Marx-Engels Correspondence 1882

Engels To Eduard Bernstein


Source: Marx & Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971, p.333;
Transcribed: by Einde O’Callaghan.

May 3, 1882

Don’t let the Association[332] here deceive you about the Democratic Federation.[333] So far it is of no account whatever. It is headed by an ambitious candidate for Parliament by the name of Hyndman, an ex-Conservative, who can get together a big meeting only with the help of the Irish and for specifically Irish purposes. Even then he plays only a third-rate part, otherwise the Irish would give it to him.

Gladstone has discredited himself terribly. His whole Irish policy has suffered shipwreck. He has to drop Forster and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Cowper-Temple (whose stepfather is Palmerston), and must say a pater peccavi[A]:

The Irish M.P.s[B] have been set free, the Coercion Bill has not been extended, the back rents of the farmers are to be partly cancelled and partly taken over by the state against fair amortisation.[334] On the other hand the Tories have already reached the stage where they want to save whatever can still be saved: before the farmers take the land they should redeem the rents with the aid of the state, according to the Prussian model, so that the landowners may get at least something! The Irish are teaching our leisurely John Bull to get a move on. That’s what comes from shooting! [335]


A.. Father, I have sinned. — An error seems to have crept in since the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at the time was not William Cowper-Temple but his nephew Francis Cowper. — Ed.

B.. Parnell, Dillon, O’Kelly. — Ed.

332. This refers to a draft conspectus for a report on the Irish question which Marx was to make at the meeting of the German Workers’ Educational Association in London on December 16, 1867. “Yesterday I read in our German Workers’ Association (but three other German workers’ associations were represented there, about 100 people in all) a one-and-a-half hour long report on Ireland,” Marx wrote in this connection to Engels on December 17, 1867. Some members of the General Council of the International also attended the meeting. Eccarius, a Council member, who attached great importance to this report, which explained the attitude of the General Council towards the Irish national liberation movement, took notes in order to prepare them for publication. A copy of these notes was sent to Johann Philipp Becker, the editor of Vorbote, a monthly magazine in Geneva, which was the mouthpiece of the German sections of the International Working Men’s Association in Switzerland; but it was not published.

The London German Workers’ Educational Association was founded in February 1840 by German revolutionary emigrants. After the founding of the Communist League — the first international communist organisation of the working class — the leading role in the Association was assumed by the local sections of the League. Marx and Engels took an active part in the Association a activities (except when sectarian elements temporarily gained the upper hand). At the end of the fifties, Friedrich Lessner, a pupil and comrade-in-arms of Marx and Engels, became one of the leaders of the Association. The Association, which was linked with English workers’ organisations, participated in the inauguration of the International Working Men’s Association in 1864 and began to act as its German section in London. The Association continued to exist up to 1918.

333. The Democratic Federation — an association of various British radical societies of a semi-bourgeois, semi-proletarian trend, set up on June 8, 1881, under the guidance of H.M. Hyndman. The Federation adopted a bourgeois-democratic programme containing 9 points: universal suffrage, a three-year Parliament, a system of equal electoral districts, the abolition of the House of Lords as a legislative body, independence for Ireland in the field of legislation, nationalisation of the land, etc.

At the inaugural conference of the Democratic Federation Hyndman’s pamphlet England for All was distributed among the participants. In its two chapters (Chapter II — “Labour,” and Chapter III — “Capital”) Hyndman included whole sections from the first volume of Capital as programme principles of the Federation. He made no reference to either the author or the book, and in many cases distorted Marx s propositions.

In 1884 the Democratic Federation was reorganised as the Social-Democratic Federation.

334. The mass action of the Irish peasants led by the Land League and various secret societies forced Gladstone to repeal the emergency measures introduced in 1881. On May 2, 1882, the Irish M.P.s, the leaders of the Land League Parnell, Davitt, Dillon and O’Kelly, were released from gaol. At the same time the champions of the emergency measures — F.T. Cowper, the Viceroy for Ireland, and W. Forster, Chief Secretary for Ireland — had to resign. Lord Cavendish was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland.

335. Gladstone’s repressions in Ireland intensified the activities of various secret societies which resorted to terror against the landlords and their managers, and against government officials. As a result many estate owners left Ireland.