Eleanor Marx 1884
Source: Today, March 1884, pp. 221-227;
CopyLeft: this text is free of copyright restrictions;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The French Chamber, feeling that it must pretend to do something during the crisis, has at length decided to make an enquiry into the condition of the working class. A commission of forty-four deputies has been appointed, and M. Clemenceau has come to London that he may learn how to set about his work. As this gentleman is pursuing his enquiries at the Reform Club, at dinners given in his honour by the French Embassy, and under the direction of Potter and other Broadhursts, it is not difficult to foresee in what his labours will result. Meantime some groups of working men are drawing up reports for themselves. One of these reports concludes, “To put an end to this situation, from which according to the working men’s party, the only escape is in the socialization of the means of production, it is your duty, gentlemen, who do not share our views, to seek and find some other solution since you assert that such a one exists. It is for this your commission has been appointed, and we eagerly await your report. If you can suggest nothing, you pronounce the condemnation of the bourgeois order.” Referring to the debate in the Chamber, a correspondent writes: — “Various panaceas were put forward. The high price of lodgings is one of the “sores” of Parisian civilization. The municipal council instead of attacking the proprietors by taxing the lodgings — as the “parti ouvrier” demanded, has preferred sentimental twaddle about erecting working men’s houses, a la Peabody. At this the financiers have pricked up their ears, and have at once offered their services; and the Credit Foncier offers a loan of 22,000,000 guaranteed by the town. It will be an excellent business for the jobbers.”
While the bourgeois Chamber is about to “enquire into. the condition of the working class,” the working men are preparing for their Seventh National Congress, to be held at Roubaix. Of this Congress Gabriel Deville writes: “By the side of this parliamentary enquiry, another one of like nature will be opened by those themselves interested; this enquiry will be placed first in order of discussion at the Congress. Thanks to the zeal of the various groups this inquiry will produce some result, and thus the manoeuvres of the governing classes, anxious to hide the ill they neither can nor will remedy, will be frustrated.” . On this subject a friend also writes me: “The Congress now being organised by the “parti ouvrier,” should be one of special interest for ,English workmen. English capitalists, unable to exploit English women and children quite as much as they would like, owing to the Factory Acts, are beginning to transfer their capital to France, where they can exploit French women and children untrammelled by any laws. To remedy the inequality in the situations of the working classes of Europe, the International agitated for the general adoption of a normal working day of eight hours. This idea has now been .revived by the Swiss working men. They have forced their Federal Government to make diplomatic overtures to the governments of Europe for the purpose of summoning a Congress with the object of fixing the working day at eight hours, just as the Postal Congress fixed the tariff of letters. The governments have, of course, refused, but what is stranger Messrs. Broadhurst and other Trades’ Unionists who lately attended a Possibilist conference here, have done their utmost to bury this question of international labour-legislation. But the Swiss workmen will not give in. They have addressed a circular to the workmen of Europe and America, calling upon them to agitate for this question, and’ to force their governments to take some steps in the matter. The French “Parti Ouvrier,” has warmly responded to this appeal, and the question will be discussed at the National Congress. An International Working Men’s Congress will also be summoned, to consider it. French workers hope the. Socialists of England will be represented at this Congress, and discuss with them this great labour question.”
I have already referred to the remarkable spread of Socialism in this little country. I am now able to supplement my former note with some interesting details, given me by F.. Domela Neuwenhuis. I may here tell my English readers that the success of the movement in Holland is chiefly due to this man. Some years ago Mr. Neuwenhuis was a clergyman. Like the honest and brave man he is, he has left the church, and is now an outspoken Freethinker and Socialist. He writes as follows: “I have received the first number of ‘To-day’ with delight ... If England takes part in our movement much is won, and I rejoice as though I myself lived in England The movement here is going on though under the most adverse conditions, as we have no large industries nor large labour-class, and also because in this plutocratic paradise Capital is Almighty. Still our five year’s work has not been fruitless, as the fears of the bourgeoisie sufficiently prove. We have our weekly organ Recht veer Allen, we have started a printing office of our own, and have an Assembly Hall that holds 1,000 persons. Every week we gain in the estimation of the working men who once opposed us, and then too the quality of our adherents gets better and better, and so we pursue our way in spite of all. For scientific Socialism my extract of your father’s work (all Socialists are anxiously awaiting the appearance of the second volume, that will fill the world with joy and fear) has done much, though the so-called Radicals will not hear of it. If true anywhere it is especially so of Holland, that all parties form one reactionary mass as opposed to us. For some weeks a ribald publication, (Schimpfschift) chiefly directed against myself has been published here in which Clericals and Freethinkers, Reactionists and Radicals, Believers and Unbelievers work side by side in genial good-fellowship to combat Socialism. Happily we can afford to say “les gens que vous tuez se portent assez bien.” Such publications produce the very opposite effect they are intended to have, for they really make propaganda for our party and are a weapon in our hands Naturally I am hated as a very Anti-christ, the more that I belong to a bourgeois family and was formerly a priest of the Evangelical Church but I say with Luther “Ich kann nicht anders.” “Hearty greetings to our Socialist friends.”
I have received the following letter from an Austrian friend, which, at this moment, may interest readers of To-day. “I am, the more pleased to give you information as to the situation at Vienna that, even in Germany, it is not a little misunderstood. The attempt on the life of the Detective Bloch is treated in the same way as that on Sudeikin. But there is an immense difference. The Russians are acting in self-defence. The Vienna Anarchists merely in order to provoke. The Russians are fighting for the sake of gaining ground tocarry on the war of classes, the Vienna Anarchists start from the idea that freedom makes people conservative, (and they point to England); that one must make oppression bitter and that then the people will become revolutionary. They wanted the Exceptional Laws, they have frivolously provoked them . . The murder of Bloch was quite unjustified. For years the Socialist movement in Austria had not enjoyed so much liberty of action as since 1881. Of course this was not .due to any platonic love of liberty of Count Taaffe’s, but simply because he wanted to play off the workmen against the Liberals. For this reason a Workmen’s Protection Law was brought in by the Right, that is better than that of any other country. For instance it establishes a normal working day of 10 hours. The Anarchists have declared they will not hear of normal working days, and instead of using their greater freedom in order to perfect their class organisation, they used it to play at conspiracy.
It is only wonderful that the working men of Vienna could have approved of this folly. The reasons are, I believe, the following. There is no Austrian Working Men’s Party. Just as Austria is nationally divided, so is the working men’s party. We have Servian, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Tschech, German-Bohemian, and Austrian working-class movements. The German-Austrian party has never been independent, more than the German-Swiss. It has always theoretically and actually depended on the German movement. Then came the (German) Exceptional Laws; some mistakes were made; the Vorwärts, which had really been our central organ, ceased to appear, and was not replaced. While Germany thus left us leaderless, Russian Terrorism achieved one victory after the other. This impressed us Austrians, who rather resemble the French, and like them are easily moved by dramatic effects. A kind of robber-romance was invented, which gained ground the more readily that the years 1878, 1879, and even 1880, represented a period of exceptional material and political oppression. Of a class-war there was no word. No wonder the Freiheit was enthusiastically received, and that the Austrian workmen went over to the anarchical camp . Then, too, we have the fact that our officials have always systematically attempted to corrupt the movement, and to “buy” the leaders. Of course the men thus to be bribed were carefully chosen; then imprisoned, given thereby a martyr’s crown, and then bought over by the police. The anarchists have supplied a strong contingent of such men. Hotze, Zinner, Marschall, Bilek, etc., etc., all well-known anarchist leaders. I have reason to believe that Peukert is also untrustworthy ... . As a matter of fact the murder of Bloch has come more opportunely for the Minister-President than anyone else. The Right is as displeased with him as the Left, and the Left, in order to attain more easily its object of displacing him, intended to resign. Then came the Bloch business. Taaffe is now a Saviour of Society, the Left deems it “patriotic” to remain in. It remains in, and with it the Taaffe Cabinet I never thought the Anarchists had much sense, but I believed them brave, and I had fully expected to see them attempt something. They have done nothing but voluntarily dissolve their Unions; at the decisive moment Peukert disappeared The Austrian movement is now in a critical condition. Let us hope, as I believe it will, that it may soon enter the true course, that of the really revolutionary Socialist movement.”
Since the promulgation of the Exceptional Laws, some 300 persons have been expelled from Vienna; and many more, it is said 3000, are still to be sent away. Endless arrests have been made, many of them due to the denunciations of the Anarchist Stellmacherr.
The condition of the houses of the Viennese workmen seems as terrible as that of their brethren in Paris and London. I take the following cases at random from a long list. In the second Division, Wintergasse, 24, where there is also a school, in one house, consisting of a sitting room and two small Kabinetten there were twenty-three persons living. In the Bettlerstiege, in one room, twelve persons. In Taborstrasse, in a house, consisting of one room, and kitchen, and small Kabinet twenty-four persons, of whom seventeen were children. In the Tenth Division, small kitchens were frequently sub-let, in which there were often six or eight persons, in most cases several sleeping in one bed! In Strozzigasse, a scullery was let to nine persons, all of whom slept upon the floor. And M. Gambetta said “Il n'y a pas de question sociale.”
In no German town are the Socialists better organised than in Berlin, and consequently they are there subjected to every form of petty persecution. Of late every meeting of Socialists have been dissolved. English readers perhaps imagine that some very blood-thirsty speeches were the reasons for such a high-handed proceeding. I therefore give the words which induced the police to disperse two meetings held on Sunday week. At the one, Gönki said: “ Let us now send men to Parliament who will do something to lighten the misery of the people. It is absolutely necessary that men should raise their voices there, to paint, from their own know-ledge the poverty that grinds clown the working-class. And when their warning words have had some effect, then future generations will at least see worthier, brighter days than ours.” ... here the Commissary interposed. At the second meeting the speech was stopped when Paul Singer said: “ It is high time that working-men called Bismarck’s attention to the social wrongs of the people, and pointed out to him what reforms were likely really to benefit the working class.” ... The dissolution of the meetings was received with loud ironical cheers.
1. Referred to in last month’s To-day, and given in full in Justice. Feb. 16th.