Edward Aveling and Eleanor Marx-Aveling

“Socialist Personalities: Sketches at the Zurich International Congress”

Source: Westminster Gazette, Monday 14 August 1893, pages 1-2
Transcribed: by Graham Seaman;
Note: This is one of a pair of articles describing the delegates to the 1893 Congress of the 2nd International held at Zurich. This article included a number of sketches of the delegates described.



Out of the sea of faces of all types, figures of all shapes, voices of all imaginable timbres, in this most extraordinary and significant gathering, a few of the more typical rise.

Charles Hobson, president of the English section. A strange compound: a strange example of the modifying, the vivifying effect of international gatherings. A little leaven of the old Trade Unionism left. But it leavens a whole lump of advanced ideas that ─ whisper it not in the Sheffield Town Council, tell it not on the magisterial bench ─ are very nearly Socialistic. This town-councillor and J.P. has an air of strange respectability in this outlandish Congress, an air suggestive of Wesleyan local preaching. He is a scrupulously fair and impartial chairman.

France sends, owing to the elections on August 20, a singularly meagre and ineffective representation. Poor Charles Bernard, the solitary member of the powerful Parti Ouvrier, stands solitary among a dozen or so of Frenchmen willing to admit Anarchists to a Socialist Congress. But he stands firm. Being indeed a man of robustious [sic] physique, bronzed and bearded, square-shouldered, and not unknown upon the Isis and in the football fields of Oxford. He is, like many [illegible] Frenchmen, the sworn devotee of Jules Guesde, who Bonnier says, is certain to be returned on the 20th for Roubaix.

Over the Pyrenees the Congress passes into Spain. Iglesias, one of the most picturesque personalities in the Congress; which unhappily has thus far abounded in personalities in another sense, anything but picturesque. Powerfully built, with a face of singular charm ─ not handsome, but impressive and attractive. He speaks no language but Spanish, save for "a poor pennyworth of French." Yet, when he speaks, by the ring and volume of his voice, the kaleidoscopic change of feature, the gestures that speak, the intense conviction and absolute reliability that burn out from the man, we all seem to know what he says.

Northwards now to Belgium. Jean Volders, for 10 years a fighter ─ another man of huge physique. But the 10 years have told upon him: his nerves are something shattered, his head is not so clear as it was at Brussels two years ago. The Belgians, par consequence, have been a little mixed once or twice. The voice hoarse from just a shade too much speaking at the Congress. But the heart and the big soul, that has led the Belgians through such a wilderness towards the promised land, as sound and true as ever.

Across the frontier to Germany. August Bebel. There are those who say that he and Liebknecht dominate the German Party and the Congress. But your dominant natures must dominate. They do not dictate. They simply impress their own powerful individuality on us lesser folk. When Bebel rose, the whole house literally rose at him. Not only the delegates, but every man, woman, and child in the places reserved for the public, rose to their feet to look at him. Quiet, compact of build, compact of thought, of oratory incisive, condensed, not elaborate or ornate, a mind's eye piercing straight to the heart of men and things, and at once taking in and understanding their bearing upon other men and other things, an absolutely convincing and unconquerable man.

The sister country, Austria, sends among others Dr. Victor Adler, editor, physician, Socialist, prisoner again and again. Also not of the gigantic type, but with any amount of power compressed irto his spare frame, worn with work for the cause.

Of the Swiss, with their kindly heartiness and their admirable arrangemenu, we should like to give a hundred sketches. Two thumbnail ones only. Hermann Greulich, vice-president of the Committee of Organisation. Like Bebel, built on medium lines. A grey, hearty man, with a sense of humour at once keen and broad. Very faithful, one would say, looking at the strong, true face, and listening to the strong, true voice, without a false note in it. Business-like withal, and notable amidst the hurtle of the battle when some of us had to turn the Anarchists out.

Karl Bürkly, the hale and hearty old man of 70, who on Sunday welcomed the delegates in three languages ─ German, French, English. He is a Zurich man born and bred, and a disciple of Fourier and Socialism since the year 1845. A fine old fellow with his white hair and jovial face. An author to boot, although he was a tanner by trade, with a list of books, all bearing on Socialism directly or indirectly, at great length.

The Italian table, whether at the Congress or at the midday déjeuner or at dinner, is a delightful sight. All fire and verve. Southern vivacity and dash, solidified, as it were, by the informing principle of a creed. The creed, Socialism. At the Congress they are all ears and earnestness, and, occasionally, let it be admitted, all tongues. But the tongues speak not any one language philologically considered, but one language of economics and politics. At the table, in its special sense, they are the life and soul of any café they may brighten by their presence. Why cannot the British delegates put a little more life and friendliness to the world in general into their eating and drinking at least? The spectacle cf the Italians, led in enjoyment as in work by the strong, clear-headed Turatti and his wife, is an object lesson to us of northern and more placid blood.

The Poles are much of a muchness with the Italians. They vote solid, they have the liveliness to which we are strangers always, as it appears to us, toned down, as their music is, by a greater consciousness of wrong done, and they are led by a man and a woman, Stanislas and Marie Mendelson. Mendelson, with his jolly figure and face brimming over with humour and kindliness, his eternal cigarette, his jests in three languages, is the last man in the world you would take for a Socialist first, and under Polish conditions a conspirator afterwards. As to his wife ─ but of the women at the Congress we may say more anon.

It is an easy and natural transition from Poland to Russia. Plekhanov: a singular figure. Personally, one of the many delightful human beings only, as we think, to be met with at these Congresses. Something on the Mendelson model, corporeally, mentally, spiritually. Has been through this and that. But to us, at the Congress, despite all his bonhomie, his splendid scientific attainments, his energy, his devotion, the embodiment at this Congress of 1893 of the Russian revolutionary Socialist movement. The first delegate that has ever come with an actual mandate from the secret Socialist societies of St. Petersburg. That at least is an event in history.

Away to the north ─ to Norway, the land of the fjord and the fjeld, and at last, of Socialism. Thence comes Kroger Johansen, of the Norwegian Workers' Party and editor of ihe Social-democrat of Christiania. Young, clear-eyed, fair, as becomes a son ot the Vikings─who, by the way, would have put down Socialism with a very strong hand─and as clear-headed as clear-eyed. Speaking English also wonderfully well.

And now, much farther away. Over not seas, but oceans. The Atlantic first. Across this have come Abraham Cakan, the beloved of the Jews on both sides of the "herring-pond," who made the most powerful speech from the point of view of strong as against reasoned attack on the Anarchists; Lucien Sanials, with his sailor air about him, who speaks English with a charming half-French, half-American accent, and French with a perfect memory of his early days; and Daniel De Leon, whilom professor of International Law at Columbia University, New York.

Still further at sea. This time to Australia, whence, in the true spirit of international Socialism, an Italian, Francis Sceusa. A dapper, neatly-built man, voting very straight on all advanced questions and insisting, rightly enough, very strongly on the historic fact that he is the first delegate to an International Socialist Congress from Australia.

Altogether a wonderful collection of faces, typical of the mass of wonderful faces that make the floor of the Tonhalle and the galleries a sea with which De Quincey might well deal. Looking upon which one pauses and reflects, "And of such is the society of the future."