Works of Frederick Engels 1889

Possibilist Credentials

Source: The Labour Elector, August 10, 1889
Transcribed: by Tony Brown.

The partisans of the Possibilist Paris Congress — the unmistakeable Mr. Smith Hedingley in the Star, Mr. H. Burrows and Mrs. Besant in the weekly Press — are repeating over and over again that their Congress was a really representative one, while the Marxist Congress contained people who represented only themselves, and for that reason dared not accept the challenge of the Possibilists to show them their credentials. The English delegates to the Marxist Congress will no doubt seek, and find, an opportunity to prove the untruth of the charges brought against them; so we may for the present dismiss that part of the subject, and merely observe that the Possibilists could hardly offer a greater insult to the Marxist Congress than to ask it to ignore the process of the verification of its own credentials, completed as far back as the second (or third?) day, and to submit their credentials to a fresh examination; while the Possibilists, in their resolution on the subject, carefully avoided engaging themselves to an examination of their credentials by the Marxists.

That the above is the correct view of the matter, and that the Possibilists, much more than the Marxists, had reason to show their credentials to none but friends, was proved by the observations of Dr. Adler, in the Marxist Congress, of what he had learnt about the “Austrian” Possibilist delegates. As the thing is characteristic of the way in which the Possibilists manufactured truly representative delegates, it deserves reproduction.

In the Possibilist list of delegates we find under “Austria” the following bodies represented: — “Bakers Union of Vienna,” “Federation of Upper Austria and Salzburg,” “Federation of Workingmen of Bohemia-Moravia, and Silesia.” Now Dr. Adler, who has during the last three years, with wonderful energy, tact, and perseverance, reorganised the Socialist movement in Austria, and who knows every workmen’s society in every town in Austria, told the Congress that these various societies, whatever may be their other merits, have one fatal defect: they do not exist.

When it became known in Paris that the Marxist Congress had met on the Sunday, and that there were delegates from Austria, there came to it on the Monday two Austrians and saw Dr. Adler. They told him they were bakers, for some time past working in Paris; that a Hungarian baker, of the name of Dobosy, had engaged them as “delegates” for a workingmen’s congress; was this the same congress? Adler questioned them and found out that they were engaged for the Possibilist Congress, for which they had cards of membership; that they had told the people who had engaged them that they represented absolutely nobody but themselves, that they were told that did not matter, Austria being a despotic country, regular credentials were not required; that they now found the true Austrian delegates were at the other Congress; what were they to do? The Austrian delegates told them they had no business to play at delegates at any Congress. Well, they arranged for another interview. They came again a day or two after, assisted at the meeting of the Marxist Congress, and then declared they saw themselves they must get out of this false position, but how? They were told to return their credentials. They had none. Then return your cards of membership. This they promised to do, and returned to say they had done so.

This is a sample of what the Possibilists and their English partisans call “strictly representative.” And the imposing list of Hungarian societies with names so well hidden under misprints that only with a few of them is the pretended locality recognizable, are, according to the true Hungarian delegates at the Marxist Congress, equally non-existent outside the wonderland of Possibilist fancy. Indeed, the concoction here is too flagrant. “Circles of Social Study and Federation of Croatia, Slavonia, Dalmatia, Trieste, and Fiume” — this pompous title bears the stamp of its Parisian origin too conspicuously. And to think that behind all this there are not even the — three tailors of Tooley Street!

We are further told that it is absolutely false that the Possibilist Congress was a mere Trades Unions Congress. Mr. Herbert Burrows is quite indignant at such a calumny; with the exception of a few English Trades Unionists “the whole of the delegates” were revolutionary Socialists, and as such represented their respective societies. Well, to give but one example, what does El Socialista, of Madrid (26th July) say of the Spanish Possibilist delegates? That “they say they represent 20,000 Socialists, when they are but delegates of societies in which there is room for the Carlist as well as for the revolutionary Socialist” — entirely non-political clubs, in fact, what is called, in England, Trades Unions.