Will Thorne and Eleanor Marx-Aveling To Samuel Gompers

January 25, 1891

First Published: in Marx and Engels, Collected Works, 2nd Russian ed., Vol. 38, 1963;

Eleanor Marx-Aveling’s and William Thorne’s letter was addressed to the Chairman of the association of the trade unions of American workers — the American Federation of Labour (A.F.L.). The authors, who expressed the sentiments of the revolutionary forces acting under Engels’s leadership, advocated the unity of the international labour movement, and did all they could to bring it about.

Mr. Samuel Gompers
for the American Federation of Labour

Dear Comrade,

During the recent visit of Comrades Bebel, Liebknecht and Singer on the occasion of Frederick Engels’ 70th birthday, they met representatives of the Gasworkers and General Labourers Union (comprising about 100,000 men and women belonging to over seventy trades) and of several other Unions and Organisations, besides John Burns, Cunninghame Graham, M. P. and others. At this meeting the feeling was very strong that the time had come to bring about a close and organised relation between the labour parties of the different countries. The most immediate question is that of preventing the introduction from one country to another of unfair labour, i.e., of workers who not knowing the conditions of the labour-struggle in a particular country, are imported into that country by the Capitalists, in order to reduce wages, or lengthen the hours of labour, or both. The most practical way of carrying this out appears to be the appointing in each country of an International Secretary, who shall be in communication with all the other International Secretaries. Thus, the moment any difficulty between capitalists and labourers occurs in any country, the International Labour Secretaries of all the other countries should be at once communicated with, and will make it their business to try to prevent the exportation from their particular country of any labourers to take the place on unfair terms of those locked-out or on strike in the country where the difficulty has occurred. Whilst this is the most immediate and most obvious matter to be dealt with, it is hoped that an arrangement of the kind proposed, will in every way facilitate the interchange of ideas on all questions between the workers of every nation that is becoming every day and every hour the most pressing necessity of the working-class movement.

If your organisation agrees with the views of the Gasworkers and General Labourers Union, will you at once communicate with us, and give us the name of the Secretary appointed by it to take part in this important movement?

Yours fraternally

W. Thorne (General Secretary)
Eleanor Marx-Aveling (On the behalf of the Executive Committee)