Marx-Engels Correspondence 1892

Engels to Sorge

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

London, January 6, 1892.

Dear Sorge:

You received our New Year’s card of greeting, I hope. Today I am answering your letters of November 20th and 23rd, and December 9th.

I have safely passed my seventy-first birthday, and all in all, I am healthier and stronger than five or six years ago. If I should live on to 1900 — I don’t know, to be sure, whether this would be good fortune or hard luck — I think I shall live through very much indeed. You in America have a movement that moves in ups and downs, continually produces disappointments, and hence can easily lead to pessimism. Here I have the European movement right in front of my eyes, making gigantic strides on the whole, at its center the German movement calmly progressing with irresistible natural strength, and therefore I tend to the other extreme. I have written something about this in the French calendar, which I shall send you as soon as I have a second copy.

Fortunately, war with Russia has been postponed for three or four years if no acts of madness happen anywhere. As peaceful development in Germany promises us victory under the most favorable conditions, all the more surely though somewhat later, we have no reason to stake everything on one card in such a war.

There is no place yet in America for a third party, I believe. The divergence of interests even in the same class group is so great in that tremendous area that wholly different groups and interests are represented in each of the two big parties, depending on the locality, and almost each particular section of the possessing class has its representatives in each of the two parties to a very large degree, though today big industry forms the core of the Republicans on the whole, just as the big landowners of the South form that of the Democrats. The apparent haphazardness of this jumbling together is what provides the splendid soil for the corruption and the plundering of the government that flourish there so beautifully. Only when the land — the public lands — is completely in the hands of the speculators, and settlement on the land thus becomes more and more difficult or falls prey to gouging — only then, I think, will the time come, with peaceful development, for a third party. Land is the basis of speculation, and the American speculative mania and speculative opportunity are the chief levers that hold the native-born worker in bondage to the bourgeoisie. Only when there is a generation of native-born workers that cannot expect anything from speculation any more will we have a solid foothold in America. But, of course, who can count on peaceful development in America! There are economic jumps over there, like the political ones in France — to be sure, they produce the same momentary retrogressions.

The small farmer and the petty bourgeois will hardly ever succeed in forming a strong party; they consist of elements that change too rapidly — the farmer is often a migratory farmer, farming two, three, and four farms in succession in different states and territories, immigration and bankruptcy promote the change in personnel, and economic dependence upon the creditor also hampers independence — but to make up for it they are a splendid element for politicians, who speculate on their discontent in order to sell them out to one of the big parties afterward.

The tenacity of the Yankees, who are even rehashing the Greenback humbug, is a result of their theoretical backwardness and their Anglo-Saxon contempt for all theory. They are punished for this by a superstitious belief in every philosophical and economic absurdity, by religious sectarianism, and by idiotic economic experiments, out of which, however, certain bourgeois cliques profit.

Louise asks you to send her only the Woman’s Journal (Boston) and even this only until March 31st, unless we do not write otherwise before then. She needed it for the Vienna Arbeiterzeitung (she, Laura, and Tussy are the chief contributors) and she says that it could never occur to her to force the drivel of the American swell-mob ladies upon the working women. What you have so kindly sent her has enabled her to become well-posted again and has convinced her that these ladies are still as supercilious and narrowminded as ever; she merely wants to give this one magazine a couple of months’ trial. In the interim she thanks you most sincerely for your kindness.

The first time Lafargue spoke in the Chamber he let himself be put out of countenance somewhat by the heckling and shouting. This will iron itself out, however. The Frenchmen always improve in actual battle.

The story of Gompers is as follows: He wrote me and sent me detailed papers of his organization. I was out of town much at the time — in summer — and tremendously busy in-between. Nor was I at all clear about the matter; I thought Iliacos extra peccatur muros et intra. Then it was said that Gompers would come to Brussels or over here, and so I thought I would settle the matter orally. Afterward, when he didn’t come, I forgot about the matter. But I shall look up the documents and write him that I decline the role with thanks.

I wrote K. Kautsky a few days ago and instructed him to inquire of Dietz regarding the reprinting of your articles in a separate book; I am still waiting for a reply. Haste makes waste is the motto in Germany, especially in Stuttgart on the banks of the Neckar.

Blatchford is out of the Workman’s Times, which is a great gain. What is more, the paper exhibits the defects that a private enterprise of this sort must always have as long as there is no party behind it strong enough to control it.

I now have: (1) to read proofs of the reprint of the Condition of the Working Class in England in 1841; (2) to look over Aveling’s translation of Socialism: Utopian and Scientific; (3) some other minor things; and then (4) I return to Volume III, where I have the hardest chapters ahead of me. But I think that with the energetic rejection of all interludes, it will move ahead. What is left after that will, I think, offer me merely formal difficulties.

Cordial greetings to your wife and you from Louise Kautsky and

F. Engels