Works of Frederick Engels 1889

To the Editors of The Labour Elector

Source: The Labour Elector, May 4, 1889
Transcribed: by Tony Brown.

Seeing the constant interest you take in the questions raised with regard to the coming International Working Men’s Congress, I hope you will allow a Frenchman and a Member of the so-called Marxist Organisation of France (Agglomération Parisienne), to say a few words in reply to a circular published in the Bulletin of the Paris Labour Exchange and reproduced in English, in justice of April 27th.

Now the Paris Labour Exchange is an out and out Possibilist institution. They have got hold of it with the help of the Opportunist and Radical Members of the Paris Town Council, and every trades union which dares openly oppose Possibilist principles and tactics, is at once excluded. This above mentioned circular, though issued in the name of 78 Paris Trades Unions, is therefore quite as much a Possibilist production as if issued by the Possibilist Committee themselves.

This circular calls upon “all the working class organisations of France, without distinction of the shades of Republican or Socialist opinion,” to join in the Possibilist Congress. Now this seems fair enough. And as our section of the French Socialists has driven the Possibilists entirely out of the provinces, so much so that they dared not attend their own Congress at Troyes, as soon they heard that we were to be admitted, and as our organisations in the provinces are by far more numerous than all the Possibilist organisations in France put together, no doubt we should have the majority of French delegates even in this Possibilist Congress, if a fair basis of representation was secured. But there’s the rub. The Possibilist Committee have made heaps of regulations for their Congress, but this most important point is never mentioned.

Nobody knows whether each group is to send one, two, or more delegates, or whether the number of delegates is to be regulated by the number of members in each group. Now, as the Possibilists are acknowledged to be strongest in Paris, they might send two or three delegates for each group, where we, in our simplicity, send only one. They may manufacture as many delegates as they like. They have them ready at hand in Paris, and need merely nominate them. And thus, with all this apparent fairness, the French section of the Congress may be turned into a packed set of Possibilists, who might treat us as they liked, unless we had an appeal to the Congress.

For this reason alone we could not give up the sovereignty of t e Congress with regard to all its internal concerns, if, indeed, that first and fundamental principle could be given up. It is not quite forgotten in London yet, I believe, that the Parliamentary Committee, last November, made it pretty clearly understood that they had hired the room, and that the Congress was there at their sufferance — and we do not want to have that repeated in Paris.