Marx-Engels Correspondence 1885

Engels to Guillaume-Schack


Source: Marx and Engels on the Trade Unions, Edited by Kenneth Lapides;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

c. July 5, 1885

Dear Madam

In reply to your inquiry [1] I can only tell you that I have no right to give out information ultimately intended for publication on Marx’s and my confidential collaboration in certain political works. Nor can I assume any responsibility, either in Marx’s or my own name, for a French general programme on which in the nature of things we could at most have been asked our advice. However, I can tell you in confidence that the Preamble of the Programme of the Parti ouvrier of the Roanne trend [2] originated with Marx.

The French are less insistent than the Germans on limiting female labour for the reason that in France, and particularly in Paris, the work women do in factories plays only a comparatively minor role. Equal wages for equal work to either sex are, until abolished in general, demanded, as far as I know, by all Socialists. That the working woman needs special protection against capitalist exploitation because of her special physiological functions seems obvious to me. The English women who championed the formal right of members of their sex to permit themselves to be as thoroughly exploited by the capitalists as the men are mostly, directly or indirectly, interested in the capitalist exploitation of both sexes. I admit I am more interested in the health of the future generations than in the absolute formal equality of the sexes during the last years of the capitalist mode of production. It is my conviction that real equality of women and men can come true only when the exploitation of either by capital has been abolished and private housework has been transformed into a public industry.


Notes provided by the Moscow Editor.

1. Gertrude Guillaume-Schack, a German Socialist, who was writing an article on female labour asked Engels whether it was true that the programme of the French Workers Party, which demanded equal pay for equal work, was drawn up by him and Marx.

2. The term Workers Party (Parti ouvrier) of the Roanne trend is applied by Engels to the section of the French Workers Party headed by Guesde and Lafargue that dissociated itself from the Possibilists in 1882 and held a separate congress in Roanne.