Marx-Engels Correspondence 1887

Engels To Friedrich Adolph Sorge


Source: Marx & Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971, p. 350;
Transcribed: by Einde O'Callaghan.

June 18, 1887

Yesterday evening the Irish Coercion Bill was clause by clause hurried through the House of Commons in two minutes. [354] It is a worthy counterpart of the Anti-Socialist Law and opens the door to completely arbitrary action by the police. Things regarded as fundamental rights in England are forbidden in Ireland and become crimes. This Bill is the tombstone of today’s Tories, whom I did not consider so stupid, and of the Liberal Unionists [355], whom I hardly thought so contemptible. It is moreover intended, not to last for a limited period, but indefinitely. The British Parliament has been reduced to the level of the German Reichstag. Though certainly not for long.


354. During the first half of April 1887, the House of Commons discussed the draft Crimes Bill for Ireland, which provided for the introduction there of a simplified judicial procedure with a view to quelling the growing peasant disturbances. The executive organs were to be granted the right to outlaw various societies, and sentences on charges of conspiracy, illegal meetings, insubordination, etc., could be passed by the judiciary without a jury. Mass meetings in protest against the Bill, held on April 11, 1887, in Hyde Park, were attended by 100,000-150,000 people. The meetings called by various organisations were addressed by speakers from the Liberal Party (Gladstone and others), the Social-Democratic Federation (Bateman, Williams, Burns and others), the Socialist League (Eleanor Marx-Aveling, Edward Aveling and others) and from other organisations.

In its report on the meeting entitled “Irish Crimes Bill, Great Demonstration in Hyde Park, Processions and Speeches” the Daily Telegraph said on April 12, 1887, that Eleanor Marx-Aveling’s speech had evoked lively interest and had been greeted enthusiastically.

355. Engels is referring to differences within the Liberal Party. In 1886, the wing opposed to the granting of self-government to Ireland split away to form the Liberal Unionist Party under J. Chamberlain. On most issues the Liberal Unionists supported the Conservatives.