the working men of the North being the arbiters, and to that extent is the most genuine expression of the present movement, True, there are amongst the leaders all kinds of odd individuals and even many of the best, as in America where you are, have acquired the parliamentary system's deplorable habit of cliquism, but they have the support of the masses who will either teach them how to behave or throw them overboard. They still make blunders and plenty of them, but the worst perils are over and I now look for rapid progress which will not be without its repercussions in America.

In Germany the situation has almost reached crisis point. According to the last reports on the sessions of the Military Committee a compromise would hardly seem possible.[76] The government is making it impossible for the gentlemen of the Centre[71] and the Free Thinkers[149] to change sides,[See this volume, p. 101] and a majority cannot be obtained without 40 or 50 of their number. So there'll be a dissolution and new elections. If all goes well, I reckon that we shall get 2½ million votes, for our numbers have grown like mad. Bebel's estimate is 50 or 60 seats, for the geography of the constituencies is not in our favour and all the others band together against us so that, in the second ballot, we cannot convert even substantial minorities into majorities. I would rather that things carried on as they are until 1895 when we should be able to make an impact of a very different order, but no matter what happens everything, from Richter to Little Willy,[William II] must needs help us on our way.

A young man from Texas, F. Wiesen of Baird, wanted me to make a statement deploring the nomination of candidates 'for President' as a denial of the revolutionary principle, since the intention was to abolish the Presidency, I sent him the enclosed answer.[See this volume, p. 119] Should a garbled Version be made public, be so good as to get the Volkszeitung to print this.

I trust you and your wife are now enjoying better health. Warm regards to you both from Mrs Kautsky and

        F. Engels

We have sent you the debate on the future organization of society.[143] Newspapers may have been somewhat irregular while we were away, but should be complete.

First published, slightly abridged, in:
Briefe und Auszüge aus Briefen von Joh. Phil. Becker, Jos. Dietzgen, Friedrich Engels,
Karl Marx u. A. an F. A. Sorge und Andere
, Stuttgart, 1906
and, in full, in English, in Science and Society, Vol. II, No. 3, New York, 1938
Printed according to the original
MECW V50 pp124-126


[186] An excerpt from this letter was first published in English in: The Labour Monthly, L., 1934, No. 12; the full text in English appeared in: Science and Society, N.Y., 1938, Vol. 11, No. 3.

[175] Engels was taking a rest at Eastbourne from March 1 to March 17 1893 or thereabouts.

[172] The conference held by representatives of European socialist parties in preparation for the forthcoming Third International Socialist Working-Men's Congress in Zurich (see Note 229↓). At the initiative of the Organizing Committee (see Note 27↓) this conference met in Brussels on 26 March 1893; it involved representatives of 6 European countries. Its decisions urged the delegates of th e forthcoming Congress to recogni se the need of the political struggle of the working class. One of the aims of this demand was to keep the Anarchists from taking part in the Congress.

[229] The Third International Socialist Working-Men's Congress was held in Zurich on 6-12 August 1893. Attending were over 400 delegates from 18 countries. The British delegation had a much broader representation than at the previous two congresses. The following issues were on the agenda: the legal eight hours, May Day celebration, the political tactics of Social-Democrats and the position of Social-Democracy in the event of a war. Since participation in the Congress was conditional on one's recognition of political activity (something that the anarchists denied), the Congress began its work by considering the legitimacy of the mandates of the anarchist delegates. Following a heated debate a resolution was carried by a majority of votes. It interpreted the notion of political activity as the use of political rights and law-making institutions by working-class parties in the interests of the proletariat and for gaining political power. Upon the adoption of this amendment the anarchists, including the representatives of The Young (see Note 129↓), had to leave the Congress.

On the issue of May Day festivities the Congress rejected by a majority of votes the proposal of the German Social-Democrats to have the celebrations as late as the first Sunday of the month; it stressed the major political significance of a demonstration on May 1 as the day of proletarian solidarity. On the third issue of the agenda (the political tactics of Social-Democrats) the Congress adopted a resolution which recognised the need of combining the parliamentary and non-parliamentary forms of struggle de pending on specific conditions in this or that country.

Concerning the attitude of Social-Democrats to war, the Congress turned down the Nieuwenhuis proposal for a general strike to be declared in case of a war and reaffirmed the basic provisions of the Brussels Congress resolution on this issue (see Note 228↓); it added a clause urging workers to wage a disarmament struggle and obliging the Socialist MPs to vote against war credits.

[27] In keeping with the decision of the Second International Socialist Working Men's Congress held in Brussels on 16-22 August 1891 (see Note 228↓), the worker and socialist organisations of Switzerland, beginning January 1892, launched preparations for the next congress due in Zurich in the summer of 1893. They set up an Organising Committee which included representatives of the Social-Democratic Party, of the Grütli Union (founded in 1838 as an enlightenment alliance of artisans and workmen, it adhered to reformist positions) and of the trade-union amalgamation. In February 1892, the Organising Committee issued an appeal to the working men of all lands saying that it be gan its activities and urging them to send in suggestions concerning the congress agenda.

[129] Die Jungen (The Young Ones)—a semi-anarchist opposition group in German Social-Democracy formed in the spring and summer of 1890. It was led by former university students: young literati and editors of party newspapers (hence the name), as well as trade-union and party leaders from local organisations. The opposition drew support from Social-Democratic Party members among industrial workers and craftsmen. The leaders of the Young Ones were Paul Ernst, Paul Kampffmeyer, Hans Müller, Bruno Wille, Wilhelm Werner, Carl Wildberger and others. Ignoring the new realities obtained for the Party's activity with the abrogation of the Anti-Socialist Law (see Note 15↓), the Young Ones opposed the Party's parliamentary activities as not radical enough and were making demagogic attacks on the Party and its Executive Board {der Vorstand}; thus, they accused it of political corruption, opportunism and violation of the Party democracy. In October 1891 the leaders of the Young Ones were expelled from the Party.

[15] The Anti-Socialist Law (The Exceptional Law Against the Socialists) was introduced by the Bismarck government on a majority vote cast in the Reichstag, on 21 October 1878 to combat the socialist and workers' movement. It banned all party and mass workers' organisations, and the socialist and workers' press, and sanctioned confiscation of socialist literature and persecution of Social-Democrats. Nevertheless, the Social-Democratic Party, in accordance with Constitution preserved its group in the Reichstag. Assisted by Marx and Engels, the Party was able to overcome both the reformist and anarchist tendencies within its ranks and expand its base among the popular masses by a skilful combination of legal and illegal methods of work. Under pressure from the mass workers' movement, the Anti-Socialist Law was abrogated on 1 October 1890. For Engels' assessment of the Law, see his article 'Bismarck and the German Working Men's Party' (Vol. 24, pp. 407-09).

[228] The International Socialist Working-Men's Congress in Brussels was held on 16-22 August 1891. It was attended by 370 delegates from 16 European countries and the United States who represented, by and large, the Marxist trend in the working-class movement. Most of the delegates voted against anarchists participating in the Congress (who had sent their delegates). Attending the Congress were also representatives of the British trades unions, a rather positive factor according to Engels. Such issues were on its agenda as the labour code, work stoppage and boycott, and militarism. In its resolution on labour legislation the Congress called on workers of the world to join forces in the struggle against the capitalist rule; it urged workers, wherever they had political rights, to use these rights for their emancipation from wage servitude. The resolution on work stoppage and boycott recommended that workmen use both forms of the struggle. It emphasised the absolute need of trade unions for the workers.

The attitude of the working class to militarism was the central issue on the agenda. The reports delivered by W. Liebknecht and E. Vaillant, as well as the resolution proposed by Liebknecht characterized militarism as an inevitable follow-up of the capitalist system; they stressed that a socialist system alone would be able to put an end to militarism and establish peace among the nations; that Socialists were a genuine party of peace. Yet these documents did not define specific tasks and ways of the struggle against the war threat.

The resolution proposed by Liebknecht was attacked by the leader of the Dutch Socialists D. Nieuwenhuis, a man of anarchist leanings. He tabled a resolution urging the Socialists of all countries to appeal in the event of a war to their peoples to stage a general strike, but it failed to win support among the delegates. The overwhelming majority of votes was cast for the W. Liebknecht resolution (see also F. Engels 'The Brussels Congress. The Situation in Europe'; present edition, vol. 27).

[183] Bebel was visiting Engels in London from 28 March to 4 April 1893 or thereabouts.

[187] A reference to the tug of war in the United States between the advocates of bimetallism and those of a single gold standard. In 1890, under the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, the West's demands for more and more coinage of the metal were heeded. But as predicted, gold was hoarded and driven out of circulation, and the silver-to-gold ration became 26.5 : 1 in 1893. In the summer of that year, under President Cleveland's Administration, Congress had to repeal the Sherman Act to keep gold from vanishing altogether. By the end of the 19th century gold was fully restored as a single currency standard in the United States. Engels gave his assessment of these developments in his letter to Sorge of 2 December 1893 (see this volume, pp. 235-36).

[44] Social Democratic Federation—a British socialist organisation set up in August 1884 on the basis of the bourgeois-radical Democratic Federation; it united heterogeneous socialist elements, predominantly intellectuals and a section of politically active workers. The Federation stated in its programme that the entire wealth of the nation should belong to Labour, its only source. It also set as its aim a socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and came out for a so ciety of 'emancipated labour'. That was Britain's first socialist programme based mainly on Marxist ideas. The leadership of the Federation was in the hands of Henry Hyndman, prone to authoritarian methods of guidance, and his supporters who did not deem it necessary to conduct work in the trades unions, a stance that inevitably led to isolation of the organisation from the working-class masses. A group of Socialists within the Federation (Eleanor Marx-Aveling, Edward Aveling, William Morris, Tom Mann and others) opposed Hyndman and championed closer ties with the working-class movement. The differences on tactical issues and international cooperation resulted in a split and the formation of an independent organisation—The Socialist League (see Note 136↓).

[136] Engels means The Socialist League's programme document—The Manifesto of the Socialist League (see The Commonweal No. 1, February 1885). This organisation was founded in Britain in December 1885 by a group of Socialists who had left the Social Democratic Federation (see Note 44↑). The Manifesto proclaimed in part that its members '... seek a change in the basis of Society... which would destroy the distinction of classes and nationalities'. The Socialist League pursued the following objectives: setting up a national and international socialist party; gaining political power by electing Socialists to local government bodies; assisting the trade-union and cooperative movements. In the inital years of its existence the League was actively involved in the working-class movement, However, after 1887 its leadership split into several factions, and there surfaced strong sectarian tendencies, with many members leaving the ranks. In 1895 the Socialist League actually ceased to exist.

[43] Fabians—members of the Fabian Society founded in 1884 by democratic-minded intellectuals. It was named after the Roman general of 3d century B.C., Quintus Fabias Maximus, surnamed Cunctator ('the delayer') because of his cautious tactics in the war against Hannibal. The Fabian Society included such prominent members as Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Bernard Shaw, H. Bland, among others. Its local organisations drew support from industrial workers who were attracted by a sharp critique of the capitalist order contained in Fabian publications. However, except in 1892, when it attracted a number of otherwise 'homeless' working-class socialists, the number of actual 'practising' workers (i.e., non-official trade-union members) never exceeded 10 per cent of the identifiable membership, and perhaps even less if the total numbers were counted. Rejecting the possibility of a revolutionary transformation of bourgeois society, the Fabians thought it was possible to shift from capitalism to socialism by implementing reforms within the framework of so-called municipal socialism. In 1900 the Fabian Society joined the Labour Party.

[114] The Independent Labour Party was founded by leaders of the new trades unions at the Bradford Conference on 13-14 January 1893 in a situation characterised by the mounting strike action and the movement for a greater say of the British working class in politics. This party was headed by Keir Hardie. In its programme the Independent Labour Party championed collective ownership of the means of production, an eight-hour day, prohibition of child labour, social insurance, unemployment allowances, among other demands. The party leadership focused on parliamentary forms of struggle in its practical activities. In 1900 the Independent Labour Party joined the Labour Party.

[76] An allusion to the draft law tabled in the Reichstag on 23 November 1892 by the War Minister Werd and the General Staff Chief Waldersee providing for an increase in the numerical strength of the German armed forces within the next seven years. The mean annual strength of this army was fixed at 492,068; it was proposed to introduce a two-year term of serv ice in the Infantry, which could increase the war machine's throughput by 30 per cent. The planned increase in the strength of the land forces exceeded all the previous increments, as of 1874, combined. It was planned to compensate the significant growth in the war expenditures by raising taxes on consumer goods. This elicited widespread discontent among the popular masses and with some bourgeois political parties as well. On 6 May 1893 the Reichstag majority rejected the draft bill of the government. The same day the Kaiser dissolved the Reichstag two years ahead of time. After a new election, in June 1893, a similar draft law was endorsed by the Reichstag.

[71] Centre—a political party of German Roman Catholics formed in 1870-71 as a result of unification between the Catholic factions in the Prussian Landtag and the German Reichstag (the seats of their deputies used to be in the centre of the assembly hall). The Centre Party would take an intermediate stand, as a rule, by manoeuvering between the parties that backed the government and the Left-wing opposition groups of the Reichstag. It rallied under the banner of Catholicism the socially heterogenous strata of the clergy, the landed aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, that part of the peasantry predominantly in small and medium-sized states, as well as Roman Catholic working men in Western and South-Western Germany. The Centrists, while being in opposition to the Bismarck government, voted nonetheless for its anti-labour and anti-Socialist enactments. Engels gave a detailed analysis of the Centre in his work The Role of Force in History (see present edition, Vol. 26, pp. 453-511) and in the article What's Next? (see present edition, Vol. 27, pp. 7-11). Since in 1893 the Centre Party had 196 seats in the Reichstag out of 397, it could play a decisive role in the event of differences among other parties.

[149] The German Party of Free Thinkers (Die Deutsche Freisinnige Partei) was formed in 1884 with the merger of the progressist Fortschrittspartei and the National-Liberal Left Wing. One of the Freisinniges leaders was Eugen Richter, a Reichstag deputy. Expressing the interests of the petty and middle bourgeoisie, the Party was in opposition to the Bismarck government. In 1893 the Party split into two factions (see Note 223↓).

[223] On 6 May 1893 there was a split within Die Deutsche Freisinnige Partei (see Note 149↑) due to the differences over the draft military legislation tabled by the Bismarck government (see Note 76↑). The pro-government faction of this party in the Reichstag formed an Alliance of Free-Thinkers (Die Freisinnige Vereinigung) led by Ludwig Bamberger; the other faction, opposing the higher war budget, starting calling itself a Free-Thinking People's Party {Die Freisinnige Volkspartei}, with Eugen Richter as its leader.

[143] In the course of the Reichstag deliberations in late January 1893 on the state budget for 1893-94, the bourgeois depu ties hurled accusation at the Social-Democrats to the effect that they allegedly wanted no more than foment popular discontent but were unable to say how they envisioned a socialist state of the future. Responding in his two parliamentary speeches on 3 and 6 February 1893, August Bebel laid down the fundamental socialist principles. He sought to capitalise on the widespread discontent and the inability of the imperial government to combat the gathering economic depression. For several days this issue was the subject of debates in the Reichstag, an occasion which the Social-Democratic deputies used to articulate their ideas. Speaking on 7 February, A. Stoecker, representing the Right Wing, said that after W. Liebknechts speech he would make no statement as he had originally intended and suggested that the debates be terminated. The discussion ended therewith.

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