Marx-Engels Correspondence 1874

Engels to Frierich Adolph Sorge
In Hoboken


Written: September 12 (and 17), 1874;
Source: Marx and Engels Correspondence;
Publisher: International Publishers (1968);
First Published: Gestamtausgabe;
Translated: Donna Torr;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan in 1999;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

London, 12[-17] September 1874

With your resignation the old International is entirely wound up and at an end. And that is well. It belonged to the period of the Second Empire, during which the oppression reigning throughout Europe entailed unity and abstention from all internal polemics upon the workers' movement, then just reawakening. It was the moment when the common, cosmopolitan interests of the proletariat could be put in the foreground: Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark had only just come into the movement or were just coming into it. Actually in 1864 the theoretical character of the movement was still very confused everywhere in Europe, that is, among the masses. German Communism did not yet exist as a workers' party, Proudhonism was too weak to be able to insist on its particular fads, Bakunin's new trash had not so much as come into being in his own head, even the leaders of the English trade unions thought the programme laid down in the Preamble to the Statutes gave them a basis for entering the movement. The first great success was bound to explode this naive conjunction of all fractions. This success was the Commune, which was without any doubt the child of the International intellectually, although the International did not lift a finger to produce it, and for which the International — thus far with full justification — was held responsible.

When, thanks to the Commune, the International had become a moral force in Europe, the row at once began. Every fraction wanted to exploit the success for itself. The inevitable collapse arrived. Jealousy of the growing power of the only people who were really ready to work further along the lines of the old comprehensive programme — the German Communists — drove the Belgian Proudhonists into the arms of the Bakuninist adventurers. The Hague Congress was really the end — and for both parties. The only country where something could still be accomplished in the name of the old International was America, and by a happy instinct the executive was transferred there. Now its prestige is exhausted there too, and any further effort to galvanise it into new life would be folly and waste of energy. For ten years the International dominated one side of European history — the side on which the future lies — and can look back upon its work with pride. But in its old form it has outlived itself. In order to produce a new International after the fashion of the old one — an alliance of all the proletarian parties in every country — a general suppression of the workers' movement like that which predominated from 1849-64 would be necessary. But for this the proletarian world has become too big, too extensive. I think that the next International — after Marx's writings have had some years of influence — will be directly Communist and will openly proclaim our principles. ...

In Germany things are going splendidly in spite of all the persecution, and partly just because of the persecution. The Lassalleans have been so much discredited by their representatives in the Reichstag that the Government has had to start persecuting them in order to give this movement once more the appearance of being intended seriously. For the rest, since the elections the Lassalleans have found it necessary to come out in the wake of our people. It is a real piece of luck that Hasselmann and Hasenclever were elected to the Reichstag. They are discrediting themselves there visibly; they will either have to go with our people or else perpetrate tomfooleries on their own. Both will ruin them.