Marx-Engels Correspondence 1882

Engels to Karl Kautsky
In Vienna


Published: Gesamtausgabe, International Publishers, 1942;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

London, 12 September, 1882

You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same as they think about politics in general: the same as what the bourgeois think. There is no workers' party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals, and the workers gaily share the feast of England's monopoly of the world market and the colonies. In my opinion the colonies proper, i.e., the countries occupied by a European population, Canada, the Cape, Australia, will all become independent; on the other hand the countries inhabited by a native population, which are simply subjugated, India, Algiers, the Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish possessions, must be taken over for the time being by the proletariat and led as rapidly as possible towards independence. How this process will develop is difficult to say. India will perhaps, indeed very probably, produce a revolution, and as the proletariat emancipating itself cannot conduct any colonial wars, this would have to be given full scope; it would not pass off without all sorts of destruction, of course, but that sort of thing is inseparable from all revolutions. The same might also take place elsewhere, e.g., in Algiers and Egypt, and would certainly be the best thing for us. We shall have enough to do at home. Once Europe is reorganised, and North America, that will furnish such colossal power and such an example that the semi-civilised countries will follow in their wake of their own accord. Economic needs alone will be responsible for this. But as to what social and political phases these countries will then have to pass through before they likewise arrive at socialist organisation, we to-day can only advance rather idle hypotheses, I think. One thing alone is certain: the victorious proletariat can force no blessings of any kind upon any foreign nation without undermining its own victory by so doing. Which of course by no means excludes defensive wars of various kinds.

The business in Egypt has been contrived by Russian diplomacy. Gladstone is to take Egypt (which he has not got yet by a long way and if he had it he would still be a long way from keeping it) in order that Russia may take Armenia, which according to Gladstone would be a further liberation of a Christian country from the Mohammedan yoke. Everything else about the affair is a sham, humbug, pretext. Whether the humbug will succeed will soon be seen.