Marx-Engels Correspondence 1886

Engels to Florence Kelley Wischnewetsky
In Zurich


Source: Marx and Engels Correspondence;
Publisher: International Publishers (1968);
First Published: Gestamtausgabe;
Translated: Donna Torr;
Transcribed: Sally Ryan in 2000;
HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

London, June 3, 1886

Whatever the mistakes and the Borniertheit [narrow-mindedness] of the leaders of the movement, and partly of the newly-awakening masses too, one thing is certain: the American working class is moving, and no mistake. And after a few false starts, they will get into the right track soon enough. This appearance of the Americans upon the scene I consider one of the greatest events of the year.

What the breakdown of Russian Czarism would be for the great military monarchies of Europe – the snapping of their mainstay – that is for the bourgeois of the whole world the breaking out of class war in America. For America after all was the ideal of all bourgeois; a country rich, vast, expanding, with purely bourgeois institutions unleavened by feudal remnants or monarchical traditions and without a permanent and hereditary proletariat. Here everyone could become, if not a capitalist, at all events an independent man, producing or trading, with his own means, for his own account. And because there were not, as yet, classes with opposing interests, our – and your – bourgeois thought that America stood above class antagonisms and struggles. That delusion has now broken down, the last bourgeois paradise on earth is fast changing into a Purgatorio, and can only be prevented from becoming, like Europe, an Inferno by the go-ahead pace at which the development of the newly fledged proletariat of America will take place. The way in which they have made their appearance on the scene is quite extraordinary: six months ago nobody suspected anything, and now they appear all of a sudden in such organised masses as to strike terror into the whole capitalist class. I only wish Marx could have lived to see it!