Eleanor Marx 1884
Source: Today, May 1884, pp. 381-390;
CopyLeft: this text is free of copyright restrictions;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The belief of so many persons that although there may be a great deal of poverty in the larger towns, the condition of working-men in America is, on the whole, very satisfactory, would be rudely disturbed by the reading of certain factory laws (those of Massachusetts, for example), or a perusal of the official factory reports. As a matter of fact, the bourgeois is, perhaps, nowhere so ferocious an exploiter of the “free labourer as in this free republic. No wonder, then, that the Socialist movement is making such strides in the United States. The papers of the party grow in number daily, and report a daily growth of Socialistic organisations.
At this moment there are several large strikes — that of the New York cigar makers has lasted for many weeks — but the most remarkable one, and the best deserving our careful attention, is that of the Chinamen in San Francisco. These despised Asiatics have formed a Union, and following the example of their New York brethren, 3,000 Chinese cigar makers are demanding higher wages. But this is not all. The masters hope to use against these poor “coolies” white workmen from the East! “Twenty-eight manufacturers,” the New York Volkzeitung reports from San Francisco, “with a capital representing 5,000,000 dollars, yesterday held a meeting, at which it was resolved to send for 2,500 white workmen from New York and the Eastern States. For this purpose telegraphic messages were despatched, and it is said that in less than two weeks most of the white labourers will be here.”
As an instance of tyranny upon which a European “employer of labour” would hardly venture, take this fact, recorded in a Philadelphian paper. The mine owners of Ohio had so systematically cheated the miners in the weighing of the coal that after a great deal of agitation the workmen obtained a law permitting them to control the weighing. But now the company cheats its labourers by ringing the bell that signals cessation from labour long after the regular hours, and in order to prevent the men from avoiding this new form of exploitation, the company has issued an edict forbidding the working men, on pain of dismissal, to take watches with them into the mines. So much for the individual freedom of workers in this freest of free bourgeois lands.
The following figures will help to explain why Henry George’s land nationalisation movement is spreading so rapidly. “Sir E. J. Reed, M.P., owns (in America) 2,000,000 acres; the Duke of Sutherland, 400,000; the Earl of Dunmore, 100,000; the Earl of Dunraven, 60,000; Messrs. Philipps, Marshall, & Co., 1,300,000; the heirs of Col. Murphy, 1,100,000; H. Diston, 12,000,000; the Standard Oil Co., 1,000,000. Nine men own a territory equal to that of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island combined. The railroads have got from Congress gifts of upwards of 200,000,000 acres. Eleven of these companies alone have received 120,000,000 acres.” As the old song said, in the West “the humblest may gather the fruits of the soil” — only he must gather them for his landlord.
There is nothing of special interest to report this month save the discussion in the Reichstag on the Anti-Socialist Law. Referring to this discussion the Emperor told the deputies who went to congratulate him on his 88th birthday, that like Hamlet’s uncle, he was “much offended” that the renewal of the law had not been voted there and then. It was, he said, necessary for his personal safety. How pleasant to feel so beloved of one’s people!
The speeches of the Socialist Deputies have been so grossly misrepresented that it is only fair readers of To-Day should know what they really did say. Bebel has been accused of “denouncing” the Austrian people, and of attacking the Anarchists with unnecessary bitterness. He did nothing of the kind, but as the German Government partly bases its demands for the prolongation of this Law on the supposed alliance between the German Socialists and the Viennese Anarchists (though no one knows better than the Government itself that no such alliance exists), it was Bebel’s duty to speak out on the subject. He “denounced” not the Austrian people — with whom everyone must sympathise in their struggle with an infamous government — but those individuals who have acted only as agents provocateurs, and whose direct or indirect relations with the police are notorious. “My friends,” Bebel said, “have already pointed out to you — and I consider it my duty to do so again — that if there are Anarchists in Germany, and I can assure you there are very few, they have been made possible by these exceptional laws, and so we are justified in saying that the fathers of the Anti-Socialist law are also the fathers of Anarchism in Germany Anarchists, it must not be forgotten, are, with the exception of certain disreputable individuals, honestly convinced people (ueberzeugungstreue Leute), . and Anarchism is, to a great extent, the expression of a hopelessness driven to desperation, of certain element in the working-class.” Speaking of the “bargain” that the Government wanted to strike with the Socialists, Bebel said, “What the Government wants is our unconditional support, of its ‘social reforms.’ What it really said is, ‘if you are against the reforms of the Government, the Law will be renewed; if you are for them, the Law shall be repealed.’ Gentlemen, we do not sell our principles, even though you renew the Law ten times over. To such a bargain we cannot be parties: of this you may rest assured . We are to-day what we ever have been, we ever shall be what we are to-day.” Liebknecht spoke in the same uncompromising tone. “As regards the suggestion,” he said, “that if a commission (for considering the law) is appointed, Social Democrats should be elected to it, I declare in the name of our whole party that we refuse. We will never join a commission where we should be relegated to the part of accused. We will speak on this tribune as heretofore, not as accused, but as alone becomes us — your accusers .. And since physical force is spoken of, and Marx’s word has been, quoted that force is the midwife of all political and social reconstruction — was the new German Empire, or its predecessor the North German “Bund” brought about by use of lavender and rose water? Assuredly that was a “birth by aid of forceps,” a reconstruction in which, in the fullest sense of the word, force was midwife, and the regime whose chief representative placed the policy of blood and iron on his programme, should in truth not be so nice nor so afraid of a word . I and several of my friends have been accused of taking part in an International manifesto at Paris.. Well, it was not exactly that, but it is perfectly true that we wrote the letter from which extracts have been read here. We are in relationship with our French party friends; we look on them as brothers. We are International The Honourable Deputy Dr. Windhorst on former occasions truly said to a National-Liberal, who spoke of German Science, that Science is no more German than it is French or Roman; that it is International, Cosmopolitan. And whosoever denies the International principle places himself beyond the pale of modern culture. We naturally reserve to ourselves the right to associate with our friends of other lands . The Deputy Von Kardorff remarked that twelve years ago Bebel had in the Reichstag defended the Paris Commune, and said he had defended rabble who destroyed the holiest national traditions of French history.’ What were these holy traditions of French history? The Vendome column, this symbol of French history written in blood and iron that signified hatred of Germany, a policy of conquest; a government by force, in short the blood and iron system. With this policy of barbarism the French proletariat wished to break, and to emphasise this break, to give expression to this high civilising ideal, they pulled down the Vendome column. The German Vendome columns will also be overthrown.”
Of course the law will be renewed, but no more than in the past, will it effect the spread of the “New Gospel.”
The great Anzin strike is over — but many such victories will be fatal to the mining companies. The strike lasted nearly two months, but despite the combined efforts of gendarmerie, agents provocateurs and military to provoke a riot the miners did not allow themselves to be misled into any “acts of violence.” Though the strike has resulted in the defeat of the miners it has not been altogether vain. It has aroused a feeling of sympathy and solidarity among all workers that cannot fail to help in the great struggle. The Municipal Council of Paris sent 10,000 francs to the miners, and it is worth noting that this was opposed by the notorious M.Yves Guyot, the same Yves Guyot who took the initiative in starting a subscription for raising a monument to the monster Thiers. In the Chamber M. Giard — supported by some of the deputies of the Extreme Left has brought forward a “projet de loi” by which the State would again possess itself of all French mines, remain their proprietor, and concede their working to various companies. It may be necessary’ to explain to English readers that this bill would not be one of confiscation but of restitution. Never either in feudal nor bourgeois law have the riches of the mines, etc. (of the sous-sol) been the property of the landlord, but they have always been considered the property of the French nation. Before the Revolution and the law of 1810 the mines were temporarily ceded to companies for periods varying from 20 to 50 years. Since the law of 1810, however, these grants have been made absolute. The deputies of the Extreme Left therefore only demand a return to the old order of things. Of course the bourgeois chamber will reject this bill, but all this agitation is calling the attention of the people to the shameless confiscation — without compensation — of their property by the bourgeois lovers of property, order and religion.
“The Socialists are preparing'’ a correspondent writes me “for the municipal elections that are shortly to take place. It is a purely propagandist campaign, for the municipal councillors are not paid, and the masters in the provincial towns being in the habit of dismissing working men elected to the post, to elect these would be simply condemning them to starvation. Our greatest difficulty is therefore to find working men candidates. At Roanne out of five municipal councillors three were forced to resign. At Reims various political prisoners — Louise Michel among others — will be put forward for election.”
The French Socialist Congress at Roubaix has been in all respects a great success, and cannot fail to strengthen the “international counter-organisation of labour against the cosmopolitan conspiracy of capital.”
The German Socialists were unfortunately not able to send representatives, but they addressed a letter of adhesion to the Congress, which was read amid enthusiastic cries of Vive l'Allemagne.” Similar letters, received with like expressions of sympathy, were sent from Spain, Holland and Belgium. The presence of the English delegates “produced an excellent impression.” French working men, were delighted to hear from H. Quelch — a “genuine” working man, and no “ouvrier pour rire” — how Socialism is spreading among the English people, and that Broadhurst is by no means our only wear. Ernest Belfort Bax was unanimously elected chairman at the first meeting, and his speech evoked loud cheers. He said:
“Citoyens et Citoyennes — Votre invitation fraternelle de nous joindre à votre congres nous a donné on grand plaisir, encore plus 1'accueil cordiale que nous avons reçu de vous. Cela prouve que quoique nos organisations sont, en ce moment, nationales, le Socialisme reste au fond internationale.
La loi bourgeoise pent defendre une organisation Internationale mais aucune loi ne saura empêcher les sentiments fraternellcs poursuivant (chacun à sa façon) le même but, et encore moins la marche de l’évolution sociale.
Dans la mythologic grecque au-dessous des dieux se trouvaient les Parques. Traduisons cette conception dans la langue scientifique d'aujourd'hui, et nous pouvons dire que au-dessous de nos dieux bourgeois, nos lois, nos gouvernements, nos réligions, se trouvent les forces économiques de la société.
Quant à votre mouvement en Angleterre, i1 est encore jeune mais néanmoins c'est un pouvoir politique. La Federation Democratique possède de nombreuses branches affiliées répandues en Angleterre et en Ecosse.
La classe ouvrière Anglaise que nous representons ici n'a que de la sympathie pour le grand mouvement révolutionaire depuis l'Irlande jusqu'à la Russie et condamne sans mésure les marchands et les tripoteurs qui volent les races faibles en Afrique et en Asie. Vive la Révolution Sociale.”
Many questions of the greatest interest were discussed, and on the suggestion of the English delegates London was the town chosen for holding an International Congress next year, for the purpose of “reviving” the International. But surely the reception by the French Socialists of the German address and of the English delegates and their hearty “Vive l'Allemagne et Vive l'Angleterre,” must have convinced all present the International needs no “reviving.”
“The fury of the bourgeoisie at this Congress” a French Socialist says “knows no bounds, and this fury has manifested itself in the arrest — for no reason whatever but the good will of our rulers — of several persons, who have been, condemned to three months imprisonment.”
The Socialist propaganda goes on vigorously among all sections of Society. On the 8th of April at the opening of Mr. Barnett’s exhibition of pictures for the poor East enders, William Morris made a splendid speech. The room was crowded with ladies and gentlemen who had come there thoroughly satisfied with themselves and each other, and with a pleasing sense of virtuous superiority. It was amusing to note the astonishment not unmingled with irritation of these good people when the poet in very plain prose told them they were not so very superior after all. But William Morris’s earnest words did more than make a few of his hearers feel uncomfortable and aggrieved. Many a one was set thinking of the horrible conditions of a society under which such men and women can exist as those for whom the exhibition is, intended.
Among the Secularists good work is being done too, Dr. Edward Aveling — the only scientific man among the Free-thought leaders — working hard for “the cause.” He has given successful Socialist lectures in Manchester and Birmingham, and is shortly to visit Liverpool.
On Thursday, the 17th April, the long looked for debate on Socialism between H.M. Hyndman and Mr. Bradlaugh came off before an immense audience in St. James’s Hall. As verbatim reports have been published in Justice and the National Reformer, I need only refer to it in passing.
To begin with, the greatest credit is due to both the debaters for their courage. To H. M. Hyndman for undertaking to plead our cause against one who has had thirty years’ experience of platform oratory; and to Mr. Bradlaugh for endeavouring to discuss a subject of which he is so profoundly ignorant. Perhaps he had tried to read up for the occasion, but still he must have felt conscious — certainly those of his audience who were not as ignorant as himself did — that a few weeks of cramming could not give him even the most superficial comprehension of the very simplest principles of Scientific Socialism. There can be no doubt that in familiarity with all “stage business,” and in the management of his powerful voice, Mr. Bradlaugh had a great advantage over H.N. Hyndman. But if Hyndman had not his voice quite under control, he had complete command over his temper, which is more than can be said for his opponent, who told one gentleman in the audience to “hold his tongue,” called others “ignorant,” and Socialists “quacks,” and then almost pathetically complained that Socialists are not polite.
In his opening address Mr. Bradlaugh accused the Socialist speaker of having given no clear definition of Socialism, and proceeded to give one himself. It was not unlike that of the clergyman who said he could sum up Darwinism in one sentence — “man, according to Darwin, is descended not from God but an oyster.” It is to be regretted that H.M. Hyndman did not demonstrate the absurdity of Mr. Bradlaugh’s platitudes, but he was, not unnaturally, anxious to stick to the main point under discussion, front which his opponent, “like a knotless thread,” kept slipping away.
Among his many remarkable discoveries perhaps Mr. Bradlaugh’s most wonderful ones are that “the wage-earning class are largely property owners”; that the general condition of the same class in England is a very pleasant one (the speaker was almost moved to tears at the thought of the happy homes of the poor); and that the factory-labourers of the North, notwithstanding the till now undisputed fact that the physique of this factory population is rapidly deteriorating, are a “new race” of such happy men, so satisfied with their present condition that they will prevent the advent of Socialism. Mr. Bradlaugh told us that we Socialists could not succeed because the majority is against us. If the great “Iconoclast” really believes fighting a majority useless, one would like to know the object of his thirty years’ fight against the religious belief of the large majority of his countrymen. Further, we were assured that without a chance of personal profit, we should have neither scientific men, nor poets, nor painters, nor musicians, nor actors. What blasphemy against the great men of the past, what blasphemy against all that is best and noblest in Nature! It is worse than the Christian dogma that there can be no good, no salvation save through an Almighty Fiend. Finally, the anti-Socialist maintained that he who would work for the good of all works for none, and that personal advantage and gain are the end-all and be-all of humanity. Thanks to the Science that has given us knowledge, thanks to the art and poetry that make life beautiful, thanks to the “Music that is divine,” we Socialists have a nobler faith than this.
1. Since writing this I have learnt that the Editors of the San Francisco Truth have also started a Monthly organ. This is, I believe, the first Socialist magazine published in America. We bid it heartily welcome.