Marx-Engels Correspondence 1892

Engels to Bebel


Source: Marx Engels On Britain, Progress Publishers 1953;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

London, July 5, 1892

The England of the Vorwärts exists only in the imagination of the author. The opinion that the Tories to-day are more favourable to the workers than the Liberals is in contradiction to the facts. Quite the contrary is true. All the Manchester prejudices of the Liberals of 1850 are to-day articles of faith only with the Tories, while the Liberals know full well that for them it is a question of catching the labour vote if they intend to continue their existence as a party. The Tories, because they are asses, can be induced by some outstanding personality, like Disraeli, to strike out boldly from time to time, which the Liberals are incapable of doing. But when no outstanding personality is available they fall under the sway of asses, as is the case just now. The Tories are no longer the mere tail of the big landowners as they were until 1850; the sons of the Cobdens, Brights, etc., of the big bourgeoisie and anti-Corn Law people all went over to the Tory camp between 1855 and 1870, and the Liberals derive their strength now from the non-conformist petty- and middle-bourgeoisie. And since Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill of 1886 the last remnants also of the Whigs and the old Liberals (bourgeois and intellectuals) have gone over to the Tory camp (as dissentient or Unionist Liberals).

Hence the need of the Liberals to make sham or real concessions to the workers, especially the former. Despite all this they are too stupid to know where to begin and many are still too strongly committed by their antecedents.

So far the elections are proceeding as if made to our order. The Liberals are getting a slight majority; in many constituencies they are even losing votes in comparison with the last elections so that the tremendous Liberal landslide that was to overwhelm England has as yet not been noticeable. To-day is very important as its results will probably be decisive. If the Liberals are conspicuously victorious to-day the vacillating philistines — a very populous herd — will be driven to side with them, and then they will be on top. What we need is a moderate Liberal majority (including the Irish) so that Gladstone will be dependent here on the Irish, because if he can get along without them he is sure to cheat them.

What is very fine, however, is that in West Ham, in the East End of London, Keir Hardie, the workers’ candidate — one of the few who did not accept any Liberal money and gave no pledges to the Liberals — is so far the only one who has succeeded in changing a Conservative majority (of over 300 in the last elections) into an anti-Conservative one (of over 1,200). It is also very good that elsewhere, too, as for instance in Aberdeen, etc., workers’ candidates who come out against both the Liberals and Conservatives have received as many as 1,000 votes. An independent labour party is casting its shadow before.

There are three kinds of workers’ candidates here:

1. Those paid by the Tories to draw votes away from the Liberals. Most of these lose and know it.

2. Those who take money from the Liberals and must show obedience to them. These are mostly put up in places where there is no chance of winning. People who, like the miners’ candidates, are Liberal by nature must also be included here.

3. The real working-class candidates who are campaigning on their own account and do not ask themselves whether they are coming out against Liberals or Tories. Of these the Liberals accept those that they must (Keir Hardie and Burns) and work against the others. In Scotland there are many such candidates. What chances they have it is hard to say.