Marx-Engels Correspondence 1875

Engels to Bebel


Source: Marx and Engels on the Trade Unions, Edited by Kenneth Lapides;
Additional text from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers (1975);
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

October 15, 1875

Marx seriously complained about the incomprehensible note in No. 104 to the passage in his Anti-Proudhon (“the Socialists as well as the economists condemned combinations”), saying that those were “Socialists of the Proudhon breed.” In the first place there was not a single Socialist of the Proudhon breed in existence at that time except Proudhon himself. In the second place Marx’s assertion is true of all Socialists who made their appearance up to that time (with the exception of us two, who were unknown in France) in so far as they had occasion to deal with combinations — with Robert Owen leading the procession. The same applies to the Owenists and among the French to Cabet. As there was no right of combination in France this question was little touched upon there. But since before Marx there existed only feudal, bourgeois, petty-bourgeois and utopian socialism, and socialism blended from various of these elements. It was clear that all these Socialists, each of whom claimed to possess a definite panacea and stood outside the real working-class movement, portrayed every form of the real movement, hence also combinations and strikes, as a false path which diverted the masses from the only way that leads to salvation, the way of the true faith. You see that the note was not only wrong but wholly absurd. ...

But it seems to be impossible for our people, at least a number of them, to confine themselves in their articles to what they have really grasped. In proof take the endless columns theoretically-socialist in content which have been penned by Kz, Symmachos [1] and all the rest of that crowd, whose economic blunders, erroneous views and ignorance of socialist literature furnish the best means of thoroughly destroying the theoretical superiority of the German movement up to now. Marx was on the point of issuing an explanation on account of this note.

But enough of complaints. I hope the aspirations and expectations cherished in connection with the imprudently precipitated unification will materialise, that it will be possible to bring the mass of the Lassalleans from their cult of Lassalle to a sensible conception of their real class position, and that the split, which will come as surely as 2 × 2 = 4, will take place under circumstances favourable to us. That I should also believe all this, would be asking too much.

Apart from Germany and Austria the country on which we should focus our attention remains Russia. The government there, just as in this country, is the chief ally of the movement. But a much better one than our Bismarck, Stieber and Tessendorf. [2] The Russian court party, which is now fairly firmly in the saddle, tries to take back all the concessions made during the years of the ‘new era’ that was ushered in in 1861, and with genuinely Russian methods at that. So now again only ‘sons of the upper classes’ are to be allowed to study, and in order to carry out this policy all others are made to fail in the graduation examinations. In 1873 alone this was the fate that awaited 24,000 young people whose entire careers were blocked, as they were expressly forbidden to become even elementary schoolteachers. And yet people are surprised at the spread of ‘nihilism’ in Russia. If Walster, who knows Russian, were to go through some of the pamphlets written by the liberal opposition and published by B Behr in Berlin [3] or if someone could be found with an adequate knowledge of Polish to read the Lemberg newspapers (for example, Dziennik Polski or the Gazeta Narodowa) and make excerpts of these things, the Volksstaat could become the best paper in Europe on Russian affairs. It almost looks as if the next dance is going to start in Russia. And if this happens while the inevitable war between the German-Prussian empire and Russia is in progress – which is very likely – repercussions in Germany are also inevitable.

Marx sends his best regards to you.

Sincerely yours
F Engels

Best regards to Liebknecht.


1. A pen-name used by Karl Kautsky – Progress Publishers.

2. Wilhelm Stieber (1818-1882) – Prussian police officer, Chief of Prussian Police (1850-60), an organiser of Cologne Communist Trial and principle witness at this trial (1852), head of Prussian intelligence service (1870-71); Hermann Ernst Christian Tessendorf (1831-1895) – Prussian Prosecutor, in 1873 became member of Berlin City Court, from 1885 President of Criminal Chamber of Supreme Court in Berlin, organised persecution of Social-Democrats – Progress Publishers.

3. August Otto-Walster – German Social-Democrat, journalist; Behr – Berlin publisher – Progress Publishers.