Marx-Engels Correspondence 1868
Written: October 13, 1868 [Draft];
Source: Marx and Engels Correspondence;
Publisher: International Publishers (1968);
First Published: Gestamtausgabe;
Translated: Donna Torr;
Transcribed: Sally Ryanin 1999;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.
As for the Lassalle Association, it was founded in a period of reaction. Lassalle--and this remains his immortal service--re-awakened the workers' movement in Germany after its fifteen years of slumber. But he committed great mistakes. He allowed himself to be too much governed by the immediate circumstances of the time. He made a small starting-point-his opposition to a dwarf like Schulze-Delitzsch--into the central point of his agitation--state aid versus self-help. In so doing he merely took up again the slogan which Buchez the leader of French Catholic socialism, had given out in 1843 and the following years against the genuine workers' movement in France. Much too intelligent to regard this slogan as anything but a temporary makeshift, Lassalle could only justify it on the ground of its (alleged) immediate practicability. For this purpose he had to maintain that it could be carried out in the near future. Hence the "state" transformed itself into the Prussian State. And thus he was forced into concessions to the Prussian monarchy, the Prussian reaction (feudal party) and even the clericals.
With Buchez' state aid for associations he combined the Chartist cry of universal suffrage. He overlooked the fact that conditions in Germany and England were different. He overlooked the lessons of the Second Empire with regard to universal suffrage. Moreover from the outset, like everyone who declares that he has a panacea for the sufferings of the masses in his pocket, he gave his agitation a religious and sectarian character. Every sect is in fact religious. Further, just because he was the founder of a sect, he denied all natural connection with the earlier movement both in Germany and outside. He fell into the same mistake as Proudhon, and instead of looking among the genuine elements of the class movement for the real basis of his agitation, he tried to prescribe their course to these elements according to a certain dogmatic recipe.
Most of what I am now saying after the event I foretold to Lassalle in 1862, when he came to London and invited me to place myself with him at the head of the new movement.
You yourself have experienced in your own person the opposition between the movement of a sect and the movement of a class. The sect sees the justification for its existence and its "point of honour"--not in what it has in common with the class movement but in the particular shibboleth which distinguishes it from it. Therefore when at Hamburg you proposed the congress for the formation of trade unions you were only able to defeat the opposition of the sect by threatening to resign from the office of president. In addition, you were obliged to double yourself and to announce that in one case you were acting as the head of the sect and in the other as the organ of the class movement.
The dissolution of the General Association of German Workers gave you the historic opportunity to accomplish a great step forward and to declare, to prove if necessary, that a new stage of development had now been reached, and that moment was ripe for the sectarian movement to merge into the class movement and make an end of all dependence. Where the true content of the sect was concerned it would, as with all previous working-class sects, be carried on into the general movement as an element which enriched it. Instead of this you actually demanded of the class movement that it should subordinate itself to the movement of a particular sect.
Those who are not your friends have concluded from this that whatever happens you want to preserve your "own workers' movement."