Eleanor Marx 1884
Source: Today, April 1884, pp. 307-313;
CopyLeft: this text is free of copyright restrictions;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The Anzin strike is not yet over, and the brave miners seem more resolved to hold out than ever. Despite the universal distress of the workers, they are making strenuous efforts throughout France to support the miners in their struggle.
The reports of the different “syndicates” on the condition of the working classes are full of interest. They disclose a state of affairs simply appalling. Yet in the face of these terrible revelations bourgeois economists and the corrupt bourgeois press affirm with a light heart, that things are for the best, and that if only working-men would “eat less” (this is literal) and be more thrifty, there need be no distress. Eat less! Why the people are literally starving, and starving, as Lafargue says, in order that their exploiters may die of indigestion.
Notwithstanding all this misery — or because of it? — the anniversary of the Commune has been celebrated with greater enthusiasm than ever. Meetings and banquets were held everywhere, and these, as the Falstaffian Meyer Oppert (Falstaffian in courage, not in wit), who calls himself Von Blowitz, and other penny-a-liners tell us, “passed off without any disturbance.”
All the revolutionary organs devoted special articles and “etudes” to the subject. The two Socialist papers Le Travailleur and La Defense des Travailleurs were printed on red paper. Both these excellent little journals contain most interesting articles on the Commune, that of Gabriel Deville being especially noteworthy. In it he compares the revolutionary rising of Lyons in 1831, of Paris in June, 1848, and of the Commune, and he shows how in each case not only the repression had grown in ferocity, but how “the idea” of the combatants had become enlarged. “Each time,” says Devine, “the repression has become more implacable, the number of killed, arrested, condemned, has increased. But the repression has not progressed alone. Its gradations correspond with the continual development of the forces and aspirations of the proletariat. Compare the number of combatants, and you will see it was far greater in 1848 than in 1831, far greater in 1871 than in 1848.” And to-day, concludes Devine, the ‘parti ouvrier’ has a stronger position than ever, because its demands are no longer founded on a vague sense of something being wrong, but on a scientific basis, and this scientific basis is a guarantee for the success of the labourers in their great struggle against class despotism.
I have spoken of the monument about to be erected to the memory of the martyrs of 1871. The Paris Municipal Council by the immense majority of 35 votes against 5 has decided to allow the erection of this monument. M. Poubelle the Prefect — a very remarkable man who has achieved the well-nigh impossible task of making himself even more obnoxious than his predecessor Andrieux — M. Poubclle has declared against the project, but he will probably have to give way. One thing is certain, whether a memorial stone is erected or not, the people will not forget the men who died for them in that terrible May week of 1871.
French Socialists at the Roubaix Congress will give the English delegates Ernest Belfort Bax and H. Quelch, an especially kindly reception, and listen to all they say with the greatest interest. The Possibilists have, with the help of the bourgeois press, repeated so often that Mr. Broadhurst is the true representative of the English working man, that most French working men have begun to believe them. It is high time they were undeceived.
The Congress opens on the 29th March, and closes on the 7th April. There will be public and private meetings, when many important questions will be discussed. Not the least important will be that on “International Labour Legislation.”
The news from Germany is very encouraging. Our army of Social Democrats grows daily, and the Government acknowledges their services by demanding a prolongation of the “Socialist Law.” The reasons advanced for this demand deserve to be recorded. “The Socialist law has attained its object” and must therefore be renewed. “The Socialist law has not shattered the organisation of the Socialist party” — and must, therefore, be renewed. And a third reason is the Viennese “outrages.” It is perfectly well known that the Social Democrats have no more to do with these childish and wicked attempts than with Messrs. Wolf and Bondurand’s “conspiracy;” but reasons are as plentiful as blackberries with the police-government of Germany. There is no doubt whatever that these repressive laws will be renewed; but they can no more “suppress Socialism” than Bismarck can suppress his neuralgia and his temper by drinking “ Schnapps.”
No doubt this Socialist law makes it difficult for our friends to do their good work, and numbers of our men are always in prison, but our party has never been so flourishing, as at this moment. Wherever bye-elections, or municipal elections have taken place, our numbers have more than doubled; and that despite the fact that Socialists may not print hand-bills, placards, or pamphlets, and that all their meetings are prohibited.
A friend tells me that the Socialist party is especially well organised in Denmark. The fact that the Danish Sozial Democrat sells 1,200 copies daily, sufficiently proves this. The party moreover is strong not only in Copenhagen, but in the whole country.
There is but little reliable news from Russia, as a well-informed Russian friend has just told me. What news there is cannot at present be made public, but I am asked to tell all Socialist friends to believe nothing that appears in the reactionary press. All the details given so far about the Sudeikin execution, are more or less incorrect. A full and accurate account will shortly appear in the Will of the People. Meantime, Degaieff is in safety. The part played by him in this affair is most extraordinary. The Executive Committee, I hear, will shortly give all particulars in their organ which is still, despite the police, appearing at St. Petersburg.
There is one point of especial interest for us in the latest phase of the so-called “Nihilist” movement — the part taken by the working class. Till now, the Nihilists were almost entirely confined to the “upper classes.” This is no longer the case. Truly the seed is sown “even in the bosom of the North.”
The “dynamiters” have caused not a little panic within the last few weeks. It is almost needless to point out that with such “attempts” as those at Victoria, Ludgate Hill, &c. Socialists have no sympathy. Such isolated and foolish acts do us all harm, and can do no good. But why the men who from a mistaken sense of duty risk their lives for what they believe a good cause, should be called “dastardly wretches” and “cowards,” while General Graham and his butchers are called “heroes,” it is somewhat difficult to understand. In dealing with these Irish “dynamiters” there is one thing we are all too apt to overlook, and that is the treatment to which many of these men were subjected in English and Irish gaols. Few men can, like Michael Davitt, pass through such a hell and come out the purer, the nobler, and the stronger. Weaker and coarser natures must be brutalized by such sufferings as these men underwent. For thirty-five days O'Donovan Rossa for a trivial “offence” to a warder, had his hands chained behind his back; for month after month he was tortured. The prison regime drove him mad, and if his madness takes the form of dynamite what right have his English torturers to complain?
On Sunday 16th March between five and six thousand people assembled outside Highgate Cemetery. They had met to celebrate the anniversary of the proclamation of the Paris Commune, and it was felt that there could be no fitter place of meeting than by the grave of him who died on the 14th of March last year, of him whose whole life was devoted to the cause of the people, and who in a time of danger and reaction had dared defend the insurgents of 1871 as he had defended those of 1848 — by the grave of Karl Marx.
The Commune of Paris was something more than even the revolution of 1848. That at most was national in character, while the Commune was INTERNATIONAL. The heroic working men and women of Paris died for the working men of all countries, even as working men of all countries gave up their life for the Commune. We know alas! but too well what were the faults of the Commune, but if we still remember them it is only that they may serve us as a lesson in the future. If to-day we can see where lay the weakness of the Communists, we none the less feel the profoundest reverence, the deepest gratitude to those who fought and died for us all. And it is well that the Socialists of England should have united with those of France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United States in commemorating the anniversary of the greatest class-struggle we have yet seen.
The Highgate Cemetery Company had the gates closed, and “defended” by a force of 500 police. The request that at least the women bearing wreaths should be admitted was refused, and a request that I might be allowed to go alone and take these crowns and flowers to my father’s grave shared the same fate. So we were obliged to leave our flowers in the hands of the police (I may here say for the information of friends that all have been duly placed on the grave,) and we adjoined to the top of the hill at Dartmouth Park, to hold our meeting. The first speaker was Dr. Edward Aveling whose splendid speech touched the hearts of all his hearers — who, thanks to his lungs, were many. He said they had assembled to celebrate the memory of a dead man, and for the sake of a living cause — the cause which that man had laboured for all his life, and whose triumphs his clear eyes had foreseen. That cause nothing could prevent from triumphing, but its speedy triumph depended upon us — upon the workers of all countries, upon our solidarity, our energy, our self-sacrifice.
After Dr. Aveling, Frohme, the representative of the German Social Democrats, spoke — and spoke admirably. Frohme is one of our deputies in the Reichstag — he represents Frankfort — and is one of our best speakers. He has since told me that he spoke the more easily because surrounded by police and forbidden to enter the cemetery he felt as if he had never left the dear Fatherland. Frohme was followed by a French working man, Lavache, who called on all proletarians to forget their nationalities, and unite in the great fight against Capitalism. After the speeches the meeting quietly dispersed.
The “Agglomeration Parisienne” sent greetings, and expressed its sympathy with our demonstration. Russian friends expressed themselves in the same sense. From Holland we had news that the Dutch Socialists would be “with us in spirit,” and the Poles sent us the following telegram: “Le comité du proletariat de Varsovie s'unit aux delégués socialistes, reunis ce jour à 1'occasion de 1'anniversaire de la mort de Karl Marx dans les sentiments de regrets que leur inspire la mémoire de 1'illustre lutteur pour 1'affranchissement des travailleurs. Pour le Comité
All this is very hopegiving. English Socialists will work the better for this meeting and for the feeling of their solidarity with the working men of all countries. It is not only in memory of the 35,000 martyrs of the horrible “semaine sanglante” — but because it contains a promise and a hope for the future that we cry
Vive la Commune!