Marx Engels Correspondence 1883

Friedrich Engels to Eduard Bernstein
In Zurich

Source: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975). Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

18 January 1883

... We were very glad about the answers of Grillenberger and the Sozialdemokrat to Puttkamer’s hypocrisy. [1] That’s the way to do it. Not to twist and turn under the blows of the opponent, not to whine and moan and stammer excuses that you did not mean any harm – as so many still do. One must hit back, and return two or three blows for every one the enemy strikes. That has always been our tactic and so far I believe we have got the best of almost every one of our opponents. ‘Moreover the genius of our soldiers lies in their attack and that is a very good thing’, old Fritz [2] said in one of his instructions to his generals, and that’s the way our workers act in Germany. But when Kayser [3] for instance withdraws during the discussion of all the Exceptional Laws – provided the summary of џ[4] is correct – and wails that we are revolutionaries only in the Pickwickian sense, what then? It should have been said: that the entire Reichstag and the Bundesrat are sitting there only by virtue of a revolution; that when old William swallowed three crowns and one free city [5] he was also a revolutionary; that the whole idea of legitimacy, the whole so-called basis of legality, is nothing but the product of countless revolutions made against the will of the people and directed against the people. O, that accursed German flabbiness of thought and will which was brought into the party with so much effort together with the ‘eddicated'! When at last shall we be rid of it! ...


1. The reference is to the speech of Grillenberger, the Social-Democratic member of the Reichstag, and several articles printed in the Sozialdemokrat which dealt with the debate in the Reichstag on the proposed renewal of the Anti-Socialist Law. Karl Grillenberger (1848-1897) – German Social-Democrat, from 1881 member of Reichstag, in 1890s belonged to opportunist wing of German Social Democratic Party. Robert Victor Puttkamer (1828-1900) – German reactionary statesman, representative of Prussian aristocracy, German Interior Minister and Vice-President of Prussian government (1881-88), instituted legal proceedings against Social-Democrats under Anti-Socialist Law – Progress Publishers.

2. Frederick II, King of Prussia – Progress Publishers.

3. Max Kayser (1853-1888) – German Social-Democrat, member of Reichstag (from 1878), belonged to right-wing Social-Democratic group – Progress Publishers.

4. Of Louis Viereck (the German word Viereck means ‘square’) – Progress Publishers.

5. Engels is alluding to the annexation of the Kingdom of Hanover, the electorate of Hesse-Cassel, the grand duchy of Nassau and the free city Frankfort on the Main by Prussia after its victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 – Progress Publishers.