Works of Marx and Engels 1880

A Letter to the Polish Socialists

By Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Paul Lafargue, F. Lessner

Written: London, 27th September, 1880;
Source: The Class Struggle, Volume II, No. 5, December, 1918
Translated: from Polish by Dr. John J Kallen.

As an historical document indicating the views of Marx and Engels towards a nation with a glorious past, the letter sent to the Polish Socialists, November 27, 1880, is interesting in the light of present conditions.

The letter was read at a meeting of a radical organization in Geneva in commemoration of the Polish Revolution. It represents an answer by Marx and his co-signers to an invitation extended the International to send a delegation for the occasion. Under the title “Rebuilding of Poland,” the Polish Socialists published in 1910 the, views of Marx, Engels, Liebknecht. Among the newspaper articles and speeches of these-leaders is the letter we offer. It should set some comrades straight about the charge of "Nationalism" in the Polish movement. In another issue I shall present Engels' view on this "charge" of nationalism from the same “Odbudowanie Polski.” Although both were translated into Polish and now from Polish into English, the thoughts received no harm from the roundabout procedure made necessary by the impossibility of getting the original manuscripts.


Poles, thrown out of the fatherland after the first partition of their country, cross the Atlantic, coming to the defense of the American Commonwealth arising at that time. Kosciuszko fights alongside of Washington. In 1794, when the French Revolution with difficulty fought the powers of the Coalition, full of glory, the Polish Uprising liberates it. Poland lost her independence but the Revolution was rescued. The conquered Poles volunteered for the ranks of the sansculotte army and helped them to destroy feudal Europe. Finally in 1830 Czar Nicholas and the King of Prussia were to execute their plot of another invasion of France, with the aim of returning the rightful monarchy; but the Polish Revolution whose memory you celebrate today, arose as a barrier. “Order was restored in Warsaw.” The cry, “Long live Poland,” which arose at that time throughout entire Western Europe, was not only an expression of sympathy and respect for the patriotic warriors, crushed by brute force; with this cry it still joyously welcomes a nation all the uprisings of which--so unfortunate for itself--always dammed the counter-revolutionary current, and her bravest sons everlastingly conducted the war of counter-attacks, fighting everywhere under the banner of the people's revolutions. On the other hand the dismemberment of Poland established the Holy Alliance which acted as a mantle for the ascendancy of the czar over all the governments of Europe. For that reason, therefore, the cry, "Long live Poland" indicated: death to the Holy Alliance, death to the supporters of militarized Russia, Prussia and Austria, death to the Mongolian rule over contemporary society.

From 1830, when the bourgeoisie took hold more or less of the political power in France and England, the proletarian movement commenced to make itself prominent. From 1840 the possessing classes in England were forced to seek military intervention in order to support themselves against the party of Chartists, that first militant organization of the working class. In the last asylum of Independent Poland, in Cracow, there burst, in 1848, the first political revolution which sets forth the declaration of social rights. From that moment Poland loses all the false sympathies of entire Europe.

In 1847 the first international proletarian congress secretly takes place in London. It gives out the Communist Manifesto which ends with the new revolutionary shibboleth: “Proletarians of all countries, unite.” Poland had its representatives at this congress, whose resolutions, at a public meeting in Brussels, the famed Lelewel and his supporters, accepted. The revolutionary armies of 1848-9, German, Italian, Hungarian, Rumanian, were full of Poles who distinguished themselves as soldiers and commanders. Although socialistic tendencies of the epoch were drowned in the blood of the June days, it must not be forgotten that the revolution of 1848, in sweeping the whole of Europe, created for the moment one polity of all the nations and in this way prepared the ground for the International Workers' Association. The Polish uprising of 1863, giving cause for a common protest of English and French workers against the perfidious international actions of their governments, caused the formation of the International which arose with the co-operation of the Polish emigrants. And, finally, among them the Paris Commune found its true leaders; after its fall, before the Versailles Court Martial, it sufficed to call one's self a Pole to be shot.

And so, the Poles played outside the boundaries of their own country a great role in the struggle for proletarian emancipation; they were in the full sense of the word its international champions. Let that struggle extend itself today within the Polish nation itself, let her be upheld by the emigrant press and propaganda, let her go arm in arm with her Russian brethren with their unequalled efforts, and then will be found one more reason for the repetition of the old cry: “Long live Poland.”

Greetings and Fraternity,

(Signed) Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Paul Lafargue, F. Lessner,
London, 27th September, 1880.