Eleanor Marx 1884
Source: Today, January 1884, pp.39-48;
CopyLeft: this text is free of copyright restrictions;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The months of October and November have been almost wholly given over to “Luther Festivals.” From the Emperor and his keeper Bismarck, down to the Radicals, Progressists, and Liberals, the governing classes have united in rendering homage to the “Great Reformer,” — that perfect embodiment of the bourgeois ideal. Very much was said about the freedom of speech and of the press that Germans owe to Martin Luther. A delicious comment on the liberty of speech was the prohibition of a lecture on Luther, by Wilhelm Liebknecht, (just released from prison), and on the liberty of the press, by the prohibition of Bebel’s excellent book “Die Frau, in der Vergangenheit, Gegenwart & Zukunft,” and T. Frohme’s “Entwicklung der Eigenthumsverhältnisse.” It may interest English readers to know that Wilhelm Liebknecht is a direct descendant of Martin Luther.
It is difficult for English people — in spite of Irish Coercion Bills, and Holloway Gaol, to realize the difficulties under which the Socialist campaign is carried on in Germany. Expelled from one town after another, their papers suppressed, their meetings prohibited, Socialists are none the less actively carrying on their Propaganda, and daily growing in numbers. That the “official” organ of the party, the “Sozial Democrat” published at Zurich, numbers over 9000 subscribers, (and be it remembered that every copy has to be smuggled into Germany, and that one copy often does duty for a whole town), and that within a few months Engels’s admirable work “Entwicklung des Sozialismus von der Utopie zur Wissenschaft” has reached a third edition, sufficiently proves that all the repressive laws have utterly failed to arrest the spread of the Socialist doctrines.
To give English readers some idea of the persecution to which a German Socialist may be subjected, I translate the following from the “Sozial Democrat.” “A Socialist workingman, industrious and thorough, is one evening while talking to some fellow workmen in a cafe, pounced upon by the police, who declare they have come upon a “Secret meeting.” After the usual preliminary arrest the men are brought up for trial, and the allegations of the police naturally believed. The man is condemned to imprisonment. On the expiration of his sentence he wants to return to his work, but this does not suit the police, who expel him as a “Foreigner.” [Under the Socialist Law the police can thus expel men from one town after another.] Not content with this they give him a passport, stating that he has been expelled for contravening the Socialist Law. And now begins the chase. The workingman is denounced to the whole German police. Everywhere he is asked for his passport, which becomes in his hands as the letter carried by the unfortunate Uriah from David to Joab. If the police are merciful they only go to his master, and warn him that he has a dangerous Socialist in his employ — with the inevitable result that the man is dismissed. If the police are not mercifully inclined, they expel him at once. It is no use remonstrating, no use appealing to the celebrated “Practical Christianity.” Go the man must, and only now and then is he allowed to rest in prison when he is arrested as a “Vagabond,” and for “begging,” because, thanks to the police, he has nowhere to lay his head, and perhaps asks for a piece of bread on his dreadful marches. This “hunting-down” has gone on for six months. How will it end? Either the man will die exhausted and despairing by the road-side, or in a prison or hospital, or he will commit what is called a “crime.” But who is to blame if the man thus dies, or is driven to become a “criminal?” Is not the police “the criminal, the murderer?”
Bismarck is not happy. The Socialists will none of his State Socialism, and neither cajolery nor coercion has prevented his making a perfect fiasco. Meantime the monstrous “Socialist Law,” i.e., the law directed against the Socialists is to be renewed.
The “Christlichsoziale Korrespondenzblatt” of that really logical Christian Herr Stocker expresses disapprobation of English institutions. “ What conditions are they” it says, “where such things (Stocker’s Memorial Hall, reception) are possible? Truly we do not envy Englishmen the “freedom” that suffers such things . There are things where all else fails, and only the knout would be in place.” There are.
In a circular addressed to the German press the Socialist deputy Vollmar has called attention to the latest infamy of the Prussian government — the arresting of Russian subjects and handing them over to the Russian government. Keppelmann and Kutienewki have thus been given over to the tender mercies of the Russian police, and Kusabutski has only escaped the same penalty by timely flight. Vollmar further points out that five Russians, Mendelssohn, Irussolowski, Padlewski, Enzukiewitsch and Sotwinski are still imprisoned, and he asks if these men too are to be “delivered into Russian dungeons.” And the whole press — Conservative, Liberal, Progressist, Christian, has been so busy celebrating the boldness of Martin Luther, that it has not found time even to protest against this iniquitous proceeding.
It is satisfactory to find that a real labour party is at work in France, a party which repudiates alike the sound and fury of Anarchism, that bitter experience has taught us signifies nothing, and the cowardly trimmers, known as “Possibilists.” The “parti ouvrier” is a revolutionary party, but the revolution it is helping to bring about is merely the means to the end pursued by all Socialists, and that is best summed up in my father’s words, “the expropriation of the expropriators.” Two of the leaders of the party, Jules Guesde and Paul Lafargue were released from Ste. Pelagie, on the 21st of November. The government has been looking after them for the last six months, because they had at public meetings denounced our present capitalist regime. On the evening of their release they held a meeting in the Salle Levis. At least 4,000 persons were present, and numbers could not get in. The “prisoners” received a hearty welcome, and warm sympathy was expressed with Dormoy who is still in gaol.
It is perhaps hardly necessary to refer to the so-called “International Working Men’s Congress,” lately held in Paris. The names of Messrs. Broadhurst, Brousse, and Costa speak for themselves. Had, however, any doubts been possible where Possibilists are concerned, the enthusiastic admiration of Meyer Oppert (of Blowitz in Silesia) and the paeans of praise sent up from the bourgeois press for the “moderation,” and the “practical good sense” of the congress, must have set them at rest.
M. Ferry, who thanks to the cowardice of the Chamber is now indulging in a “little war” of his own, has also been posing as a martyr because he was nearly shot at. With regard to the poor boy Curien, the Cri du Peuple says: “Curien is neither mad nor a police agent. So much is certain. We say this frankly because the Socialist Party has no interest in concealing the truth. Curien belongs to those embittered ones, who, like Fournier at Roanne, and Florion at Rheims cannot await the time propitious for a general rising, and who imagine that with a pistol shot they can shatter the basis of our Society. We do not approve of these individual acts because they seem to us useless, and at times even harmful. Gambetta, whom Florion wanted to remove, is dead, but capitalistic exploitation flourishes. The life of a statesman does not count in the life of a people. We wage no war against individuals, but against institutions and we hold that the struggle against the bourgeoisie can be no personal or isolated one, but a common and general one, CLASS AGAINST CLASS.”
How thoroughly the class character of the struggle is understood by the government is illustrated by certain events that have just occurred in the great mining district — Monceau-les-mines. Some time ago, without rhyme or reason, the gendarmerie was suddenly set in motion; houses were searched, arrests made, and all with the ostensible object of looking for dynamite. Of course no dynamite was found, and the arrested men were released. But the object of the police was attained — for a list of subscribers for the candidature of the Socialist Bonnot had been found. Fifty workmen were there and then dismissed by their employers, a proceeding that called forth protestations from the people of Monceau. These protestations, consisting of the meeting of some workmen, had been of a perfectly pacific nature, when we were informed by the bourgeois press that a battalion of the 134th Line had been telegraphed for, and that a squadron of dragoons from Dijon had already reached Monceau. The object of the government and of the Company that works the mines is clear. It is to provoke the people into rising, and so afford fresh grounds for a persecution of the Socialist Party. It is to be hoped the miners of Monceau will not fall into the shameful trap laid for them.
The “bitter cry of out-cast London,” has once again called attention to the wretched condition of the poor in this Christian city. An equally bitter cry is just now going up from Paris, where the condition of the poor seems almost more appalling than in London. Cases of death from starvation are becoming so common that they are now only recorded under the “faits divers.” What an answer is this to the christian or atheistic bourgeois, who would have us believe that a “remedy,” nay the “one remedy” for all this misery is to be found in the teachings of Parson Malthus. The French are practical Malthusians — and the French working-class is even more wretched than are their prolific English brethren.
After twelve long years the grave of Charles Delescluze has been traced out, and the remains of the heroic old man removed to Pere Lachaise. May I remind the readers of To-day that a subscription for raising a monument to his memory has been set on foot? Delescluze devoted his long noble life to the cause of the people; he died for them in that terrible May week of 1871, and his name truly deserves to be “enshrined in the great heart of the working class.” Any one who wishes to contribute anything towards this fund may send to the journal La Bataille (Souscription Delescluze) 9, Rue d'Aboukir, Paris, or to myself. All contributions will be acknowledged in La Bataille.
A Spanish friend has sent me some extremely interesting notes on the “situation.” Space allows me to make only the following extract: “The National Working Men’s Congress at Barcelona in August, 1882, definitely constituted the ‘Democratic-Socialist Working Men’s Party,’ and issued a manifesto almost identical with those of the French ‘parti ouvrier,’ and the German Social Democrats. In it is set forth the necessity for the Spanish proletariat of seizing political power ‘in order to transform individual and corporate property into common property belonging to the whole community.’ Besides this ‘Socialist Workmen’s Party,’ the Congress founded the ‘National Association of Spanish Working-men,’ principally with the object of grouping the forces of the Spanish proletariat for its economic struggles with capital. The Statutes of this Association are almost identical with those of the old International. This is the situation of the Socialist group; the bourgeois parties are much in the same position as after the fall of the Republic. The Federalist Party has gained in popularity since the defeat of the Cantonalists, and the long resistance of Cartagena, and the heroic defence of Seville, Malaga, etc., have given it an indisputable influence with the people. It has for it all the revolutionary elements in the country. On the other hand the fraction of the ‘Possibilists,’ the partisans of Castelar, has lost ground, and is considered merely as a monarchical reserve-force. These men have no prestige whatever, and the monarchy will be badly off indeed, when it is reduced to leaning upon them. The partisans of Zorilla will join the Federalists. Zorilla, who has little intellectual or political value, owes his influence to his relations with the army. Since the restoration he has declared himself frankly republican, almost revolutionary, and he has placed himself at the head of all those who desire the speedy overthrow of Alfonso. Zorilla’s integrity, firmness, and loyal nature have given him much authority with the men of action. The late insurrectional movements, which attained such striking dimensions were organised and directed by Zorilla. They were premature and failed, but they have added immensely to Zorilla’s prestige. Everyone in Spain is now convinced that it is he who will make the next revolution, which as usual, will begin with a ‘pronunciamento.’ ... . All that is being said about an alliance between Spain and Germany is absurd, and rests on absolute ignorance of the situation in the peninsula. The day the government sent an army to the Pyrennees, would see the overthrow of Alfonso.”
On October 4th, the Annual Conference of the Spanish Working Men was held; 120 delegates were present, many of whom were representatives of the Agricultural Labourers.
The “Sozial Democrat” reports the remarkable growth of the Socialist movement in Holland, due, not a little, to the energy of F. Dowela Neuwenhuis. The best proof of the spread of our doctrines is to be found in the demand of the bourgeois press that the sale in the streets of the Socialist Organ “Recht voor Allen” shall be prohibited, and that landlords should refuse to let their halls for Socialist meetings.
News direct from Russia is necessarily scanty, but such news as we get is enough to show us that despite the wholesale arrests, the terrific struggle is still going on with unabated vigour. Especially noteworthy is the fact that of late so many of the arrests have been made among officers in the army. The “little father’s” position must be getting more and more unpleasant when even the army is not to be relied on. Of great interest, also, is the declaration of the most powerful sections of the Revolutionists, that they have abandoned “pure anarchy” for the programme of the Communist Revolutionary Party.
A series of standard Socialist works is just now being issued, under the editorship of Lavroff, by the Russians at Geneva. A new periodical is also being brought out by Lavroff and Tichomiroff. May it be as successful as its predecessor “Vorwärts.”
In no country is the Socialist movement of greater interest. A few years ago the party did not exist here. All the revolutionary tendencies of the heroic country were directed to the one object of throwing off the hateful yoke of Russia. The Polish people to-day, however, recognise that they have to fight something besides Russian despotism, and that is class despotism. In their organ — now unhappily seized and suppressed — the “Proletarian,” the Polish Socialists had the generosity and courage to hold out a hand of brotherly love to the Socialists of Russia. Truly the work of the International has not been in vain!
Milan has been trying to prove that he has profited by the example of his imperial brethren, and has been shooting political opponents as energetically as if he were a great potentate.
That so frankly Socialist a periodical as To-day — a periodical that does not weaken its Socialism by labelling it with any modifying word — has been founded, is yet another proof of the extraordinary spread of Socialism in England. A few months ago such as anomaly as a Socialist lecturing in Oxford would have been impossible. Now we hardly feel surprised that William Morris was not only listened to in Oxford, but met with the greatest sympathy. It suffices to announce a discussion on Socialism to ensure a large audience, and the “Conferences” held by our Christian friends have been largely attended. It is a little difficult to understand by what chain of reasoning these gentlemen reconcile Christianity and Socialism, and they must forgive us if we cannot quite believe that after nearly 1900 years it has been reserved for them to discover what Christ really meant to teach, though he forgot to make his meaning plain. We are very willing to work with Christian, Pagan, or Jew, in the great cause of Socialism, but it is our duty to protest against Socialism being made a stalking-horse for any creed. Let us not be mis-understood. We know the perfect sincerity of men like Mr. Headlam and his friends, but we also know there are Christians less honest than these who would use this Socialist movement to their own advantage, and to our loss.
The English Police feel it to be their constabulary duty to keep pace with the times, and they have been trying their hand at plots. They are still such novices in the business that it would be unkind to criticise their first failures. Perhaps in time they may succeed almost as well as their confrères of France and Germany.