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Engels To Paul Lafargue[35]
At Le Perreux

London, 6 March 1894
122 Regent's Park Road, N. W.

My dear Lafargue,

I have just read Jaurès' and Guesde's speeches on the corn tariffs. I must say Jaurès' speech is astounding, and it seems to me regrettable that he was allowed to put forward his amendment in the name of the Party.[342] I don't wish to speak of his proposal that the State should hold the price of corn at a minimum of 25 francs, which is out and out protectionism, and purely to the advantage of the big landowners into the bargain, since the small ones have no corn to sell, their produce not even sufficing for their own consumption. Guesde certainly said that, but after Léon Say, whereas we should have been the first to proclaim it loudly, instead of following in the footsteps of Mr Say. And it was Jaurès' phrase-mongering which prevented us.

But just take the proposal to make the State responsible for corn imports. Jaurès wants to prevent speculation. So what does he do? He makes the government responsible for the purchase of foreign corn. The government is the executive committee of the majority in the Chamber, and the majority in the Chamber represents as fully as possible these very speculators in corn, in shares, in government stocks, etc. It's like the last Chamber, where they made the Panamists responsible for the Panama investigation! And these Panamists, re-elected last August, are the people you want to make responsible for the suppression of speculation! It's not enough for you that they rob France by means of the annual Budget and the Stock Exchange—where at least they use their own capital and their own credit—you want to present them with several thousand millions and the national credit, so that they can clean out other people's pockets more thoroughly by means of state socialism!

Further, Jaurès fancies he has made an altogether new and unheard-of proposal. But the petty-bourgeois Socialists in the canton of Zurich got in first; for years past they have been asking for state monopoly in the corn trade; their state, I may say, is a great deal more democratic than the French Republic, it can even treat itself to a chief of police who is a petty-bourgeois Socialist (Mr Vogelsanger) and knows nothing of omnipotent chief commissioners; and, besides, it is so small that it can afford many absurdities which mean nothing there, whereas a great nation cannot go in for such puerilities with impunity.

Guesde's speech naturally suffered by having to support, at least for the sake of appearances, some of Jaurès' proposals. Fortunately his audience drew him into the field of general principles; that saved us; he was able to limit himself to touching lightly on Jaurès' motion. Speaking for myself, I should have preferred to see Guesde make his formal contributions independently of Jaurès and as the mouthpiece of our group. However, he did what he could.

All this is the upshot of the alliance with the ex-Radicals whom we are forced to endure.[a] In the first place, why did Jaurès make promises to the radical voters which he knew he could not keep? A radical custom,[86] but in no wise socialist and one that we should do well not to adopt.

Then your Mr Jaurès, this doctrinaire professor, who is nevertheless ignorant, above all, of political economy, and of essentially superficial talents, misuses his gift of the gab to push himself to the fore and pose as the mouthpiece of socialism, which he does not so much as understand. Otherwise he would never have dared to put forward state socialism which represents one of the infantile diseases of proletarian socialism, a disease which they went through in Germany, for example, more than a dozen years ago, under the regime of the Anti-Socialist Laws,[15] when that was the only form tolerated by the government (and even protected by it). And even then only a negligible minority of the Party was caught in that snare for a short while; after the Wyden Congress[343] the whole thing petered out completely.

Ah, yes, but we have a republic in France, the ex-Radicals will say to you; it's quite another matter in our case, we can use the government to introduce socialist measures! A republic, in relation to the proletariat, differs from a monarchy only in that it is the ready-made political form for the future rule of the proletariat. You have the advantage of us in that it is already in being; we, for our part, shall have to waste 24 hours creating it. But a republic, like any other form of government, is determined by what composes it; so long as it is the form of bourgeois rule, it is quite as hostile to us as any monarchy whatsoever (save in the, forms of that hostility). Hence it is a gratuitous illusion to treat it as an essentially socialist form; to entrust it, whilst it is dominated by the bourgeoisie, with socialist tasks. We can wring concessions from it, but never look to it to carry out our job. Even if we were able to control it by a minority so strong that it could become a majority from one day to the next.

However, what's done can't be undone. There will be other opportunities when our people will be able to come to the fore and proclaim their own tendencies, by means of Bills.

So you were surprised by Louise's marriage? It has been brewing for some months. Freyberger has left Vienna and given up a brilliant university career because they forbade him to enlighten the workers, in his lectures, on the social causes of their ills. So he came here, and he has found very good openings in the hospitals here. Once that was settled, there was no further reason for delaying the wedding. While waiting for his expectations to materialise he came to join his wife here, you can see that it is an entirely matriarchal marriage, the husband is his wife's boarder!

That reminds me of my own matriarchal studies and the translation of them that Laura was good enough to do.[195] I hope she approved of the few small alterations I suggested, and that you have told her how charmed I was by the translation of that 3rd and 4th part. I kiss her by your proxy.

Yours very truly,

First published in part in:
Le Socialiste, No. 115, 24 November 1900
and in full in:
F. Engels, P. et L. Lafargue, Correspondance, t. II I, Paris, 1959
Printed according to the original
Translated from the French
MECW V50 pp274-277


[35] The full text of this letter was first published in English in: F. Engels and Paul and Laura Lafargue, Correspondence, Vol. 3, 1891-1895. Moscow, 1963.

[342] In February 1894 the French Chamber of Deputies debated the issue of corn tariffs. Jean Juarès proposed a law which provided for a state monopoly on grain imports. Jules Guesde supported this motion.

[a] See this volume, pp. 249, 262. [ENGELS TO FRIEDRICH ADOLPH SORGE IN HOBOKEN London, 30 December 1893]

[86] Radicals—in the 1880s-1890s, a parliamentary group in France that used to belong to the party of moderate Republicans (the ‘Opportunists'). The Radicals relied chiefly on the petty bourgeoisie and, to some extent, on the middle bourgeoisie; they supported certain bourgeois-democratic demands like a unicameral parliament, separation of the Church from the state, a progressive income tax, limitation of the working day and other social issues. The Radicals were led by G. Clemenceau. Officially the group became known as the Republican Radical and Radical-Socialist Party (Parti républicain radical et radical-socialiste), formed in 1901.

[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).

[343] The Congress of the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany in Wyden (Switzerland) was held in August 1890. That was the first illegal congress of the German Social-Democrats following the introduction of the Anti-Socialist Law of 1878 (see Note 15↑). The Congress criticised the anarchist stand of Johann Most and Wilhelm Hasselmann, who rejected all legal means of struggle, advocated individual terror and launched an open campaign against the Party leadership; it expelled them from the Party.

The Congress unanimously decided to strike out the word ‘legal' from the statement contained in Part II of the Gotha Programme of 1875 to the effect that the Party was working to attain its goals ‘with all legal means'. The Congress confirmed the status of Der Sozialdemokrat as the Party's official organ.

[195] A reference to the publication of Engels' work The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State translated into French by Henri Ravé; this translation was edited by Laura Lafargue who did a stupendous amount of work to correct the numerous deficiencies contained in it. Having read the thus revised translation, Engels had a high opinion of the work done. The book was published in October 1893 under the title L'Origine de la famille, de la propriété privée et de l'état.

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