Marx-Engels Correspondence 1891

Engels To Frau Liebknecht


Source: Marx & Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1971, p. 353-54;
Transcribed: by Einde O'Callaghan.

December 2, 1891

Nothing particularly new; Tussy has the not entirely undeserved reputation of being the leader of the Union of Gasworkers and General Labourers, and was away to agitate eight days in Northern Ireland the week before last. These gasworkers are fine fellows, their Union by far the most progressive; they are so good at “legal” agitation that eighteen months ago in Leeds they won two real battles — first against the police and then against the police and dragoons — forcing the municipality, which owns the gasworks, to capitulate. [361] As an old soldier, I can certify that I find no fault either in the strategic or tactical dispositions of Will Thorne, the General Secretary of the Union, who was in command in these battles.


361. The gasworks owners in Leeds demanded that workers should be hired for a term of four months and not be entitled to strike during that period. They also demanded that the volume of work done during an 8-hour shift be 25 per cent greater than it was when the working day was longer. These conditions were tantamount to the destruction of the gasworkers’ trade union in Leeds and the abolition of the 8-hour working day. They caused a storm of indignation among the workers and were rejected by them. Early in July 1890 clashes occurred between the strikers and strike-breakers, who were supported by troops. The staunch resistance of the strikers forced the strike-breakers and the troops to retreat, and the bosses were compelled to waive their conditions.