Marx-Engels Correspondence 1886

Engels to Sorge

Source: Science and Society Volume II, Number 3, 1938;
Translated and Edited: by Leonard E. Mins.

London, September 16, 1886.

Dear Sorge:

I am taking an hour off by main force in order to write you. After the (triple) proofs of the Capital translation kept me in such suspense for weeks that I was prevented from doing other work, they are now coming in heaps. Six sheets are to be delivered each week (that means 18 sheets to correct weekly), and everything is to be finished in a month. Let’s wait and see. But this makes for a lively time for me, since old man Becker is coming from Geneva to visit me tomorrow, next week Schorlemmer is coming and probably the Lafargues, while other people also want to come here from Switzerland. So if I don’t get a letter off today I know I won’t be able to do so later.

Many thanks for your efforts with regards to the interviewer. He was the last one. Now that he broke his word of honor I have a reason to let them cool their heels, unless we ourselves are interested in spreading something through such a liar. You are right — on the whole I cannot complain. The man tries to be personally decent at least, and not he, but the American bourgeoisie is responsible for his stupidity.

A fine gang seems to be at the head of the party in New York; the Sozialist is a model of what a paper should not be. But neither can I support Dietzgen in his article on the anarchists — he has a peculiar way of dealing with things. If someone has a perhaps somewhat narrow opinion on a certain point, Dietzgen cannot emphasize enough, and often too much, that the thing has two sides. But now, because the New Yorkers are behaving contemptibly, he suddenly takes the other side and wants to picture us all as anarchists. The moment may excuse this, but he shouldn’t forget all his dialectics at the decisive moment. However, he has gotten over it by now, no doubt, and is certainly back on the right track; I have no worries on that score.

In a country as primitive as America, which has developed in a purely bourgeois fashion without any feudal past, but has unwittingly taken over from England a whole store of ideology from feudal times, such as the English common law, religion, and sectarianism, and where the exigencies of practical labor and the concentrating of capital have produced a contempt for all theory, which is only now disappearing in the educated circles of scholars — in such a country the people must become conscious of their own social interests by making blunder upon blunder. Nor will that be spared the workers; the confusion of the trade unions, socialists, Knights of Labor, etc., will persist for some time to come, and they will learn only by their own mistakes. But the main thing is that they have started moving, that things are going ahead generally, that the spell is broken; and they will go fast, too, faster than anywhere else, even though on a singular road, which seems, from the theoretical standpoint, to be an almost insane road.

Your letter came too late for me to be able to speak to Aveling about Brooks — I saw him for only a couple of hours on August 30th and had left your letter behind in Eastbourne. In any event you have since seen him in New York together with Liebknecht....

I hope your health is better; I am apparently still robust enough, but because of an internal ailment I have constantly suffered for the past three years from a somewhat limited freedom of movement, which now and then is very limited indeed, so that I am no longer fit for military service, unfortunately.

As soon as the translation is finished, I must first of all get rid of the minor work imposed upon me — revision of the work of others, particularly translations — and not let any others be forced on me so that I can at last tackle Volume III. It lies ready in dictated form, but there is a full six months’ work still to be done on it. This damned English translation cost me almost a year. But it was absolutely necessary, and I do not regret it.

September 17th. The printed sheets were sent off yesterday; the Commonweals until September to follow today; I must first look for the To-Days.

The movement here remains in the hands of adventurers (Democratic Federation) on the one hand, and of faddists and emotional socialists (Socialist League) on the other. The masses still stand aloof, though the beginning of a movement is also noticeable. But it will still take some time before the masses get under way, and that is good, in order that time be left to develop real leaders. In Germany the bourgeoisie, whose cowardly stagnation is beginning to harm us, will again start moving somewhat at last; on the one hand, the impending change of sovereigns will start everything tottering, and on the other, Bismarck’s obeisance to the Tsar is arousing even the drowsiest sleepyheads. In France the situation is excellent. The people are learning discipline, through the strikes in the provinces, and through opposition to the Radicals in Paris.

Best regards,

F. E.