H.M. Hyndman, Justice, June 15, 1889

The International Workers' Congress and the Marxist Clique

Source: Justice, June 15 1889, p.3;
Note: This article is a reply to a second pamphlet by Bernstein
Transcribed: by Graham Seaman, January 2022.

Everybody has read of the enthusiastic French Jacobin who rushed up to a stranger pistol in hand and shouted, "Be my brother for ever, or I'll blow your brains out." That's Bernstein all over. The craze for compulsory fraternity has crossed the frontier, and our German comrade, with truly Teutonic incapacity to see the humourous tide of his conduct, suits the action to the word, and, his pistol having missed fire, vociferates at the top of his voice to our Possibilist friends, "You don't embrace me properly, I'll give you one with the butt-end" !

For, be it known unto all men, Bernstein has published yet another pamphlet. This time he breathes out threatenings and slaughters not only against our French comrades—it is understood, of course, that he is far more capable of managing French business than any Frenchman—but against the S.D.F.; the Council of which has absolutely had the effrontery to point out that, Bernstein and Engels and Lafargue and Guesde and Mrs. Aveling and Liebneckt constitute a clique of middle-class people who (however great their services in the past) are now doing their utmost to set the workers by the ears. Some weeks since I pointed out in a most friendly tone that for Bebel and Bernstein to enter into a binding agreement with some members of the S.D.F. more than a year ago and then to break it was not quite right: that for the Germans to urge all other nationalities not to attend the Trade Union Congress of London because they themselves were excluded savoured of impertinence; that the language of the "Sozial-Demokrat" towards the French Possibilists, and the attitude of the Hague Caucus were not quite seemly. Not a word does Bernstein say in reply to the somewhat serious charges I then formulated. What he now says in effect is:—


I, Edward Bernstein, do you to wit,

1. There is a Mr. Hyndman, a most objectionable fellow, who, having one voice and one vote in the Social-Democratic Federation, can twist and turn which way he pleases such notoriously flexible persons as Annie Besant, Herbert Burrows, H. W. Hobart, H. Quelch, H. E. Taylor, H. B. Rogers, John Ward, and so on and so on.

Therefore listen not to the Council of the S.D.F.

2. JUSTICE is not so large as it used to be.

Therefore listen not to the Council of the S.D.F.

3. There have been differences of opinion in the Social-Democratic Federation which I, Edward Bernstein, a German, who has been six months in the country and am imperfectly acquainted with the English language, know all about. The "Labour Elector" is the only impartial organ in this matter.

Therefore listen not to the Council of the S.D.F.

4. I am Edward Bernstein, the editor of the 'Sozial Demokrat,' Inheritor, jointly with Engels and others, of the Only True Socialist Tradition handed down from the modern Horeb of Haverstock Hill.

Therefore listen not to the Council of the S.D.F,

Given under my hand and seal

This Ist day of June, 1889.

Edward Bernstein.

But I am incidentally accused of not having done my utmost to bring about an understanding with the Possibilists after pledging myself to do so. I did, as an individual, all I could possibly do. I notified our Possibilist friends that I had seen Bernstein and Mrs. Aveling, and, though the terms of Bernstein's letter were most objectionable, I advised them _quite unofficially of course, to give way even to his rudeness. It is only their manner I said. "They will, I still hope," so ran my letter, "come to the Congress, but they insist upon it that they shall have the right to spit on the carpet. That, I admit, is a very nasty habit. Personally, I should prefer, and so no doubt would you, that their expectoration should be otherwise disposed of. But, remember, you are the hosts on this occasion. Don't, therefore, annoy our German comrades with spittoons or sawdust. Spread for them a new carpet of beautiful texture, and say to them in the spirit of the truest fraternity, 'Friends and Fellow Citizens, Spit away!'"

The Possibilists seem to me to have taken my advice.

Why should I chaff about so serious a matter? Because when we have utterly unreasonable people to deal with, ridicule is the only means of bringing them to their senses. The Possibilists have from the first thrown open the doors of the Congress to all bona fide representatives of working-class organisations, and when trouble arose, they met the Germans in every possible way. But we now begin to see why the Hague Caucus was intended to be secret. Manifestly, it was called together for some very different purpose than to formulate what are in principle unobjectionable resolutions. The Marxist clique was resolved to have a gathering of their own, let the Possibilists do what they might, and to hold it at the very time which they unanimously claimed to be most inconvenient, in order to injure the real Congress of workers.

There is but one serious point in all Bernstein's long and wearisome pamphlet: Have or have not the Possibilists made arrangements which will secure fair representation for the genuine organizations of Socialists and workinq-men of all countries? We of the S.D.F. say, without having the slightest prejudice to start with one way or the other, that they have. I ask also any unprejudiced person to read the orders of the day by the Possibilists as they have appeared in JUSTICE, and then to form their own opinion. That the Possibilists have refused to accept individuals who represented nobody but themselves at previous Congresses of delegates is, I believe, true. But if they did this they were quite right, and, at any rate, that is not now the question. Two minor points I may also touch upon.

Boole was a Boulangist candidate, run in the Boulangist interest, supplied with Boulangist money and supported by the Boulangist papers in Paris. He was not a genuine working-class candidate hit all, therefore. But even if he was what has that to do with the coming Congress? The second point is that both Stepniak and W. Parnell declare in writing that their names were appended to the Marxist circular without their consent. This was also stated to the Trade Unionist Protest Committee by Mr. Parnell, who, by the way, is elected as a delegate to the Possibilist Congress by the London Trades Council. No doubt many other signatures were written down in the same way. What sort of honour is this for Socialists?

Bernstein's pamphlets are being distributed broadcast gratuitously. Will he be annoyed if I suggest that it is rather strange that the Marxists should never spend money freely except when there is prospect of fomenting discord or of injuring the great majority of working-men Socialists who will not submit to the dictation of their middle-class clique? Moreover, what bona-fide Social-Democratic organisation is there in any country which has the funds to waste on polemical pamphlets of this description?