Marx Engels Correspondence 1884

Friedrich Engels to August Bebel
In Leipzig

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

6 June 1884

... We shall never be able to pry the masses loose from the liberal parties so long as the latter are not given an opportunity of discrediting themselves in practice, of getting at the helm of state and showing that they cannot do a thing. We are still, as we were in 1848, the opposition of the future and it is therefore necessary that the most extreme of the present parties shall be at the helm before we can become a present opposition in relation to it. Political stagnation, that is, aimless and purposeless struggle among the official parties, as now, cannot be of service to us in the long run. But a progressive struggle of these parties with a gradual shifting of the centre of gravity to the left can be so. That is what is now happening in France where the political struggle is being waged as always in classical form. The governments succeeding each other are moving more and more to the left and a Clemenceau [1] Cabinet is already in sight. It will not be the most extreme bourgeois one. At each shift leftward concessions come the way of the workers (cf the last strike in Denain where for the first time the military did not intervene) and, what is more important, the field is being swept clean with increasing energy for the decisive battle and the position of the parties is becoming clearer and more distinct. I consider this slow but incessant development of the French Republic to its necessary outcome – antithesis between radical, sham-socialist bourgeois and really revolutionary workers – one of the most important events and hope it will not be interrupted; and I am glad that our people are not yet strong enough in Paris (but all the stronger in the provinces) to be misled into making putsches with the aid of revolutionary phrases.

In confused Germany developments are naturally not following the classically pure lines exhibited in France. We are much too backward for that and experience everything only after it has become obsolete elsewhere. But although our official parties are so rotten political life of any sort is much more favourable to us than the present political lifelessness with nothing afoot except intrigues in the field of foreign politics...


1. Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929) – French politician and publicist, leader of Radical Party from 1880s, Chairman of Council of Ministers 1906-09 and 1917-20, pursued imperialist policy – Progress Publishers.